Patterns I Noticed in Musicals

Musical theatre is capable of a lot of thing. Spectacle, dance, romance, comedy, positive and negative emotions, and emotional connection. There are five core emotions: excitement, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak. The other emotions that exist sprout from those five core emotions. You might be wondering what do I mean by patterns found in musicals. I will try to explain below.

Tragedy

This genre of musicals is still quite new. It was by Les Mis where I first found that genre. Les Mis has only been in my life for seven years. There is a pattern I found when it comes to tragedies. Haven’t you noticed that a good chunk of them happen to be sung-through. Les Mis, Rent, Miss Saigon, and Hadestown are all sung-through musicals. Those all just happen to be sad shows.

Disney

I have noticed a couple of things in common between Disney musicals. For one thing, they all have elements of dance. The other thing in common is found in love. There is just something magical and innocent when it comes to the Disney love songs- “A Whole New World”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Something to Believe In” all shares that similar idea.

Parallels

This is basically what I am saying about patterns. I have found some parallels in musicals. In my journey, other musicals have helped other musicals out. So what are some of those parallels?

Elphaba/Elsa

These two girls are young, misunderstood, and have powers they don’t know how to control. “Let it Go” and “Defying Gravity” have a similar melody and are about staying true to yourself. I really think that those who played excellent portrayals of Elphaba can also be excellent as Elsa and vice versa.

Elphaba/Eponine

It took me an entire year to figure out why I love Eponine. I really had no idea where my strong bond for Eponine began. Eventually, I think I figured it out. I think a lot of that love comes from Elphaba. Well, these two young girls share some things in common. They both were born into an unloving family, taken advantage of, and deal with unrequited love. SPOILERS: however in Elphaba’s case she eventually ends up with Fiyero making the unrequited love switch to Glinda. They both are strong, courageous, loving, and complex. Crazily enough, “On My Own” made me realize that “I’m Not That Girl” is a heartbreaking song. Both songs are about unrequited love.

Young Cosette/Eponine

Think about it. In Les Mis, Cosette and Eponine are mirrors of each other. Their lives totally change from childhood to teenagers. They were both raised in the Thenardier family. As a child, Cosette was horribly abused by the Thenardiers, but she got rescued by Jean Valjean. Young Cosette was strong and extremely hopeful. Unfortunately that leaves Eponine stuck with the Thenardiers. When the two girls got to be teenagers, things were reversed for both of them. While Young Cosette had a horrible childhood, Eponine got a better one. But when they became teenagers, Cosette’s life improved while Eponine’s life became even worse. That switch has always intrigued me: Cosette continues to be the hope and light in Les Mis. Then look at this- the love triangle. Both girls fell in love with Marius- but it was Eponine who got the unrequited love. Cosette and Marius were perfect for each other: they are literally quite an adorable couple: due to Cosette falling in love with Marius, she continues to represent hope. Eponine’s love for Marius was important- Marius was the only good part of Eponine’s life because he was the only one who showed her kindness.

Enjolras/Fiyero

I never could understand this parallel. The only thing I know they have in common is courage. But why did I think of this? I know three of my Enjolras actors did play Fiyero: Aaron Tveit, Matt Shingledecker, and Bradley Jaden all played both characters.

Friends of the ABC/Newsies

There is a lot of parallels when it comes to these two. Both of them share a strong brotherly love that they feel like family. They both have a cause they truly believe in and don’t give up.

Enjolras/Jack Kelly

Thinking of Friends of the ABC and Newsies, there is another parallel I drew in them. Both groups do have a leader: Enjolras in Friends of the ABC and Jack Kelly in Newsies. There are a few differences between both of them- Enjolras cares a lot more about the cause while Jack cares a lot more about his brothers. Jack is willing to call off the strike just to protect his friends: Jack is defiantly a more emotional character then Enjolras is.

Anna/Glinda

Well, they both are outgoing. I always saw a parallel between the two of them.

Sisterhood/Friendship

I think something really is in common between Frozen and Wicked. The sisterhood in Frozen and friendship in Wicked do parallel each other. That is their center core after all. I think a lot of my love for Frozen comes from Wicked.

