Yesterday’s post, I talked about the musicals from my younger years. In today’s post, I plan to compare and contrast the world of musicals from the musical from my younger years to the musicals from now. When I mean “then”, I am talking about musicals from elementary to high school” and “now” refers to the musicals from 2012 to current.
Then: This world formed the foundation of musicals. All of them were happy and I believed all musicals were happy. There were four main emotions, which were excitement, love, joy, and sad. It consisted of musicals like Wicked, Annie, Sound of Music, Grease, Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. I described all musicals as happy and full of life.
Full of life only referred to the exciting numbers where dance and spectacle existed. In high school, the emotion of sad seemed to stop completely and I felt like it couldn’t be anything else. So in the world of these musicals, musicals were a world of spectacle, dance, comedy, excitement, love, joy, sad, and strong emotional connections.
Now: The musicals of these days were in a way kind of similar to the musicals of my younger years. It was still a world of spectacle, dance, comedy, strong emotional connections and the same four main emotions. But things took a very unexpected and twisted turn.
I was soon to learn that not all musicals are happy and comic like I once thought I knew. Les Mis entered my life and that title means “the miserable”. Les Mis is a very heartbreaking musical. Heartbreak became a main emotion and I couldn’t interpret it in my younger years. I did not how to respond to the idea of a tragedy existing in the world of musicals.
But I soon realized that tragedies belong in the world of musicals. Just through the added nature of tragedies and the emotion of heartbreak, everything changed so drastically. But yet, still seems kind of similar.
I was the kind of person who thought that I would always hate tragedies. That was me in high school so I was quite surprised that I love Les Mis. Tragic things happen to all of the Les Mis characters. Jean Valjean lived his life as an ex-convict, Cosette had a horrible childhood, Marius faced lots of trauma at the barricade, Fantine had to become a prostitute to provide for her child, the Thernardiers inn became bankrupt and Eponine faced horrible abuse by her parents and suffered from a strong unrequited love for Marius.
What Les Mis also showed me is that musical emotions have so much potential in them. I realized that musical emotions can be felt so deeply and with so much insight and truth. I soon learned that the negative emotions consist of a sense of fragility and vulnerability. Sometimes you have to dig into an emotion in order to truly understand the emotion of the song. That is true for both positive and negative. There are some inner positive emotions just like there are inner negative emotions.
I didn’t notice the details of sad before Les Mis entered my life. I realized there is more to tragedy than heartbreak. Les Mis is a very inspirational musical because it is ultimately a tale of love, hope, compassion, forgiveness, humanity, sacrifice, and redemption.
Other musicals of these years were Newsies, Rent, South Pacific, Phantom of the Opera, and Pippin. Rent like Les Mis is a tragic musical. I view musical emotions very differently now. I explore the emotions in a more open and more complex way. I come in knowing that there is a chance that heartbreak will happen.
All because of Les Mis, it is easier for me to detect darkness and negative emotions in new musicals. One way to describe how different musical emotions are is to use Wicked as matter of fact. The unrequited love song, “I’m Not That Girl” began as just a sad song and it eventually became a heartbreaker. “No Good Deed” once felt emotionless, but last year it became a song filled with anger and frustration.
Sad isn’t the only emotion that went through drastic change. The addition of heartbreak affected love and joy. I finally understood the serious side of love, which is its heartbreaking nature. Like I stated above, “I’m Not That Girl” became heartbreaking. It took the unrequited love song, “On My Own” for me to figure that out. “On My Own” is from Les Mis and is about Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and that is a more extreme and stronger song about unrequited love.
There are even other heartbreaking love songs, which were discovered in the more recent years. Songs like “Somewhere” and “This Nearly Was Mine” are heartbreaking love songs. The song “I Dreamed a Dream” made me realize “Memory” was heartbreaking. Crazy how just one musical emotion can drastically change the world of musicals. Heartbreak which once didn’t exist changed everything.
As far as joy goes, I knew growing up that joy is existent in bittersweet moments. But there are bittersweet moments that are incredibly heartbreaking. One such instance is “A Little Fall of Rain”. It can be quite challenging to understand why there is joy in this heartbreaking moment especially because it is Eponine’s death scene. She just got fatally wounded after returning to the barricades. If you just don’t understand just how dark her life is and if you don’t understand her love for Marius, the joy in this would be nonexistent. She is dying, but she is dying in the arms of the man she loved, which is why this the happiest moment moment of her life.
I told myself that a death scene could never be memorable, but Les Mis proved me wrong. Eponine’s death scene in my opinion is the best death scene of the entire musical because there is just something special about “A Little Fall of Rain”.
What’s crazy is I love Eponine and you would think the death scene of a favorite character wouldn’t be memorable. Yes, I am devastated and heartbroken, but I am happy as a matter of fact. I am happy that Eponine finally feels extremely happy for the first time.
Just like the earlier years, excitement is felt exactly the same way. It is the one emotion that hasn’t changed at all. New shows come in with spectacle and dance. Pippin is a musical full of circus elements and Newsies is full of mind-blowing. The same level of excitement is still present. It hasn’t changed one bit.
So the musicals of younger years are a world of dance, spectacle, comedy, strong emotional connections, excitement, love, joy, and sad. I described all musicals as as happy and full of life. Full of life only referred to the exciting numbers.
Now, musicals are a world of dance, spectacle, comic and tragic moments, strong emotional connections, excitement, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak. Not only are there happy and comic musicals, there are also sad and tragic musicals with some getting caught in the middle. Those words are almost identical to the words I once used. Than again, the musicals of my younger fears formed a foundation of the musicals today. Now I call all musicals joyful, unique, emotional, and full of life. Full of life now refers to the entire show as in the story comes to life.