Do You Hear the People Sing

We are headed back to France with this musical-more specifically early 19th century. This was an extremely expected musical I was going to included. As many know, I have a massive love for Les Mis. It did challenge and disprove several many things about the world of musicals. The musical was based off of a masterpiece book- Victor Hugo’s Les Misèrables. I think that explains part of why it is such an extradionary musical. It is very difficult to have amazing songs if the plot is terrible, but in Les Mis’ case- the plot is incredible in so many ways.

I need to go back to the beginning explaining my love. In high school, I had told myself, I will NEVER a tragedy, and that was because I thought the genre was pure sad- Les Mis decided to prove me wrong. Actually, I had to watch the film twice before falling in love with Les Mis. After that second watch, the rest is history. I thought tragic musicals did not exist in musicals, I thought I knew the full extent of emotions, and I thought death scenes were unmemorable: boy, would Les Mis challenge a lot of things. Now let, me explain my love for Les Mis.

Songs: Major Spoilers

Usually in a musical, I can easily choose my favorite song. However in Les Mis’ case, I struggle with that. The songs are epic, passionate, powerful, and highly emotional. Those songs can literally hit you like a pile of bricks-I am still an emotional wreck and love that it does that. Before Les Mis, sad was one of the core emotions, but HEARTBREAK was not. I was blind to heartbreak, but so glad I discovered that new emotion- it opened a brand new window: Les Mis is filled with beautiful and powerful heartbreaking songs: some of them are bittersweet. The songs hit you in a way that words alone can’t describe. If I am to describe the songs fully, I don’t think I even could. From the goosebumps to the tears- I have only loved it since 2013. These songs perfectly complement the characters and plot; it works that it is sung-through due to the story and characters.

From the heartbreaking “I Dreamed a Dream” to the hilarious “Master of the House” to the hopeful “Do You Hear the People Sing” to the love song, “A Heart Full of Love” to the empowering and epic “One Day More” to the beautiful and heartbreaking “On my Own” to the bittersweet and touching “A Little Fall of Rain” to the devastating “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”- it has one of the most powerful and memorable soundtracks. Another thing the songs taught me is that a song can happen during a death scene, and that even death can be memorable.

“Come to Me” is Fantine’s death. She is dying of illness, but not alone. She has Valjean by her side promising to take of her daughter, Cosette. During “A Little Fall of Rain”, Eponine is dying in the arms of the man she loves. Finally at the “Epilogue”, Valjean gets to die with Cosette, his adopted daughter and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side.I NEVER realized that death scenes could happen during song-it wasn’t until Les Mis became a part of my life. The “Epilogue” makes you feel both heartbroken and hope- Les Mis is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Characters-Major Spoilers:

Les Mis has one of the best collection of characters. There is a character that everyone is going to love. I can’t even choose my favorite character.

Jean Valjean (Main Character)- He starts off the show as a harsh, hateful, and angry man. It is amazing to see him change into the compassionate and caring man he becomes. It was through an act of mercy by the bishop that made him start to became a better person. Even Cosette played a part in it. Everything he did made his spiritual journey stronger and made him a better person. It was during “Bring Him Home” when you strongly can see his love for God. He is one of the best protagonists of musical theatre.

Javert (Antagonist)- His main goal in Les Mis is to recapture Valjean. He believes “once a criminal always a criminal”. He sees the world in black and right and wants to do the right thing. He is a policeman and does not show mercy or forgiveness or love. He can’t even accept it when it shown on him. He is one of our most complex antagonists I have seen.

Fantine- She is one of our most tragic characters, and her demise isn’t even her fault. She has a strong unconditional love towards her daughter, Cosette. When Cosette was born, Cosette’s biological father abandoned both of them. Fantine’s dreams are now shattered. She now is a single father left to care for daughter—she ended up leaving her daughter in the hands of The Thenardiers (not knowing how poorly they will treat Cosette). Soon, she finds work in Valjean’s factory, but after hearing about Cosette, she was factory. She was devastated, but had to take desperate measures by selling her locket, hair, and soon herself (as in becoming a prostitute). Eventually she became seriously ill and was rescued by Valjean even though he couldn’t save her life. Valjean promised to raise Cosette. Fantine was a strong character- it usually is at “I Dreamed a Dream” when I start becoming an emotional wreck.

