It is hard to know the impact something has had on your life at times. Musical Theatre, as many know, has had a huge impact on my life. If it wasn’t for my family, musical theatre wouldn’t have been in my life. My first memory was seeing Wicked on Broadway, but I did see musicals prior.
I was born in the 90s meaning I saw the classic Disney movies. Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast were part of my childhood. The musical movies of Grease, Sound of Music, and Annie were watched as well. At the time, Annie was my favorite musical. I think it was because at the time, I was optimistic just like Annie: I did not realize that meant I had an emotional connection to the character. I also saw stage shows in elementary school: Cats, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast (I think), and Seussical the Musical. So musicals were introduced to me at such a young age. At that young age, I enjoyed musicals. I did not fully understand musicals- I was into the dance and spectacle aspect- the emotion of excitement was the emotion that I understood the most. That was the beginning, but was it the beginning? No, it truly wasn’t. The beginning would actually begin in middle school.
My mom and I went to NYC without my dad and my sister. That made the trip extra special to me. Little did I know that I stepped foot into the Gershwin Theatre to see Wicked, it would make a huge impact on my life and my love for musicals. All I remember about that time was that “Popular” was my favorite song: that is why it still is my favorite song from Wicked to this day. Through Wicked, I finally understood what an emotional connection was. I began to understand that a musical plot can be complex in both character and plot. I also started to understand the emotional nature of musicals- that is when the negative emotions came into the forefront. There were four core emotions- excitement, joy, love, and sad. Wicked changed me for the better.
So my love for musicals was sparked. Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero meant a lot to me over these 12 years- especially Elphaba. The friendship and love triangle are my favorite storylines in Wicked; the ones I focus on the most- the rest ALWAYS get overlooked. I see a lot of myself in Elphaba, and at the same time, a lot of myself is not in her. I have seen Wicked once on Broadway and three times on tour. Each time I see it, I discover more about the show.
I was convinced ALL MUSICALS WERE COMIC AND HAPPY: that is what I grew up with. I knew sad was common for a musical- only two musical songs were home to that emotion: “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good”. I thought musicals songs could not push past sad. I knew musicals could teach empathy and sympathy. Musicals were already making an impact on me. I was convinced that showtunes must be in all musicals, and same with dance. I was basing it all off of what I grew up with. What happens when all of that gets challenged?
I graduated from high school June 2012. December 2012: my parents took my sister and I to see the musical movie of Les Mis. I was unsure: I was aware of the song, “I Dreamed a Dream”. I did not know if I wanted to see it or not, but went anyway. After Fantine died, I realized something: LES MIS IS A TRAGEDY: I was like “this is a tragedy, musicals aren’t supposed to be tragic”. I was shocked and confused- I did not know to respond. I had a hard time watching the rest of the movie. By the end, I did not know what to think of it- I did not know if I was a fan of Les Mis or not- but I did have “Do You Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head. I started researching it anyway. I called it TOO DEPRESSING- so rough start. It was the introduction of tragic musicals and heartbreak.
I don’t know why; but something told me I had to give the movie a 2nd chance. March 2013- I watched the movie a 2nd time, and this time knowing it was going to be tragic, I was able to calm down and saw so much more. I was able to focus more on the plot and characters. I was able to connect better. I knew there was something special and uplifting about Les Mis- I became a true fan of Les Mis that day. By summer 2013, I was obsessed. Now, I can’t imagine my life without Les Mis. In high school, I believed I would never a tragedy- but Les Mis proved me wrong. Les Mis went against everything I thought a musical was. Usually in a musical, I have a favorite song and character, but in Les Mis I can’t choose. So this musical turned that love into a passion. Now every year, I hope to catch at least one musical.
So Les Mis and Wicked were the key musicals for me to become the musical theatre fanatic that I am today. That is a huge reason why they are my top two favorite musicals. The meaningful musicals stay in your heart and soul- the characters live in you- even if they DIE in the musical. I once thought a death could never be memorable- turns out I was wrong. Many characters in musicals stand up for what they believe in.
Newsies has a quote that made me realize it was meaningful- “Courage cannot erase our fear. Courage is when we face our fear”. Two weeks after seeing it in 2016, I listened to “Seize the Day”, and the moment I heard those words, I realized it was a meaningful musical. I fell in love with it the day I saw the show- through the bond the Newsies share, their passion for the cause, the mind-blowing dance, and the energetic and at times emotional score.
Lion King is such a spectacle to watch filled with memorable characters. They are easy not to forget. The way they create the animals is incredible. The special effects is incredible. The first scene is breathtaking- if the first scene can grab you- that is always a good sign.
Theatre has a way to escape. You escape into the world of the characters. You live in their worlds. You no longer are in yours. You are in theirs. If it is a musical you love, you feel like a character in the show itself. Theatre itself has many life lessons. Standing up for what you believe in, there is hope in the midst of tragedy, stay true to who you are, the importance of friendship, and so on. So, there is a lot of power in theatre. Musical Theatre- it tells a story and then has incredible characters, but when you add songs on top of that, it makes is easier to emotionally connect to them. You feel like you are living their lives. It is so magical and such a delight to watch in so many ways. Musical Theatre actors and actresses have so much talent- being able to memorize all their lines and on top of that all the blocking and choreography and doing that 8 times a week is incredible- it is much harder than it looks. Theatre has had a huge impact on me- the musicals I love the most are meaningful to me- some of the meaning is quite obvious and some isn’t.