Grizabella/Fantine

Well, it is hard to understand why I paralleling the two. But think about it: both used to have better lives, but eventually things became tragic for both of them. “I Dreamed a Dream” made me understand “Memory” was a heartbreaking song.

Heartbreaking Love Songs

There really is something in common between “On My Own”, “I’m Not That Girl”, “This Nearly was Mine”, “If I Can’t Love Her”, “Somewhere”, and “As Long as He Needs Me”. Here’s the thing: if a song is both a love song and sad song, they will always be heartbreaking. Yes, some of these songs are ironic and some are not, but they still have similar emotions at different degrees. Of course there is love and heartbreak, but loneliness as well. Heartbreaking love songs are some of the most beautiful songs in the musical world.

Heartbreak

Why did I find a pattern in just one emotion? Well, I was blind to that emotion growing up. Les Mis was why I was able to find it. Heartbreak is such a gorgeous emotion when it is a song. Pretty much, a lot of sad songs are heartbreaking: “Without You”, “Your Eyes”, “Will I”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “Drink with Me”, “On My Own”, “I’m Not That Girl”, “As Long as He Needs Me”, “This Nearly was Mine”, “Letter from the Refuge”, “Somewhere”, “Bring Him Home”, “Memory” and “If I Can’t Love Her” are sad songs, but heartbreaking. There is a huge difference when it comes to sad songs and heartbreaking songs. All heartbreaking songs are sad, but not all sad songs are heartbreaking. All because heartbreak was introduced, I was able to notice emotions faster in musical songs: the sad songs really like to be heartbreaking.

Do you notice some other patterns found in musicals?

“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”

One of my favorite musicals is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”. One of its main central themes is Racism- I actually think that theme might be the antagonist of the musical. There is an incredible song in there called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”.

Do you know what makes that particular song incredible. Well, it does show that no one was born racist, but was taught it.

You’ve got to be Taught

Before its too late

Before You are Six

Or Seven

Or Eight

To hate all the People your Relatives hate

You’ve got to be Carefully Taught

You’ve got to be Carefully Taught- South Pacific

This is a great example of where racism comes from. No one was born that way. You are taught about it. South Pacific is a love story between Emelie and Nellie. There is another romance, which is a subplot, that is between Joe Cable and Liat. After finding out about Emelie’s biracial children, Nellie wants to break up with them- due to the race of his children. That does lead to Emelie’s heartbreaking, “This Nearly was Mine”. Quickly, Nellie realizes her mistake- but doesn’t know if Emelie will survive after he agrees with Joe Cable to go on a risky mission. That mission gets Joe Cable killed, but Emelie actually lives.

Joe Cable is kinda of like Nellie in a way. He did not want to have biracial children with Liat. It is not like Nellie’s case where she realizes the mistake she made. That all came as a result of her not wanting Emelie’s children to end up being parentless, and discovering that she still wants to be with him.

It is crazy in a way to think about South Pacific could easily have been a tragic love story. That would have been the case if the two romances were switched- as in Joe and Liat being the main couple with Emelie and Nellie being only a subplot. But due to South Pacific being about Emelie and Nellie, South Pacific remains a happy love story.

It actually is Joe Cable that teaches Emelie about this message. Emelie obviously wasn’t taught racism. Joe Cable and Nellie were, which leads to tragic consequences for almost both of them. Emelie almost didn’t survive, but good thing he did. I actually think “Some Enchanted Evening” is one of the most romantic love stories in musical theatre.

Playbill Collection

Well, originally I did not keep the playbill. So there are some productions where I have no clue who was in my cast. So, which playbills do I actually own. I decided to make a list of them below.