Young Cosette-Yes, we first hear of Cosette through Fantine, but we don’t meet her until after Fantine dies. Well, it turns out Cosette was being abused and treated as a servant. Cosette always has high hopes she will be rescued. She strongly does not like it when she has to water from the woods. Luckily in the woods Valjean finds Cosette and realizes this is the girl he has been looking for. So now, Cosette becomes Valjean’s adopted daughter.

Cosette-Now, we have a teenage Cosette. Her life has improved now that she has a better father. Valjean loves Cosette. They live a very sheltered and protective life- part of it is due to Valjean being a ex-convict. One day in the streets, Cosette sees Marius and they fall in love. Cosette does want to know more about her past and wants to actually meet Marius in person.

Marius- He is one of the student revolutionaries and is close friends to Enjolras. He is kind, sweet, compassionate, brave, and awkward. He is not just close friends to Enjolras, but to Eponine as well. He struggles between his passion for the uprising and his love for Cosette. He actually is more complex than he seems.

Eponine- While we first meet her as a child, we truly meet her as a teenager. She was raised around criminals her entire life. She became the neglected, abused, and unloved teenager. No one showed her kindness- until she met someone who did. She met Marius that day- Marius ended up becoming the light in her life and he was the only good thing in her life. The kindness he showed her led her to fall in love with him. She was streetwise, strong, brave, and loyal. Her love for Marius is so deep and strong that she would risk everything for Marius no matter the cost.

Enjolras and the Friends of the ABC-What I love the most about them is their passion for the uprising and the bond they share. With Enjolras, he is such a confident and passionate leader; after all, he is the most passionate of the group.

The Thenardiers- Despite being abusive, unloving, despicable, and cruel, I love the laughter they bring

Plot:

Les Mis’ story is so carefully planned out that if you get rid of one tiny detail, the entire story falls flat. It is amazing how a plot can be like that. I can’t even choose my favorite character.

The main storyline is about Valjean’s journey of becoming a better person. He had been in prison 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread: 5 for stealing and 14 for trying to escape. When his time came to leave, he was put on parole forever. He had left as an angry, harsh, and hateful man. However, when an act of mercy was shown by the bishop, he decided he needed to change, but that meant breaking parole. So while Valjean was going on a spiritual journey, Javert was trying to recapture Valjean. There were major dilemmas Valjean had to face: turn himself in when an innocent man was accused of being him, etc…….He helped save lives (Fantine (even though he couldn’t save her life), Cosette, and Marius). By the end, he has truly been redeemed and got to die with Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side.

Another storyline is the love triangle between Cosette x Marius x Eponine. Cosette and Marius’ relationship helps bring hope to the tragedy. It gives a reason for Valjean to rescue Marius from the barricade. Cosette and Marius are an incredible couple and amazing characters. Cosette represents hope in Les Mis so she needed to fall in love with Marius.

On to Eponine. If Eponine did not have the unrequited love, I don’t think I would have fallen in love with the character. If you think about it, Eponine needed Marius in her life. Her fate made perfect sense. She was able to die in the arms of Marius. It originally was Eponine that sacrificed her life for Marius. If you look at “A Little Fall of Rain”- you can see Marius’ compassion and based on how devastated he is shows Eponine mattered to him: so I love Marius. Also, look at the beginning of act II, he sent Eponine away with that letter- I think he only was trying to protect Eponine. He did not want her to get hurt or killed during the uprising. So, I love Eponine with the unrequited love

The third final main storyline was the uprising. It was based on the actual June Rebellion of 1832. I love those characters- their bond, their passion, and their hope is inspiring despite knowing their fates each time I see Les Mis. Marius is the only student who makes it out alive- first Eponine sacrificed her life for him and ultimately Valjean carried him to safety after he became seriously injured.

At the end, there are only four survivors: The Thenardiers, Marius, and Cosette. I do know who my favorite survivor is, and that is Marius.

So, while Marius and Cosette survive the entire musical, they still have their tragedies. Cosette had a tragic childhood and eventually lost her adopted father. Marius lost all of his friends at the barricades. All they have left at the end is each other. See why the plot is hard to explain: you still can’t get rid of one tiny detail or else the story falls in shambles.

