The past two days, I talked about what I look for in musical characters. But what exactly is it I am looking for in a musical plot? This one is a bit harder to figure out than what I am looking for in musical characters. Some things I look for in musical plots are actually characteristics I look for in musical characters.
First up on the list is complexity. I am drawn more to complex plots than simple plots due to what they provide. Those feel more real and they are more likely for new things to be discovered as your journey with the musical continues. Whether that is in complex plots like Les Mis or Wicked, I keep on discovering new things about them. I feel like complex plots head directly to complex characters as well. The complex plots have the right amount of conflict for entire sad songs to be in the mix. Conflict plays a big role in the emotions. Complex characters have more things about them and if they have enough conflict, they have a higher chance of expressing negative emotions through song.
Thinking of complexity, another thing I look for in a musical plot is conflict. Conflict refers directly to complexity. Conflict is literally where a plot is actually formed outside of the characters. Conflict varies in so many ways. There is a point in the amount of conflict where the characters become complex. There is a point in conflict where the show ends up having either serious, dark, or tragic moments within the show.
There is nothing wrong with happy musicals having those type of moments. Without those moments, shows that are actually tragic would literally make no sense in the musical world. Without conflict, there would not even be a plot in a musical. Conflict is a bit difficult to describe as a matter of fact. The amount of conflict has a lot to do with the emotional side of musicals. Conflict is where the negative tend to come from and I want the negative emotions to be a part of the score.
Next up is romance. Yes, I just said I look for romance in a musical. I don’t fully know why I love romance in musicals. I feel like part of it has to due to how often it seems to show up in musicals. I love how most of it is young love. It doesn’t matter if it is in the form of two people or if it happens to be in the form of a love triangle.
My favorite musical couple gets caught up in a love triangle and those characters are Elphaba and Fiyero. Either in middle or high school, I knew that Wicked’s love triangle provides an interesting texture and was fully aware that “I’m Not That Girl” is a sad song, but soon realized it was heartbreaking thanks to “On My Own”.
I think another huge part of why I love romance in musicals is because it translates well to song. The songs tend to be beautiful songs and vary in so many ways. Most of them tend to be slow-paced songs like “Something Good”, “Till There Was You”, “A Heart Full of Love”, “I’m Not That Girl”, “Something to Believe In” and “All I Ask of You”. Some tend to be really strong and powerful such as “On My Own”. The love songs can either be solos, duets, or trios. Some of the solos are either unrequited love or breakup songs.
One trio makes you so confused with the emotions you are feeling in that song, which is “A Heart Full of Love”. For much of the song, I am feeling for Marius and Cosette, which means I am feeling happy for them, but when Eponine joins the picture, I am still feeling wonderful for Marius and Cosette, but feeling heartbroken for Eponine. Its like how in the world can you feel both sides in one song. Due to the nature of that song, it is a huge reason why I love this love triangle.
Another thing I look for has to due with the negative emotions. I don’t want them to exist so much in a musical plot that there isn’t room for the positive emotions to exist. I want the negative emotions to exist in a way that provides you with a positive experience. No musical literally has just negative emotions. That just will never seem to work. Les Mis is the best example of this because it seems like most of the songs and scenes makes you feel negative emotions. But if you look closely, you realize the positive emotions still are existent. It has hope, compassion, forgiveness, joy, uplifting, exciting, and passion in the mix. Les Mis was the best example for this because it constantly makes you feel hurt and seems like it will never make you feel positive emotions, but they are present. It isn’t just a heartbreaking musical, but its also an inspirational musical.
This sounds crazy, but when it comes to a tragic musical, I can be quite particular of what I want from their plots. In my interpretation of musicals, tragic musicals are very rare. I don’t want the negative emotions to feel sort of lost in the picture or feel kind of boring and pointless. The tragic plots really can be hard to fall in love with. For me, I want the tragic musical plots to have things that exist beyond their tragic nature. For Les Mis, it is its underlying spirituality and for Rent, it is its message of acceptance and how to live life. They can be quite tricky, but falling in love with Rent and Les Mis has really helped me see that tragedies have more potential than I once believed. I once thought tragedies were pure sad and that was why I ignored them and told myself I will hate tragedies in high school. But Rent and Les Mis helped me see the light of tragic plots.
All of this leads in one final aspect of what I look for in a musical. Musical plots also have an incredible collection of characters. The characters and their actions, personality, and lives help form the plot. They help you with the emotions so much. Literally, what I just said is true. You have to care about the character’s journeys in order to have a willingness to feel their emotions. Sometimes I might only love like three characters or might love way more than three. Wicked for instance, I only love Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda, but in Les Mis, I love Jean Valjean, Fantine, Gavroche, Eponine, Young Cosette and Enjolras and all the students and in shows like Newsies, I love all the Newsies especially Jack and Crutchie.
What exactly do you look for in a musical plot?