  1. Mamma Mia- 2009
  2. La Cage- June 2012
  3. Godspell- September 2012
  4. Wicked- 2013
  5. Les Mis- CPCC (November 2013)
  6. Phantom of the Opera- May 2014
  7. Annie- December 2014
  8. Music Man- March 2015
  9. Pippin- 2015
  10. Les Mis- West End (July 30th, 2015)
  11. Sound of Music- November 2015
  12. Wicked- January 2016
  13. Newsies- Blumenthal (August 2016)
  14. Rent- September 2017
  15. Les Mis- Greenville (November 5th, 2017)
  16. Oklahoma-June 2018
  17. Grease- June 2018
  18. Newises- CPCC (July 2018)
  19. Lion King- 2018
  20. A Christmas Story- The Musical- December 2018
  21. Fiddler on the Roof- February 2019
  22. Aladdin- September 11th, 2019
  23. Les Mis- November 3rd, 2019
  24. Come From Away- January 2020

Of all of these, I was in culture shock with my West End playbill. In the US, audience members don’t buy the playbill: we are given it at the door. In the West End, you have to buy it: that was total surprise to me. I also wasn’t expecting a big playbill. Below I had to include the movie poster of Mamma Mia because I don’t have a picture of the playbill yet.

So, what playbills are missing- some I know when I saw it.

  1. Lion King/Seussical/Cats- know it was elementary school, but don’t know which year
  2. Wicked- Broadway (August 2006)
  3. Oliver- Summer 2007
  4. Wicked- 2008 (I think)
  5. Addams Family- October 2011
  6. Porgy and Bess- Summer 2014
  7. Scrooge- December 2014
  8. Little Shop of Horrors- February 2017 (I wanted to collect one, but Gardner Webb ran out- so my university did not print out enough playbills), but at least I actually knew some of my actors/actresses
  9. La Bohème- January 2020: here’s the thing, I wanted to keep it, but lost it

Conclusion:

So, it really took a long time to want to collect the playbills. Mamma Mia may have been the earliest, but some were left out. So, in the shows I saw growing up, I have no clue who I saw in some of those shows. I really started to collect them in 2012: but even some musicals after that don’t have a playbill. I really try to collect them. My snow-globe collection is just as amazing.

So do you collect playbills? If not, what do you collect?

Who Am I- Outside of Musicals

To several people, they might think I am just this musical theatre fanatic. However, that is so far from the truth. What exactly makes me who I am outside of the musical theatre world?

  1. I am hardworking and determined
  2. My favorite color is pink
  3. I have a strong spirit
  4. I love to volunteer
  5. I love contemporary christian music just as much as I love musicals
  6. I am a bookworm- lover of classics and fantasies
  7. I am a Sociology Major with two minors (Spanish Cultural Studies and Theater)
  8. I love coloring
  9. I am a mountain person- just love being around nature and hiking
  10. I am actually in the middle of becoming an author- 3 ideas being worked on right now
  11. I live in Charlotte, NC- ever since 2002
  12. I actually have been abroad three times: France, Costa Rica, and England
  13. I collect snow-globes
  14. I have visited 18 states (which includes the one I live in), and been to Washington D.C.
  15. I know how to play piano

So you see that humans are not just one thing. Several things makes us who we are- our family, our schools, and friends among other things.

There is a reason why the best characters in any kind of storytelling are complex. Humans are complex so to us those characters are well “human”. The are the characters who deal with conflict, meaning they will show both positive and negative emotions. These are the characters whose backstory is part of why they are complex. Due to being complex, they can be interpreted in many ways- that leads to seeing multiple portrayals of the same character (that is why I tend to combine portrayals).

England-What Comes to Mind

When you think of England, what is the first thing you think of. For a lot of people, they would be thinking about London. London was the first place I knew that existed in England. When I was younger- I think back in elementary school, I wanted to go to London just to see a guard. That sounds odd, but I was only young after all. When I think of London, a LOT comes to mind. July 31st-August 10th were meaningful: those were the dates that created the Bristol Pilgrimage.

Five years ago on the 28th, my family left for London. We went from Charlotte to Atlanta to London. My family took my sister and I early to get used to the time change and to get more out of London. We arrived the 29th at Heathrow Airport, but I did not even believe we were in London. I had to see West End filers to know that we were actually in London. Before leaving the airport, my family walked to Costa Coffee- we did that to make sure we met the other pilgrims at the right place. We ended up having coffee and food at Costa. We would have arrived what felt like the middle of the night.

The 29th and 30th felt we were just tourists. All we did on the 29th was walk around the Westminster Area- I did get to see a guard. It was actually the 30th where it felt like we were doing something. Our first stop was Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. My sister and I were raised on Harry Potter- we both love the series. After that, there wasn’t much time to do much more- lunch, and then time to go back to the hotel, but first a stop at Paddington Station. After arriving back at the hotel, my mom and I had to get ready for Les Mis- not only did we have to get dressed, but also had to figure out how to get to the West End.

