Art Legends on the Broadway Stage

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To experience a jettison back in time, when New York and the art scene was simply fabulous, iconic and transformative, get yourself to a performance of The Collaboration, the acclaimed play by Anthony McCarten.

What happens when a young graffiti artist is paired with a legendary pop artist, (an idea concocted by an agent), making it a marketing person’s dream event? Jean-Michel Basquiat is being repped by Bruno Bischofberger who also handles the famous Andy Warhol. Bruno introduces the two, inviting them to participate in a project (with advertising posters depicting them as if they are pitted against each other in a boxing match) and the results are magical.

Jeremy Pope as Basquiat delivers the goods as the brash, up and coming marvel in the art world, who looks down at what he feels is a has-been Warhol. Warhol, played by Paul Bettany, doesn’t quite understand Basquiat and rejects his style. But in time, the two grow together in friendship and become each other’s greatest fan.

The story brings us right back to 1984 when New York was a playground for creatives and life was challenged by a dreadful, mysterious disease. Pope and Bettany are perfectly cast as the two masters, and it truly is a joy to watch them go through initial disdain for each other which blossoms into pure admiration and love.

In the interim, we learn that Basquiat is addicted to drugs and Warhol, although out and about town every night, is actually extremely lonely and insecure. He is just coming off an assassination attempt by his associate, Valerie Solanas, and rightly so, freaked by the incident. He hasn’t painted in years, a fact that Basquiat often negatively alludes to, and instead has focused on his past works and current films. Basquiat, on the other hand, will draw at the drop of a hat.

Well directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, The Collaboration also features Krysta Rodriguez as Basquiat’s girlfriend, and Erik Jensen as Bruno Bischofberger, both actors also well cast.

The audience is immersed in the culture of the time upon entering the theatre. An enthusiastic DJ is positioned stage right, spinning discs of the era, getting us in the mood of the 80’s.

The Collaboration got a wonky start when, on opening night, the performance was canceled due to Covid, However, the good news is that it has been twice extended, and now plays through Feb. 5.

For those of us who were young adults during the time period, The Collaboration is a marvelous journey back to the Studio 54 generation. The Collaboration



  • Valerie Smaldone

    Five-time Billboard Award-winning media personality Valerie Smaldone is a theatre, food, lifestyle and entertainment enthusiast. She is a celebrity interviewer, accomplished voice-over artist and actress. Recent appearances on episodic tv include Law and Order, Criminal Intent, The Other Two (on HBO Max), Tommy, Manifest and Blue Bloods. She is an audiobook narrator and producer. A live event emcee, moderator, and "Voice of God" at events and award ceremonies, Valerie has just directed and produced her first film featuring Gloria Gaynor and is producing a docu-series starring Erik Estrada. Visit her website at

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