About the plot, I love some the themes of compassion, love, hope, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption. I love the beautiful spirituality found in the plot. Les Mis is truly a very “human” story, and I love that about it. Still, I can’t explain why I love the plot as much as I do. The plot is so amazing that I wouldn’t get rid of a single thing- you need everything in it for the storyline to the story we know: it really is that carefully planned out.

Conclusion:

Even this does not fully explain why I love Les Mis, it does say a lot. Les Mis is where my passion for musicals comes from. I was challenged a lot because the musical entered, and I am so glad it did. I thought I knew the full extent of emotions, but Les Mis showed me a stronger and deeper side to the emotions. Les Mis is why I now want to see two-three musicals a year, and why I am more open to them. Wicked might have sparked my love for musicals, but Les Mis turned that love into a passion. Les Mis did lead four core emotions into five: excitement, love, joy, sad, and “heartbreak”. I am still an emotional wreck watching Les Mis, and I don’t think I will ever be immune to it. I love getting all of the tears watching Les Mis- I don’t want that reaction to stop- that reaction does not happen often, but it defiantly is the trophy of tear-reducing songs.

Defying Gravity

A Fourteen year love and one of the most obvious musicals I love. It was only August 2006 when my mom and I went to NYC. Little did I know when I talked into Gershwin Theater that my life would be changed for good. Wicked is not just any musical that entered my life- it was a huge step in my life especially in my musical journey. In so many ways, Wicked truly was the beginning of my musical theater journey, and it also sparked my love for musicals.

Wicked-Gershwin Theater

Songs:

You can NEVER love a musical without incredible songs. Wicked’s songs are amazing and covers all five core emotions: exciting, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak. From the exciting “One Short Day” to the empowering “Defying Gravity” to the love “As Long as Your’e Mine” to the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl” to the bittersweet “For Good”. Wicked was the musical where I first began to understand the emotional side of musicals. “I’m Not That Girl” was the first sad song that actually stuck with me-yes, it was only a sad song in the beginning (it took a while till it became the song it is today).

Characters: POSSIBLE SPOILERS

Wicked has a colorful collection of characters, but I am only emotionally to three. They all truly develop as the storyline continues.

Elphaba- strong, brave, unique, misunderstood, fiercely protective of her younger sister (Nessa), has powers she doesn’t know how to control, believes in equality and staying true to yourself. Fun fact: Elphaba is my favorite musical theatre character

Glinda-popular: I find her hard to describe, but still love her. By the end, she was able to realize that out of all her friends only one truly mattered and that was Elphaba

Fiyero-starts off as a jerk, but eventually becomes this mature and courageous young man.

Plot: Major Spoilers

In simple terms, it is about the beautiful and powerful friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. When they first meet, those two literally hate each other, but eventually become best friends and do change each others lives. When Glinda made a dance special for Elphaba, that is when those two truly bond and become friends. Glinda does not like it when people are spreading rumors about Elphaba and say that she is “Wicked”- it hurts her a great deal.

On top of this friendship, there is a love triangle found between Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda. In in a way, it strengthens their friendship. This love triangle is so complex: in act I, Elphaba has unrequited love for Fiyero, but in act II, Glinda ends up with act II, but in both scenarios the two friends don’t try to steal Fiyero away from each other: that shows their loyalty: they don’t let a boy get in the way of their friendship. I think this love triangle develops in the same way the characters do. At the same time, you are questioning Fiyero- as in when did this love for Elphaba even come from, did it start at Shiz- lots are coming through your mind- you have to closely examine Fiyero to get a clearer view of what on earth is going on.

Fiyero and Elphaba-Lion Cub Scene
Fiyero and Elphaba

About the love triangle: Wicked was also the first musical where I emotionally bonded to a love triangle. I was able to finally pick up on a love triangle due to Wicked.

Dance/Spectacle:

Another reason why I love Wicked is due to the overall look of it. From the set to costumes to the spectacle, I love watching it. Everything about it makes you feel like you have been transported into OZ. Even a silly dance can feel magical- during “Dancing Through Life”- at the school dance, when Elphaba arrives, she tries to dance and it looks rather silly, but Glinda decides to makes something magical out of it. Literally- it is something worth seeing for the overall look. I love those costumes- from Glinda’s “Popular” pink dress to Elphaba’s act II dress to Fiyero’s “As Long as Your’e Mine” costume-they are incredible.