“I Dreamed a Dream”

Seeing the Queen’s Theater was surreal. I thought I was imaging. While getting a quick bite to eat for dinner, I kept on looking at the Queen’s Theater. I did have culture shock in the West End- we were buying souvenirs and was surprised that the playbill had to be purchased. I also ended up with a poster and t-shirt. My mom and I also got a souvenir for a church friend, whose favorite musical is Les Mis. From seeing the theater to buying souvenirs to realizing I had an understudy for Valjean to seeing the set to seeing how close we were- all felt not real. But then, I heard them- the first notes of the orchestra. I do see the orchestra as a character- the orchestra did tell me something- that it would be more than expected. Those notes were not wrong: it was more than expected- not just by cast, but by the ensemble and staging. I literally stood up right away during the curtain call. The revolve was one of the best parts, and the same with the barricade- in terms of staging. That cast- I never once detected I had an understudy, and they were brilliant.

I actually had my first stage door experience. Originally I did not want to, but my mom convinced me to. I actually met Adam Bayjou, who was Jean Valjean. He signed my playbill and got a picture of him. To get a picture with the actor who was the main character was exciting. It was my dream to see Les Mis in London. There was one more thing I loved about that evening: I loved that my dad and sister got their own date with my mom and I were watching Les Mis. I was an emotional wreck- and did find new emotions in characters. I was also was laughing every once in a while.

The 31st- my family had to go back to the airport to meet the rest of the 72 pilgrims at Costa Coffee. Most of them left the same day I saw Les Mis. To from Valjean’s spiritual journey to my own- that actually made the musical more meaningful. We started at Windsor Castle. August 1st and 2nd consisted of a walking tour of London, Evensong at Westminster, Eucharist at St. Paul’s, and Tower of London (we didn’t have time to go in, but had time to walk around. I was nervous living London- I did not know anything about Bristol. It was chaotic living London.

Do you what London reminds me of? It reminds me of NYC, but a spread out version of NYC. One of the things I loved about being at Bristol was looking for Shaun the Sheep. I never once thought I would go to all the church services, but I did. From Bath to Berkeley Castle to Stonehenge to Old Sarum to Salisbury Cathedral to Tintern Abbey to Chepstow Castle- we went to places in and around Bristol. The Stonehenge day was when the church choir was off- so we were able to do more that day. Stonehenge was my mountain-top moment. That day actually seemed like it was going to rain, but the clouds gave Stonehenge an incredible atmosphere. I do not think that the things we did were the best part of the pilgrimage. In my opinion, the fellowship that was created was the best part. Our church has a stronger fellowship all because of the Bristol Pilgrimage. Some of the things we did had a stronger impact than others, but everything added up to the meaning behind the pilgrimage.

The last two days were spent in Bristol. So the pilgrims had free time until the church services. My family visited St. Mary Redcliffe, and by being there, I thought of the perfect motto for the Bristol Pilgrimage.

Those lyrics from the Servant Song are perfect- the song now has double meaning (Kanuga and the Bristol Pilgrimage). We really were travelers. We were pilgrims. We did help each other. We were at a number of places. There was only one time we weren’t in England- we were in Wales for Tintern and Chepstow. A lot of them were places I wasn’t familiar with. I actually was in tears twice in England. The first was at Les Mis and the other time was the final Evensong. When the final anthem was sung, I was in tears, and through that reaction, I knew just how transforming the pilgrimage was. The Bristol Pilgrimage was an important part of my spiritual journey. My family mainly wanted to go up early because of Les Mis- what was crazy about the stage show was that I did see it every other years. 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 were the years I saw the stage show: four theaters and three ways (community college, West End, and US Tour).

Do you know what the difference is between a tourist and pilgrim. A tourist actually just looks while a pilgrim looks much deeper for the spirituality and sacredness of a place and look deeper in themselves. I think the reason why I was able to find the spirituality in Les Mis is due to having a strong spirit. I accidentally mistook is for being too depressing when I first saw the movie, but for whatever reason gave it a 2nd chance.