Wicked Way of the Arts

Wicked the musical has come to town my fellow Montrealers, Montrealites, Montrealians, Munchkins, and it all kicked off August 1st at Place-des-Arts. But don’t despair if you haven’t got a ticket yet, the show will be on until the 26th, so plenty of time to stitch up your witch hats and get yourself down there for an amazing extravaganza.

The composer Stephen Schwartz has created something truly unique and worth seeing. Wicked is based on a 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire titled “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”, which takes place before the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” written in 1900 by Lyman Frank Baum. It is how the two witches became who they are, one bad and one good, but as all good stories recount, everything is not always as it seems. Nothing is clear cut. Just imagine Studio Ghibli films and you get a sense of where the actors are taking you.

My interest in musicals has grown over the years, and one of the reasons is the use of technology to create spectacular art. From the set design, to special effects and from elaborate costumes to the performances, everything art has set to achieve can be seen in those theatres. But it doesn’t stop there, what we are seeing in musicals currently is unity between the Arts. Visual, literary, music, fashion and dance are all summoned by the creators to take us on a journey. Oh and how we are mesmerized for a couple of hours of pure joy.

Films came very close to uniting the Arts, but somehow the viewer feels left out, we feel as if we are in a safe place watching, not interacting, not in any danger, not involved. We are at a distance with cinema, just enjoying the story and the magic of the visual which we are fully aware is fictional. However, with theatre the magic is happening before our eyes, and one becomes part of the show through the proximity of human contact.

Wagner knew this all too well. Richard Wagner believed in the harmony of the senses, and the composer introduced the idea Music of the Future or “Zukunftsmusik” in which he proposed a harmony between music, performance and poetry, this unity was picked up by many artists throughout the ages who tried to paint music, or perform poetry and so on. Later on John Cage produced shows inspired by colour theory to show the visual spectacle accompanied by flow of poetry and sound.

Noted artists, who believed in the harmony between senses, include: Wassily Kandinsky, Miro and Picasso. Kandinsky was fascinated by a condition called Synesthesia where the subject can actually sense the notes of music as different colors, this lead to him trying to paint music. Some say he suffered from the condition himself, however this cannot be proved one way or the other.

Miro was also interested in the harmony between the Arts. In “Photo: This Is the Color of My Dreams, 1925” he created a painting which was ground-breaking in uniting the senses. The written language with visual arts, accompanied by that dreamy blue cloud which invites you to use your imagination, including the audience.

Picasso was no stranger to theatre, apart from marrying the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova, he designed the curtain and costumes for the ballet “Parade”. Cubism, dance and music all united to beguile the viewer in 1917.

There is something romantic about the Arts coming together, a sense of irrevocable, unprecedented, enticing beauty. Musicals have so far achieved this notion best, and without fuss given us a sense of belonging. Wicked is right up there with Oliver, Lion King and Les Misérables, and why not allow yourself to be taken away on this new voyage?

Wicked the Musical will be on at Place-des-Arts, Montreal until 26th of August 2012.

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