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Pop Filter Hot Pick: POP! goes Warhol's Factory

He has an entire museum dedicated to him, is the subject of countless books, songs and documentaries, was portrayed by David Bowie in Julian Schnabel's 1996 film, Basquiat, and he's credited with altering the course of art--and quite possibly history--with his iconic Pop Art style.

Now, the one-and-only reigning King of Pop--and hometown art star--Andy Warhol is the subject of a vibrant new musical by Maggie-Kate Coleman (book and lyrics) and Anna K. Jacobs (music) running May 5-27 at City Theatre. The New York City-based writing duo began developing POP! in 2007 as their MFA thesis project at NYU, where they were studying musical theatre.

"Maggie is very interested in research, art history and documentary film, and I am a pop culture fiend, so this connects with both of our interests. I was drawn to the scene that Warhol created in New York around the Factory, and interested in his identity and how that connected to Pop Art," says composer Anna K. Jacobs, a native of Sydney Australia, who was trained in classical music. "We wanted to create a musical that investigates not just Warhol, but that uses Pop Art as the inspiration for the form and style of the show."

With form following function, the unique production reflects both the eclecticism found in Warhol's prolific career, as well as many of the formal elements he employed in making everything from silkcreens and advertisements, to Polaroid prints and art-house films. As a jumping off point for the narrative and musical exploration, the show starts with an extremely
dramatic point in Warhol's own life--but is not a documentary--almost freezing a moment in time and transforming it into a fantastical journey.

"It's not a bio musical in any way. It takes place in the moment between when Warhol was shot and when we imagine he came to. He goes back into his mind and re-imagines his relationships with people and asks: 'Why would anyone want to shoot me?'" adds Jacobs, who along with writer Maggie-Kate Coleman will be in town for the show's opening run. "Warhol loved B movies and repetition and he had his foot in everything--dance, light shows, music--and we tried to bring some of that attitude into the work. Stylistically it's really eclectic and that's how we see his art."

POP! also delves into the more somber side of Warhol's personal and artistic trajectory.

Concluding its current season with a, ahem, POP!, the bold work will takes theater-goers a long strange trip. Its the fabulous 1960s, amidst a world Don Draper wishes he associated with. If you're still trying to figure out who shot Andy Warhol, you don't want to miss this wild ride into the center of one of the 20th-century art world's most creative, productive and eccentric circles. It was a hot spot where artists from all points of the globe arrived with "talent, ego and a motive to pull the trigger."

Watch watch happens when the pop icon’s life flashes before his eyes during that life-altering day on June 3, 1968. Forced to confront an inimitable cast of outrageous suspects, the seriously wounded icon wrestles with his own legacy and immortality.

"The shooting was very momentous for him. Prior to it, anyone could enter the Silver Factory; it was a place of constant activity. After his shooting, we felt like it changed the kind of person he was. He moved into the Union Square Factory, which was much more controlled, he poured himself into commercial art, became friends with Nancy Reagan, and stopped working with female stars as much and started working more with transvestites," says Jacobs, who began rehearsals on April 10th. "We used the reference of the murder mystery as the form, and Warhol realizes that when you try to make art out of people who cannot always control what happens."

Composed by Jacobs, the show's score is performed by a 6-piece band comprised of local talents, including P.J. Gatch (percussion), Ken Karsh (guitars, banjo, mandolin), Douglas Levine (keyboard, conductor), Jason May (flute, clarinets, saxophones), Brian Stahurski (bass), and Tim Tucker (keyboards).

"We wanted to find a Pop Art approach to the score. We didn't want it all to sound like The Velvet Underground. We asked,
'If Warhol created a musical, how would he do it?'" says Jacobs, who wrote some brand new orchestrations for the Pittsburgh production. "We grabbed onto many eclectic pop influences, from Tin Pan Alley to 1960s references, to gospel and country rock."

The world premiere of POP! was produced by Yale Repertory Theatre in 2009, with Randy Harrison playing Warhol. The multi-talented Brian Charles Rooney--who portrayed Candy in the premiere--will reprise the role for City Theatre. City Theatre's production makes the musical's debut in the artist's hometown, and stars acclaimed actor Anthony Rapp--who is beloved for originating the role of Mark Cohen in the Broadway production of the hit musical, Rent.

"Anthony has been a huge inspiration for us and someone we talked about seeing in the role for a long time. We both grew up with Rent as a huge influence, and his was a voice that was part of the inspiration," says Jacobs.

Directed by Brad Rouse and choreographed by Billy Porter, POP! features Courtney Bassett, Jesse Carrey-Beaver, Alyse Alan Louis, Anthony Rapp, Brian Charles Rooney, Paul Victor, and Bria Walker. The design team includes Billy Porter (choreography), Douglas Levine (music direction), Anne Mundell (scenic), Susan Tsu (costume), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting), and Zack Moore (sound).

Want a sneak peek of POP! Check out this video of Anthony Rapp discussing the musical.

Join Pop City for a special night of POP! on May 10th, featuring half-price tickets, drink vouchers, and a post-show reception!

Go beyond the stage and mingle with the cast at City Theatre's Greenroom post-performance event on May 18th. A member of the Warhol Museum? Receive $10 off tickets using the promo code EDIE.

Purchase tickets now.

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