Conclusion:

Wicked not only made me understand emotional connection through song, but through the entire musical. It was also where I first picked up on the complex side as well- that was due to finally being able to notice multiple storylines. The emotional connection being picked up through song was noticed due to sad coming to the forefront: Wicked was that musical- sad became one of the core emotions. But why did I pick up on emotional connection through the entire musical: well, I think it had something to do with loving two storylines and the characters involved. I saw Wicked twice before college began. Wicked started everything: understanding the complex and emotional side, which is essential- the best musicals tend to have positive and negative emotions.

If I Can't Love Her

We once again are back in France and another Disney musical. It is a romantic comedy that is truly magical. What musical am I referring to- Beauty and the Beast. Why do I love Beauty and the Beast?

Songs:

The songs are truly wonderful to listen to. They are magical, exciting, romantic, and heartbreaking. For the most part, they are exciting and romantic. Belle and Beast’s relationship develops over time: that is why you have both “Something There” and the truly magical and enchanting “Beauty and the Beast”. Even “If I Can’t Love Her” plays a part in this- that is the heartbreaking song in this. Songs like “Belle”, “Gaston”, “Be Our Guest”- especially “Be Our Guest” are exciting numbers despite “Gaston” belonging to the villain of the musical.

Characters:

Belle- She is an incredible main character. She is brave, independent, strong, and a bookworm, but the town she lives in thinks she “rather odd”. She can see beauty from within- she strongly loves her father and you see that constantly throughout the musical and eventually through her love for the Beast.

Beast- At first, you might hate him, but in reality he is an amazing character. He is so complex and yes, he does has a temper problem. Look- when Belle comes, she teaches him how to love and become a better person. Beast was trapped as a Beast (he is really a prince in disguise-at the time he was selfish and cruel leading to a curse on the castle). He is in a lot of despair and grief- he isn’t the real monster of Beauty and the Beast- he is truly kind and gentle after falling in love with Belle.

Gaston- well, well, well-Gaston is our true monster. If you think about it, this musical technically in some ways is a love triangle between Belle, Beast, and Gaston. Gaston’s only goal was to marry Belle-however not with the right intentions. Gaston is so in love with himself that I don’t think he even loved Belle to begin with- I think because Gaston is so handsome, I think he just wanted to marry Belle because of her beauty.

Maurice- The only one who thinks he isn’t crazy is Belle. He got captured by the Beast and tried to stop Belle from taking his place. Eventually, tried to get help, but the whole town thought he was having delusions about a beast and enchanted objects. He loved his daughter that much- to keep her safe.

Lumiere/Cogsworth/Mrs. Potts/Chip- I love the enchanted objects. There is something amazing about them. It makes the musical to be quite magical in so many ways.

Plot: Major Spoilers:

It all started when an old beggar woman entered the castle to escape the bitter cold. It was home to a selfish and unkind prince. She offered him a rose to escape the cold, but he would not let her in. Trying again to enter, the prince still said “no”. Now seeing there was no love in his heart, the old woman turned into a beautiful enchantress and cursed the entire castle. The curse could only be broken if he could fall in love and be loved in returned, but the rose was magical- he only had until the last petal fell. The prince was turned into a Beast. Who would love a beast?

Now, our story begins

Our story begins with a prologue explaining the castle and curse. Belle is our main character. It is in our entire first song (“Belle”) that we get to meet our main character and villain. “Belle” may be a long song, but it makes us get to know the town and lifestyle Belle lives and who is in her way. We also get to know what the town thinks of her.

The story truly starts when Belle actually takes her father’s place at the Beast’s castle. Maurice was supposed to go the market, but because of going the wrong way, he ended up at the Beast’s castle and got captured. Good thing, Belle realized her father was missing and that the horse her father was riding knew the way to the castle. Having so much love for her father, Belle ended up taking her father’s place- that is a huge moment when you can see that she is a brave character.

