Art Legends on the Broadway Stage
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 is a 5-time Billboard Magazine Award winner and is well known for her unprecedented success holding the #1 on-air position in the New York radio market on 106.7 Life-FM, an iHeart station. She has hosted, produced, and created several award-winning nationally syndicated programs featuring in-depth interviews with stars like Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Elton John and Mariah Carey among others. Her radio talk show "Bagels and Broadway" highlighted theatre and food personalities. She is an accomplished interviewer and voice artist heard on commercials, narrations, promos and audiobooks, as well as a sought after live announcer.
Most recently, Valerie produced and directed a film, The Thursday Night Club, featuring pop diva Gloria Gaynor in her movie acting debut. She is one of the creators and producers of a docu-series, Divine Renovation, starring Erik Estrada, on streaming networks soon.