Vulnerable: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or hurt
What does it mean to feel vulnerable in the musical world? That is a very tough question. Vulnerability deals with emotions such as love, sad, heartbreak, loneliness, desperation, guilt, and devastating. Vulnerability has to do with being open to emotions and not being closed off to them.
In the more emotional musicals, you have to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness in a musical. In an emotional musical, feeling vulnerable shows you have an emotional connection.
Wicked is one of those more emotional musicals. My journey began as a 12 year old. I saw it four times in all. Each time I may approach it as a 12 year old, but my vulnerability level kept on increasing each time. That was because my knowledge of the characters and emotions deepened.
Two emotional moments in Wicked are “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good”. “For Good” is even more emotional since the core of Wicked is friendship and that song is bittersweet because the two friends have reunited but it is the last time they will see each other. I feel like the fourth time that moment was really special to me. I was seeing it with Gardner Webb, a school that has changed me for the better, so that added meaning to the musical and I had an incredible Elphaba (understudy) and Glinda.
“I’m Not That Girl” is a heartbreaking song that wasn’t always interpreted as a heartbreaking song. It started out as being interpreted as sad and I knew that each time I would see Wicked, I would feel more vulnerable when it comes to that song, but I never could see beyond it being sad. That was because growing up I was 100% blind to heartbreak in musicals and because Elphaba’s story does not revolve around unrequited love but instead her friendship with Glinda.
So “On My Own” from Les Mis, another unrequited love song, was key to picking up on “I’m Not That Girl” being heartbreaking especially because Eponine’s story revolves around unrequited love unlike Elphaba’s story, which revolves around her friendship with Glinda. It is tricky actually feeling heartbroken in “I’m Not That Girl” if you know Elphaba is going to end with Fiyero in the end, which is kind of an odd situation in a way since it started out with Fiyero and Glinda being a couple.
My knowledge of “I’m Not That Girl” being heartbreaking isn’t the only reason why my fourth time was the most vulnerable. It had to do with “No Good Deed” as well. I never felt vulnerable in this song the first three times at all. I never liked the song and I do not know if I ever saw the right portrayal or was it because of my dislike towards the song. Well, the fourth time I saw Wicked, I felt vulnerable in this song for the first time able to finally felt its emotions and they actually stuck. Wicked is one such example of a musical becoming more and more vulnerable
Even in “As Long As Your’e Mine” I have to feel vulnerable. It is a love song and in a love song you have to feel vulnerable at times. Fiyero and Elphaba are a very mature, young couple and quite unexpected.
Rent is another emotional musical, but there is a difference between Wicked and Rent. I find Wicked to be a happy musical. But I find Rent to be sad. Rent is sad due to the time period that it takes place in: the HIV/AIDS epidemic and four of the main characters are struggling and living with it. Roger, who is struggling with it, is also battling depression as well and Mimi ,who is living with HIV, is also struggling with a drug addiction but those struggles makes those two characters real.
In songs such as “Will I?” , “I Should Tell You”, “Without You”, “I’ll Cover You (Reprise), “Life Support”, “One Song Glory” among others, you have to feel vulnerable because they are either heartbreaking or love songs.
An even sadder musical than Rent is Les Mis. That musical has an extreme vulnerable level. I have to feel vulnerable a lot because that musical is covered with negative emotions scene after scene it seems. In the first scene, you see the injustice that Jean Valjean is facing, which is shown up until the bishop scene. Throughout all of Fantine’s struggle, you see the unfairness of women during France of women at the time. She may die at the end, but she dies knowing her child will be cared for by Jean Valjean.
Fast forward to the next scene and Cosette is facing abuse the Thenardiers. So you see, Les Mis is covered with sad scene after sad scene, but faced with an incredible spirit of hope and light in the midst of darkness. Fantine isn’t the only one to loss her life in Les Mis. Like Fantine, many of the other characters die happy. Eponine dies in the arms of Marius, the boy she loves unrequitedly, after being shot, the students and Gavroche die standing up for what they believe in and Jean Valjean dies with Cosette and Marius by his side.
Les Mis has several scenes you have to feel vulnerable. Many characters have to face horrible conditions. Valjean has to deal with the injustices of an ex-convict. Fantine has to face how unfairly a woman will be treated if found out you have an illegitimate child. Cosette has to face horrible abuse by the Thenardiers as a child. Eponine has to deal with horrible abuse by the Thenardiers growing up and discovers that her parents don’t even care about her and they teach her the ways of being a criminal and she faces the pain of unrequited love. Marius has to face the pain of survivors guilt after losing all of his friends at the barricade.
Other moments that are important to feeling vulnerable are “As Long As He Needs Me”, a heartbreaking song in Oliver, and Edelweiss in Sound of Music. I just saw the musical movie of Oliver last week and “As Long As He Needs Me” made me cry. I connected so well to Nancy at that moment and that situation is quite heartbreaking.
Just two years ago, I saw the stage show of Sound of Music for the first time and that musical is one I grew up with the movie. My favorite song of all time was “Edelweiss” and I was shocked in the middle of the song that sad decided to enter the picture and the rest of the song made me cry and that discovery made me feel vulnerable in the second half of that song and increased my emotional connection and vulnerability level in Sound of Music.
What I am trying to say is that feeling vulnerable in a musical is key to the negative emotions and some of the positive emotions. There is lot of romance in musicals and there is vulnerability in that aspect. Heartbreak feels more vulnerable than sad is, which is true when it begins at the moderate level, which is anything from “I’m Not That Girl” and beyond. It is quite difficult to describe what it means to feel vulnerable in a musical. It is important for character development, which in turn is important for emotional development as well.
What do you think? What does it mean to feel vulnerable in a musical?