One type of character found in musicals belong to the antagonists and the villains. What exactly are my opinions when it comes to them? For some odd reason, I have a hard time when it comes to them. I can understand the point and purpose of them and can respect the actor’s portrayal, but I still can’t seem to ever like. So what exactly can make a good villain? Below are some examples of musical villains and antagonists.
It can be hard to find ground with an actor who plays one of these characters. Just two years ago, I saw Pippin for the first time and I had an understudy (Lisa Karlin) play the Leading Player. The Leading Player happens to be the antagonist, but also the narrator of the show. The fact that the antagonist is also the narrator is fascinating. The way Lisa Karlin played the Leading Player left me intrigued. The Leading Player to me was dark, clever, manipulative, and playful at times so that character was well-developed, but that doesn’t mean I like the Leading Player. She was trying to lead Pippin on the wrong path and she did not make Pippin realize that till the end.
Javert is an antagonist that is not a villain. But he is well-developed, but still hard to like. He is an obsessive, but strict policeman who follows the law closely, but spends all of Les Mis trying to recapture Jean Valjean. He believes that “once a criminal always a criminal” and believes and Jean Valjean will never change. He is not able to forgive or even show mercy. He sees the world in black and light and tries to do the right thing even if it isn’t always the right thing. Eventually when Javert realized that Valjean was able to change, Javert’s life complete comes crashing down on him. Jeremy Secomb, my Javert in the West End, was able to portray Javert in a way that finally made me feel for the character.
The Thenardiers are villains that are not antagonists, but do provide the much needed comic relief. They are the true villains of Les Mis. They are selfish, greedy, abusive, and despicable. They only care about themselves and are in fact pickpockets. They are parents of Eponine and Gavroche and are neglectful to their children.
They represent the worst of society, but they are still well-developed, but you easily feel angered at this pair. They horribly abuse Cosette when she was living with them and when Valjean comes to take her away they begin to use their abuse on Eponine and they teach Eponine the ways of being a criminal.
Miss Hanningan is the antagonist of Annie. She is abusive towards the orphans, but is quite funny. I feel like the only thing that makes her memorable is how funny she can be.
I might be in the minority on this one, but I believe that the Phantom is the antagonist of The Phantom of the Opera. He threatens the Paris Opera House and seeks revenge when Christine, the one he loves, falls in love with Raoul. He is never treated fairly due to his deformed face. He is very mysterious and dark and it is easy to feel for him due to his horrible past and the unrequited love, but he honestly does not respond to his situation very well.
Fagin is from the Oliver. He is comical and he takes in orphans and he trains them to be pickpockets. His favorite of the boys he trains is the Artful Dodger and eventually Oliver ends up in the hands of Fagin.
I hate Bill Sikes even more than Fagin. Bill is terrifying and quite abusive especially towards Nancy. He is well-developed as well.
The Wizard is a power hungry antagonist even though he has no power. To keep his power, he makes the citizens of OZ believe that Elphaba is truly Wicked. But all he really wants is to be a father. He wants to strip the animals of their rights and that is what makes Elphaba fight against him. He is overlooked a lot it seems.
Madame Morrible, another chief antagonist in Wicked, knows how to control the weather. She starts out as headmistress and teacher at Shiz and becomes secretary to the Wizard. She also wants to strip the animals of their rights. She also can easily be overlooked.
Antagonists and Villains are so difficult it seems. I can seem to overlook them a lot or for the most part so dislike them due to some of the havoc and conflict they cause on the main character’s part even though that is the point and why there is a plot in the first place. It is hard to define what exactly makes a good villain or antagonist. I guess a well-developed villain or antagonist is “good” and one with clear motives or one who is intriguing in some way. I find it so hard to even find common ground with them because it is hard to even respect them or find an emotional connection. Sometimes I can, but for the most part that hasn’t even happened.
What are “good” villains or antagonists in the musical world? Or do you struggle with antagonists and villains?