It is very difficult to describe what a musical is capable of because they are always changing even if you are not aware of them. I only know this because of experience and I am aware of how the emotions can change over time and get stronger and deeper. I have an idea of what a musical should be like, but at the same time I do not mind if a show is quite different than what I have in mind. In my mind, a musical should be a comedy with spectacle, dance, and positive and negative emotions. That was my view growing up because that was all I basically knew. Sometimes you know more about an emotion that you think you know and sometimes know more about a character than you think you know.
As far as the emotions are concerned, the main emotions are joy, love, and sad. The other emotions sprout from them. Those emotions are at the center of musicals and growing up I was aware of how stronger joy and love were than sad. Sad was just that emotion that had to develop at a snail’s pace and I was happy that it was a very basic emotion and was felt at the surface. However, I was connected to sad just through one song and that was “I’m Not That Girl” from “Wicked”. “Wicked” was that musical that started everything. It was the first show I saw on Broadway and was the show when the emotions started mattering to me. It was the moment when I started to accept sad as an emotion. Soon everything I knew about musicals was about to be tested.
It is hard to describe what the biggest change in musicals has been in the college years. Some of the differences are more obvious than then others. The comedies had to go through a lot of changes because growing up all musicals were comedies. I wanted musicals to stay that way. I called all musicals happy and full of life. But I realized I had to change what all musicals were. It surprised me when those comedies had to change to most musicals just because of tragic musicals. I was bit shocked that tragic musicals actually existed, but they added so much to what a musical is capable of.
The tragic musical that had the most impact on my life was “Les Mis”. That musical changed everything and taught me a lot. It showed me to love tragedy and that tragedies are more than just being sad. It taught me you should never judge a show based off of genre and that plot mattered more. “Les Mis” changed my perspective on musicals because it tested everything that I thought I knew about musicals. It showed how a musical can still be incredible without all the different spectacle and dance. It is just not one of those musicals because it experiments with elements that are not traditionally associated with musicals.
The score of “Les Mis” is quite different as well. The score inspires me and takes you through so many emotions ranging from excitement to uplifting to love to hope to heartbreak to fear to anger to depressing. “Phantom of the Opera” also tested what I knew about musical scores. Both “Phantom” and “Les Mis” have scores that are quite different than a lot of musicals. “Phantom” has an emotion that is not usually part of other musicals and that emotion would be haunting and the songs are not very high energy.
Because of shows like “Les Mis”, I had to find a new way to describe all musicals. I wanted to stay true to the comedies that I grow up with and not leave out the tragedies. I knew it would be harder than I thought to come up with something. I ended up replacing happy with joyful because I looked to the experience and tried to see if the sad musicals had a positive nature of it. Now I describe all musicals as joyful, emotional, unique, and full of life. Full of life used to represent a certain kind of song, but I soon realized all songs are full of life because the story comes alive when you see a musical. Songs are even full of life when the song is about death.
Emotional clearly works because the emotions are all over the place and range from show to show and even if you see the same musical more than once, new emotions will enter and some will leave, but the main ones will remain. Unique is fitting because all musicals are different from each other even if some are not that different from others. “Les Mis” and “Phantom” prove this because of how quite different they are. Some people think musicals are very unrealistic, but I do not think they are. Just because people break out into song in musicals does not mean the show in unrealistic. I have nothing wrong with the spectacle as well because it adds to the experience and transports you to the where a show takes place. Musicals are a wonderful mixture of comic and tragic elements, which are present in both happy and sad musicals.
Musicals are very special to me because they truly taught me empathy. One of the musical characters is a role model to me because I admire her strength despite all the discrimination she faces. The fact that Elphaba and I share a lot in common, it allows me to connect to her story. I cannot relate to everything about her but I admire how strong she is. Characters are all over the place in musicals because they have different lives and go through different things. While some have harder lives than others and while some have easier lives, it is nice having a mixture. There are more to comic characters than I had had thought. Some of the comic characters like Glinda have hurt and pain in their lives and play such an important part of the storyline.
