The show's conceit is a lecture by an art history professor (Sean Lally) who is obsessed with the question "Why is he so big?" To answer the question, the Factory's headliners all turn up: the ditzy, empty Edie Sedgwick (Kristen Bailey), man-hating "I Shot Andy Warhol" Valerie Solanas (Jennifer Kidwell), Warhol's mother (Liz Filios), and a plaintive Candy Darling (Scott McPheeters), who sings "Remember Me" as she stages her own death.
There are a slew of mirrored, mirroring images - how Warhol would have loved selfies.
Funny singing soup cans do a couple of numbers, followed by four terrific singing Marilyns and Edie Sedgwick's great summarizing ode to multiples. There is a fugue of "I'm All Shook Up" and plenty of sexual ambiguity.
Singing fine operatic backup are John Miles, William Lim, Karina Sweeney, and Lucy Dhegrae. John Jarboe directs, and Heath Allen is the prodigious musical director who wrote many of the show's songs, drawing on classical opera as well as Elvis and Lou Reed. Ben Diamond is on drums and Andrew Nelson on bass.
Tonally, the show defies defining. It is both parody and tragedy, it is both a mockery of academic art history and an homage to the art that refuses to submit to the old gold standard. It's about the Big Nothing that keeps being Something.
Andy: A Popera
Presented by Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Opera Philadelphia through Sunday at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St.
Tickets: $10-$25. Information: 215-546-7824 or www.operaphila.org