The way Belle and Beast’s relationship develops is interesting. First, Belle wants nothing to do with him. However, after an incident in the West Wing, that is when we start to a change in the Beast: that is when he finally sees he made a big mistake and ended up going after Belle to save her from the wolves: after that, Belle could have escaped, but from being a caring person she took Beast back. They have warmed to each other a little bit more despite a little bit of screaming due to Beast’s temper. It was during “Something There” when they develop feelings for each other and finally at “Beauty and the Beast” when they have fallen in love.

However, over in the background with Gaston, he still is trying to find ways to marry Belle, but clearly she isn’t interested and she already made that clear to Gaston. When Belle finds that her father is in danger, Beast does let Belle go, but little does Beast know that she will come back. Gaston, out of anger after finding out about Belle’s feelings for the Beast, decides to kill him- this is when Belle wants to warn him. Gaston is a horrible person and doesn’t care about anyone but himself and not even his sidekick, Lefou.

This is truly a magical and enchanting musical.

Conclusion:

This is one of three musicals I love that takes place in France. The songs are truly romantic. I love most of the characters. I love the plot due to the romantic and magic found in it. Out of all the classic Disney princesses, I think it is Belle I relate to the most.

Favorite Song: Beauty and the Beast

Wouldn't it Be Loverly

There is more than one musical I love that takes place in England. The first obvious of course is Oliver, but there still are others I love. This post is talking about My Fair Lady. What do I love about that musical?

Songs:

It has a classic collection of songs. I love the songs in My Fair Lady. It is quite difficult to describe why I love them.

Characters:

Here’s what I can say. I do like how some of them develop throughout the course of the story. I still barely know them to explain the characters.

Eliza Doolittle- My Fair Lady

Plot:

The plot is about Eliza Doolittle becoming a lady through the help of Henry Higgins. That is the plot in simple terms- Eliza and Henry seem to develop the most throughout My Fair Lady. Freddy does fall in love with Eliza, but she does not love him- a love triangle does form: Freddy/Eliza/Henry.

Conclusion:

The crazy thing about doing My Fair Lady is that I feel like I barely know it to say enough to explain why I love it. So, this post may not be fairly accurate or some plot/character points might not be accurate. However, it is still one I love.

France 19th Century

Yes, while this blog series is supposed to talk about musicals I love, I think it is safe to bring up one Opera in the mix. I said that because the Met Opera streamed some of their operas for a week, and my favorite opera ended up being one of them. That in a way made up for the Anastasia Informance being postponed.

After all, musicals and operas both tell stories through songs-they are similar, but so different in many ways. If it wasn’t for my love for a particular musical= La Bohème wouldn’t have been in my life. All because of Rent Now, I will explain why I love La Bohème. I actually saw the stage show in person back in January in the 11th row.

Songs:

The best songs of La Bohème are gorgeous songs, which are the ones found between Rodolfo and Mimi. It is their love story after all. I l am not saying that the other songs are not wonderful- it is just I love Rodolfo and Mimi the most. Puccini knows how to create a wonderful story and its characters and create songs to go with them- I strongly love his La Bohème songs.

Characters:

Rodolfo-He is our poet and falls in love with Mimi. His poems talk about love.

Mimi- She is our seamstress and falls in love with Rodolfo. She is the most fragile and vulnerable of the major characters.

Marcello- He is our painter and in the beginning does see love as empty. Eventually, he does get back with Musetta

Colline- Well, I don’t know how to describe him, he lives with Marcello/Rodolfo/Schunard

Schunard- I don’t quite know how to describe him, except for who his friends are

Musetta- I see her as our comic relief character in La Bohème. However, she is crazy and can drive Marcello nuts. Despite all of the craziness, she still is sweet and caring

  • I actually love how they were able to develop their counterparts to Rent. Even though Rent was based off of La Bohème, they still were able to create these characters in a fresh way. For example, I truly can see Maureen in Musetta—but still can see them as two different characters.

Plot: Major Spoilers

About the story, it is the tragic love story between Rodolfo and Mimi in 19th century France. It deals with poverty and the artistic and bohemian lifestyle. Tuberculosis is what a number of people were dying from. Rodolfo and Mimi truly loved each other even when tragedy struck. It was Mimi who got seriously ill and wanted to die with Rodolfo by her side-and she did.

