LISBON — Gus Van Sant is not any stranger to experimental biopics: “Last Days,” his lyrical, almost dialogue-free meditation on the top of Kurt Cobain’s life, shunned each conference of the style. But “Andy,” his Andy Warhol-inspired stage debut, which had its world premiere at the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II in Lisbon this week, could also be Van Sant’s oddest tribute so far.
For starters, it’s a musical. Warhol duets with the modernist artwork critic Clement Greenberg; Valerie Solanas sings, gun in hand, earlier than opening fireplace contained in the Manufacturing unit.
It’s a daring alternative for a film director making theater for the primary time, and Van Sant, 69, didn’t simply contribute the script. He’s additionally listed because the stage designer and composer of “Andy.” (Paulo Furtado, a Portuguese musician who goes by The Legendary Tigerman, is credited with the “musical course,” in addition to the association for many numbers.)
Whereas “Andy” is an surprising consequence, Van Sant has had a Warhol challenge in thoughts for over three a long time. Within the late Eighties, he developed a screenplay for Common Photos with Paul Bartel, within the hope that it might star the actor River Phoenix. After Phoenix died in 1993, the challenge was shelved.
The invitation to show to theater got here from John Romão, the creative director of Lisbon’s Biennial of Contemporary Arts (BoCA), which runs by mid-October. Whereas “Andy” is carried out fully in English, the forged and crew are all Portuguese. After the preliminary run concludes in Portugal, “Andy” will tour round Europe, stopping first in Rome and in Amsterdam.
Some tweaks could but enhance “Andy,” however let’s begin with the plain: Creating musicals is a craft. It will be miraculous to provide a very good one on first attempt. Although the Virgin Mary pops up onstage to banter with Warhol, “Andy” is not any miracle.
Whereas Van Sant has spent a lot of his movie profession circumventing the Hollywood rule ebook, his method right here is comparatively prudent. “Andy” has a transparent narrative arc, spanning the years between 1959 and 1967, and the anticipated musical numbers for each soloists and small ensembles. There may be even an try at choreography in an early scene, though the group’s hip thrusts when Warhol’s homosexuality is talked about are lower than refined.
If something, nonetheless, the relative conventionality of “Andy” exposes Van Sant’s inexperience with the syntax of reside efficiency. Entrances and exits give him away early on. Devising plausible transitions is a fundamental conundrum of theater, and “Andy” is uneven, with actors coming and going uneasily.
Warhol can be a paradoxical topic for a musical. Songs have a method of baring a personality’s soul, however Warhol’s intentionally enigmatic persona has been troublesome to parse, even for students. His transformation onstage from the bespectacled, painfully shy Andrew Warhola, who wears a bow tie and stalks Truman Capote, into the excessive priest of Pop Artwork produces one thing like whiplash. Abruptly, he turns into a hole shell, who treats his Manufacturing unit collaborators — together with Edie Sedgwick — with utter callousness.
Van Sant’s songs draw back from exploring his internal life from that time, focusing as an alternative on creative debates and one-off occasions like Solanas’s taking pictures. Musically, they’re pretty even and flat, missing in tunes that may carry the motion; maybe an injection of the Velvet Underground, the band Warhol as soon as managed, might need helped.
Surprisingly, the ebook additionally provides Warhol pretty little company in his personal profession. His mom is credited with the concept for his soup can sequence. Gerard Malanga, Warhol’s solely lover to seem within the present, provides him the makeover that lets him slot in with the New York underground scene. Later, he’s portrayed as hapless with the enterprise of working the Manufacturing unit.
Some scenes and contours are lifted straight from TV interviews, together with an look by Warhol and Sedgwick on “The Merv Griffin Show.” In others, characters fall sufferer to Van Sant’s clunky expository dialogue. Greenberg, an authority on modernism, could have despised Pop Artwork, however he absolutely deserved higher than to sing: “I’m a unprecedented man, I anticipate extraordinary stuff.”
Van Sant opted to work with a younger, largely inexperienced forged, and performing and singing in English is clearly a tall order for a lot of of them, though they struggle bravely.
The strongest total efficiency comes from Helena Caldeira, who captures the stressed attract of Sedgwick. As Warhol, Diogo Fernandes has much less vocal vary, however he pulls off Warhol’s two sides. One of many strongest scenes sees him earnestly asking the Virgin Mary: “Do you assume Pop Artwork may be unholy?” As Mary, Caroline Amaral nails foolish, fantastic quips, and their trade suggests leaning into the weird might need turned “Andy” right into a extra Warholian proposition.
One other temporary flash of absurdity comes on the finish, as Warhol is reunited with Capote in heaven. (Capote instantly asks the place the homosexual bars are.) There’s a flamboyant, preposterous comedy lurking inside “Andy.” As of now, Van Sant lacks the theatrical instruments to unleash it.