Than there are the tragic characters, and those characters can be even harder to understand, but in a way they are easier to develop an empathy for. Some of my favorite musical characters are tragic, but it is sad and heartbreaking to see what they had to go through. But I care about them and want to feel their pain and hurt because it makes me feel like I am part of the show. Besides Elphaba, I love many other characters as well such as Glinda, Fiyero, Eponine, Enjorlas and Jean Valjean. Another thing to mention is that sometimes unexpected characters show up. That would be the character of Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha” because he is both tragic and comic, which sounds unusual for a character and quite odd. I had gotten so used to tragic and comic elements coming together as separately but never in the same character. To understand that, I clearly had to understand what it means to be a comic character and what it means to be a tragic character. Surprisingly I understood more clearly what it means to be a tragic character, which made no sense to me at all.
Overall my vision of a musical is that it must have a storyline and songs that I connect to. I want a musical score to move me and I prefer a score that has both positive and negative emotions because those scores add so much texture and emotions to the experience. Shows that have positive and negative emotions are the most human and are mainly present in shows that have multilayered characters along with a plot. I want to feel the emotions and at the same time have a connection to the material. I understand now why musicals are capable of more than you think because you never know when something out of the blue happens. Certain kinds of spectacle and dance can appear which can surprise you. One example is through “Pippin” because it shows a kind of spectacle that I never thought possible, which would be circus and the audience is asked to sing along to one of the songs. Musicals are capable of more emotions than I believed and I discovered that recently and I am so thankful for the changes that took place recently. Not only did old emotions strengthen and deepen, new emotions started to appear. Some of those new emotions are just layers of emotions that already existed.
At the very heart of musicals are the emotions of joy, love, and sad. Earlier I said that the other emotions sprout from them and that joy and love are stronger than sad. That is true and I have a good reason for saying so. For instance, excitement is a kind of joy that is always present. Excitement is always the initial emotion due to the overture. The initial emotion is what would drive the rest of the show. Love is harder to explain what emotions sprout from it, but I do understand there are different types of love in musicals. They range from friend love, parent love, country love, and the most obvious romantic love-which includes unrequited love. The fact that unrequited love exists in musicals shows why love connects to sad. Because unrequited love is very painful and heartbreaking, than it shows that there is sadness in love.
However the strongest kind of love in musicals is the love a fan has of the show. The love and joy that a shows gives you is the strongest emotion and it is the emotion that allows you to appreciate the different emotions. The emotions in a musical must all work with each other to truly become something unique and must feel like they belong in the same show. Sad is an emotion that grows slower than joy and love, but it is quite an unique emotion. It seems like it is the most layered and complex emotion, but it is not. Joy is more layered than sad is because joy is the emotion that allows sad to be appreciated.
Growing up, sad was very limited and for a lack of better words-“weak”. It was like it did not want to truly become a musical emotion but at least I had kind of a connection to it. That emotion just decided to explode when I fell in love with “Les Mis”. All because of that musical, sad become much more real and more empathetic. Sad is a very beautiful emotion and somehow manages to inspire you and draws you into the show. Heartbreak is the main source of sad in musicals in my opinion, which is a huge part of “Les Mis” because it is a heartbreaking musical, but at the same time is so uplifting. Understanding how joy, love, and sad work with each other in musicals is so complicated. Some shows just do not sad as an emotion that much while others do.
In the future, I want most musicals to stay comedies. In addition, I want more tragic musicals to exist. I love the mixture because having both adds so much truth and depth to what a musical is capable of. But the most important aspect of musical is connecting to the material through song. Even though I love the dance and spectacle world, I still want to see musicals that may not have those elements.
The nontraditional musicals makes you think of musical in a fresh light and teaches you how you can still love a musical even if elements such as dance and spectacle do not exist.To wrap things up, I am glad musicals have become what they are. All because of the introduction of tragic musicals, comedies are more developed and the emotions have become more meaningful because of it. Understanding musicals a whole means understanding the impact of both and they rely on each other in ways that I never would have thought possible. They bond through joy and excitement and that is a special thing. It is difficult loving the tragic musicals but they are so worth it.