Musical theatre is capable of a lot of thing. Spectacle, dance, romance, comedy, positive and negative emotions, and emotional connection. There are five core emotions: excitement, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak. The other emotions that exist sprout from those five core emotions. You might be wondering what do I mean by patterns found in musicals. I will try to explain below.
This genre of musicals is still quite new. It was by Les Mis where I first found that genre. Les Mis has only been in my life for seven years. There is a pattern I found when it comes to tragedies. Haven’t you noticed that a good chunk of them happen to be sung-through. Les Mis, Rent, Miss Saigon, and Hadestown are all sung-through musicals. Those all just happen to be sad shows.
I have noticed a couple of things in common between Disney musicals. For one thing, they all have elements of dance. The other thing in common is found in love. There is just something magical and innocent when it comes to the Disney love songs- “A Whole New World”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Something to Believe In” all shares that similar idea.
This is basically what I am saying about patterns. I have found some parallels in musicals. In my journey, other musicals have helped other musicals out. So what are some of those parallels?
These two girls are young, misunderstood, and have powers they don’t know how to control. “Let it Go” and “Defying Gravity” have a similar melody and are about staying true to yourself. I really think that those who played excellent portrayals of Elphaba can also be excellent as Elsa and vice versa.
It took me an entire year to figure out why I love Eponine. I really had no idea where my strong bond for Eponine began. Eventually, I think I figured it out. I think a lot of that love comes from Elphaba. Well, these two young girls share some things in common. They both were born into an unloving family, taken advantage of, and deal with unrequited love. SPOILERS: however in Elphaba’s case she eventually ends up with Fiyero making the unrequited love switch to Glinda. They both are strong, courageous, loving, and complex. Crazily enough, “On My Own” made me realize that “I’m Not That Girl” is a heartbreaking song. Both songs are about unrequited love.
Think about it. In Les Mis, Cosette and Eponine are mirrors of each other. Their lives totally change from childhood to teenagers. They were both raised in the Thenardier family. As a child, Cosette was horribly abused by the Thenardiers, but she got rescued by Jean Valjean. Young Cosette was strong and extremely hopeful. Unfortunately that leaves Eponine stuck with the Thenardiers. When the two girls got to be teenagers, things were reversed for both of them. While Young Cosette had a horrible childhood, Eponine got a better one. But when they became teenagers, Cosette’s life improved while Eponine’s life became even worse. That switch has always intrigued me: Cosette continues to be the hope and light in Les Mis. Then look at this- the love triangle. Both girls fell in love with Marius- but it was Eponine who got the unrequited love. Cosette and Marius were perfect for each other: they are literally quite an adorable couple: due to Cosette falling in love with Marius, she continues to represent hope. Eponine’s love for Marius was important- Marius was the only good part of Eponine’s life because he was the only one who showed her kindness.
I never could understand this parallel. The only thing I know they have in common is courage. But why did I think of this? I know three of my Enjolras actors did play Fiyero: Aaron Tveit, Matt Shingledecker, and Bradley Jaden all played both characters.
Friends of the ABC/Newsies
There is a lot of parallels when it comes to these two. Both of them share a strong brotherly love that they feel like family. They both have a cause they truly believe in and don’t give up.
Thinking of Friends of the ABC and Newsies, there is another parallel I drew in them. Both groups do have a leader: Enjolras in Friends of the ABC and Jack Kelly in Newsies. There are a few differences between both of them- Enjolras cares a lot more about the cause while Jack cares a lot more about his brothers. Jack is willing to call off the strike just to protect his friends: Jack is defiantly a more emotional character then Enjolras is.
Well, they both are outgoing. I always saw a parallel between the two of them.
I think something really is in common between Frozen and Wicked. The sisterhood in Frozen and friendship in Wicked do parallel each other. That is their center core after all. I think a lot of my love for Frozen comes from Wicked.
Well, it is hard to understand why I paralleling the two. But think about it: both used to have better lives, but eventually things became tragic for both of them. “I Dreamed a Dream” made me understand “Memory” was a heartbreaking song.
Heartbreaking Love Songs
There really is something in common between “On My Own”, “I’m Not That Girl”, “This Nearly was Mine”, “If I Can’t Love Her”, “Somewhere”, and “As Long as He Needs Me”. Here’s the thing: if a song is both a love song and sad song, they will always be heartbreaking. Yes, some of these songs are ironic and some are not, but they still have similar emotions at different degrees. Of course there is love and heartbreak, but loneliness as well. Heartbreaking love songs are some of the most beautiful songs in the musical world.
Why did I find a pattern in just one emotion? Well, I was blind to that emotion growing up. Les Mis was why I was able to find it. Heartbreak is such a gorgeous emotion when it is a song. Pretty much, a lot of sad songs are heartbreaking: “Without You”, “Your Eyes”, “Will I”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “Drink with Me”, “On My Own”, “I’m Not That Girl”, “As Long as He Needs Me”, “This Nearly was Mine”, “Letter from the Refuge”, “Somewhere”, “Bring Him Home”, “Memory” and “If I Can’t Love Her” are sad songs, but heartbreaking. There is a huge difference when it comes to sad songs and heartbreaking songs. All heartbreaking songs are sad, but not all sad songs are heartbreaking. All because heartbreak was introduced, I was able to notice emotions faster in musical songs: the sad songs really like to be heartbreaking.
Do you notice some other patterns found in musicals?