Wicked

January 16, 2016

Wicked at Ovens Auditorium

When trying to decide what event to attend for the "out of your element" assignment, I decided to go with Broadway. Even though I lived in New York City for two years, I never actually attended a Broadway musical. Most of the shows I went to were comedies. My sister and I have always said that we were definitely going to go for years, but never actually followed through with it. I guess you could say, this class gave me the final push to finally attend the musical. Wicked was held at Oven's Auditorium in Charlotte, which was very convenient to our location. I attended the concert with her high school choir, as we both thought it would be a great experience for her students as well.

Overview of Wicked

Before getting into the musical elements of the musical, I would like to touch on the actually set design of Wicked. When you walked in, they had a HUGE dragon type creature with wings hanging above the stage. Throughout the musical, they interchanged the set with extreme ease and truly made it feel as if you were watching a movie, not a live musical. It was truly an amazing experience, and it was great to see young adults just as moved by the overall production.


Now onto the musical elements. In my opinion, the reason why Stephen Swartz did his orchestration this way is to get the timbre from the orchestra that he wanted. For instance, he didn't want a brass heavy, he didn't want an orchestral heavy, he wanted to have keyboards because they can give you multiple sounds, it isn't just a grand piano. Keyboards provide someone with multiple options, such as an organ, which would allow you to have more flexibility with your music in order to get the sounds that you want. This actually puts the musical in the Modern period, as it is a modern musical theatre piece.


When Elphaba is casting her spell on Fiyero and creating him into the scarecrow so he will never die, her spell chant resembles gregorian chant from the medieval church. In regards to form, in "As Long As Your Mine, "when Elphaba starts "kiss me too fiercely hold me too tightly," that is A. Then when she begins "just for this moment, as long as your mine" that is B. Once she finished that chorus, Fiyero starts "maybe I'm brainless, maybe I'm wise" it goes back to A. When he begins "just for this moment" you will see B again. Throughout the musical, you hear the same motif. For instance, in "As Long As Your Mine," the intro has the same motif as "No One Mourns the Wicked." They both have the same chord progression, which you see a lot with composers because it is a way for them to tie every song into that particular musical. It gives them the actually "theme" of the overall piece, they are able to augment it, diminish it, invert it, etc. Stephen Swartz actually inverted the motif in "Defying Gravity." You can actually bring this back to Beethoven with his symphonies. It allows them to basically keep you in the same galaxy per say, it helps listeners stay focused and tell them "hey, we are still here. We haven't gone anywhere."


The overall ensemble added to the overall effect of the piece, i.e., "No One Mourns the Wicked" the opening number. Stephen Swartz wrote in the main melodic motif in basically all of his orchestrations. In regards to texture, it would not have been as effective if Stephen Swartz wrote "No One Mourns the Wicked" for a quartet versus the entire ensemble basically screaming at you creating a mob aspect. So Stephen went into the script and found certain ways to convey what he was wanting. For instance, "Popular" which is basically a solo with Glenda. Elphaba is in the scene and comes in throughout the song periodically but it wouldn't have been as effective if there had been a lot of girls singing instead of just Glenda. He made some artistic choices to layer textures differently in order to properly convey his message to the audience.


The Dynamics for this musical are quite interesting, because throughout time, in my opinion, music is like a coil - it spins around and readdressing things. So, Wicked could also be considered neoromanticism, because of the chord clusters that Stephen Swartz uses throughout the musical. He loves using such clusters and dissonance because it is very pleasing to the ear, but the dynamics are also in the style of romanticism - very rubato, free flowing dynamics. They are not terraced, but he does incorporate terraced dynamic's, i.e., "In One Short Day," you can actually hear the terraced dynamics but it reflected what was going on with the stage at that point in the musical.