It really does hurt when Rodolfo finds out she has died, but to me the catharsis comes from the fact that Mimi was with Rodolfo when she died.

Conclusion:

If Rent never entered my life, La Bohème wouldn’t have. That is because I found out about La Bohème because of Rent. I can easily see the similarities/differences. Some of them actually make due to the time period they take place in-19th century vs. 1980s/1990s.

Make Em Laugh

I think it’s time to talk about another light-hearted musical. This time, I am talking about the fun Singing in the Rain.

While, I usually divide up my posts, this time I really do not need to. I just love how happy and light-hearted it is. From “Singing in the Rain” to “Make Em Laugh” to “Good Morning”- you have songs that make you happy. There is just nothing more- it is just one of those really fun and happy musicals. It helps with the balance- you literally have a wide range: it truly is remarkable—Singing in the Rain is just a very happy musical.

Circle of Life

It is time to talk about another Disney musical. This time we are headed to the African Savannah. We are now talking about Lion King, one of the classic Disney musicals. What makes me love Lion King?

Songs:

For one thing, its opening song, “Circle of Life” is one of the best opening numbers.This score holds a collection of various emotions: it actually has all five core emotions- from excitement to joy to love to sad to heartbreaking. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is one of the best love songs found in musical theatre. I love the additional songs from “Shadowland” to “Endless Night”-they help develop Simba and Nala further. I love “They Live in You” as well.

Characters:

Simba- I love our protagonist. It does help that we get to start knowing him as a cub and eventually see him age up to a Young Adult. I love the relationship he has with his father and with Nala. Nala and Simba were best friends as cubs and eventually fell in love. Simba was born to be King and was excited about it until tragedy struck- he was struggling ever since and had to remember.

Nala- As I said, we meet her as a cub. She is a strong and brave character- characteristics I love seeing. She had to eventually leave her only home to get help-after all, the Pride Lands were in trouble after Scar took over. She ran into Simba after running into Simba.

Mufasa- He was a great king and father, but it was short-lived.

Scar- He is one of the worst villains in Disney. He was planning to kill both his brother and nephew to become king. Seriously- they are your family.

There are other characters I love such as Zazu and Rafiki.

Plot: Major Spoilers

You meet a lot of characters in the beginning. You get to know important characters like Rafaki, Mufasa, Simba (our protagonist), Scar, and Nala. Rafaki is the one who starts Lion King. Simba was next in line to become king after Mufasa, which doesn’t suit well with Scar, Mufasa’s younger brother. Scar has evil intentions of killing both his brother and nephew.

Mufasa is an incredible king and father. He taught Simba how to be a good king and life lessons on how to be a good person overall. Well, guess what happened- Scar actually killed Mufasa and made Simba (who was still a cub) believe he killed his father and told him to leave the Pride Lands and never return. Simba ran as far as he could until he basically had not much energy left- that is when thankfully Timon and Pumbba showed up and raised him. You can tell as a Young Adult he was still struggling with what happened earlier- he did forget who he truly was.

As king, Scar ended up destroying the Pride Lands. Nala had to run away to get help and ran into Simba. Now, you are seeing the romance. From the stars, Simba finally got a message from his father saying “remember”- Simba knows what he must do- go back to the Pride Lands and face his Uncle and take his place as King.

Nala and Simba- Lion King
Nala and Simba

Dance/Spectacle:

Obviously since it takes place in the African Savannah, there has to be a way to create that. Plus, since all the characters are animals, there has to be some way to represent that. The costumes in Lion King are spectacular to look at. The way they move from the Pride Lands to Jungle is amazing. “Circle of Life” not only is one of the best songs from the musical, but the staging of it is amazing: if you literally are in the orchestra near the aisle it is like you are truly experiencing that number (in 2018, I was in the orchestra at the aisle).

Conclusion:

This is one of those musicals that you need to see. Its staging, songs, characters, and plot are why. I am saying that mostly because of the dance and spectacle-I saw the stage show twice mainly because I do not remember the first time so I wanted to see it the second time so I do have a memory. It is the longest running Disney musical on Broadway.

Favorite Song: Can You Feel the Love Tonight