Illustrator Jimmy takes to the stage

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 18

Jimmy is known for his innumerable heart-warming, positive, uplifting, cute, romantic, sentimental, what-you-will illustrated storybooks that have proved enduring favorites with the Taiwan book buying public.

Love him or hate him, it is hard to get away from him. His seemingly ubiquitous presence is set to extend even further now with the announcement that one of his illustrated books is to be the basis for a stage production by the experimental theater group Creative Society (創作社).

Sound of Colors: Jimmy's Subway Book: A Musical Journey (幾米地下鐵) is scheduled to land on the stage of the National Theater at the end of July.

The coda to the title is something of a give away, in that Jimmy has already worked closely with a number of musicians. In this work, described by Creative Society as a combination of theater, dance, musical performance and installation, he will continue this relationship with the music industry.

How innovative it will prove as multimedia or cross-discipline performance is anyone's guess, as these terms are bandied about with total disregard for the facts.

The lead role of a blind girl who embarks on an adventure in a subway will be played by Cheer Chen (陳綺貞), an up-and-coming singer/songwriter. Another pop artist who will be using Jimmy as a step into the theater is Huang Hsin-hsin (黃心心), the vivacious singer for IPIS (蟑螂合唱團).

From television and film, the show will be taking Fan Chih-wei (范植偉), who has shot to minor star status with his role in the television drama Crystal Boys. This lineup is backed by the considerable stage experience of veteran Creative Society actors.

With Jimmy supporting the show -- he will be on hand to ensure that the theatrical event stays true to his own artistic vision -- and these popular names, it is hard to see how this show can fail to be a hit.

According to director Li Huan-hsiung (黎煥雄), who has collaborated with Jimmy on previous music-related projects, he has long thought that his friend's books are particularly suitable for the stage.

"With Jimmy's Subway Book, which traces a journey in which each new subway station is a new adventure, a new world and a new experience, the appeal was just too much to resist. The adventures take place on railway platforms, which are exactly like a stage," he said.

Given the rich pictorial world of Jimmy's books, it is no surprise that the stage design will be a major element in the production. This ambitious design project is in the hands of Wang Meng-chao (王孟超), who said that he had been given an embarrassment of riches.

"For so many theatrical projects, the hard work is coming up with the initial images. For Jimmy's Subway Book, there is simply too much to work with," Wang said during a press conference announcing the project.

The project will go ahead despite SARS fears. In fact, for director Li, if ever there was a time for Jimmy's particular brand of uplifting entertainment, this is probably it.

Tickets are currently on sale through Acer ticketing, the CKS Cultural Center and major bookstores.