What is at the very core of musicals? What makes them so enjoyable to watch?
Musicals are a very joyful, unique, and emotional world. They know how to make you find pleasure in all the emotions you feel. There are five main emotions, which are excitement, love, joy, sad and heartbreak. But of all of those joy, love, and excitement are the strongest. I am not saying not that negative emotions are worth less than the positive emotions.
Excitement, joy, and love are not just naturally part of a musical itself. They are also part of the actual experience of seeing the musical. I feel like all musicals literally depend on each other. I know why they depend on each other, but even I cannot explain the reason. But I can explain part of why they depend on each other. Growing up, I was just learning about what makes a musical a “musical”. They were a world of comedy, spectacle and dance, an emotional world of excitement, love, joy, and sad, and a world of emotional connections.
Once Wicked entered my life, I began to realize that there is an emotional side to musicals. At that point, it wasn’t just spectacle and dance that mattered to me in a musical. Musicals began to be more about the emotions. By the end of high school, all musicals were still happy and there was still the same four main emotions of excitement, love, joy, and sad. I remember really loving the exciting songs and that is the emotion I remember the most from those years. I associated musicals with songs like “Dancing Through Life”, “Do-Re-Mi” and any song that were like those. So the musicals I grew up with provided a framework for musicals.
Than 2012 came along and musicals drastically changed. It was December and the moment I saw that Les Mis movie, I was super confused and didn’t know how to respond to a heartbreaking musical. It wasn’t something I was used to and didn’t actually accept the fact that tragic musicals existed that time around. Sometime in March of 2013, I accepted those tragic musicals. Les Mis was how I discovered a fifth main emotion, which was heartbreak. Les Mis’ emotional impact went above and beyond what I thought musical emotions could do. Through the realization of heartbreak, I started to realize that it was much easier to find the darkness and negative emotions of other musicals. So everything I just said sort of explains why all musicals depend on each other.
All of the musicals I call meaningful help shape musicals the best. Whether that is Sound of Music, Annie, Wicked, Newsies, Music Man, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aladdin, Les Mis or even Pippin, they all shape musicals into what they are. Through their spectacle, dance, comic and tragic moments, wonderful storylines and songs and characters, they all help shape a musical. Their emotional worlds vary a lot and even I cannot explain that.
But even today, I still associate musicals with comedies. The very heart of musicals is why I get so much joy, love, and excitement from watching them. They know how to emotionally connect you and know how to allow you to find pleasure feeling both positive and negative emotions. For me, I sort of feel like the songs are at the heart of a musical even though everything else is also at the heart. But without songs that you appreciate and love, there is no way you can actually enjoy watching a musical. Because musical songs are so story-telling oriented, it allows you to truly care about the characters in a musical. Since different characters sing all the different songs in a musical, I associate songs with different characters. So whenever I listen to a musical song, I am no longer feeling my own emotions, but the actual characters. If you are feeling the characters’ emotions while watching a musical, what exactly are your own?
I still feel like the positive emotions are stronger than the negative emotions. They are in every single musical while the negative emotions are not. The simple shows are more likely to not have the negative emotions due to having less conflict than the complex musicals. The positive emotions are not just naturally part of the musical itself, but they also are coming from yourself.
Those negative emotions can be hard to work with, but I know through experience just how beautiful and wonderful those emotions really are. They are hard to work with because they hurt and that varies a lot as well. It has varying levels of fragility, vulnerability, strength, power, and even those emotions have an epic and heart-wrenching quality to them.
What do you think is at the very core of a musical?