The Importance of Backstories of Musical Theatre Characters

I can’t believe I never talked about this on my blog: the importance of musical theatre characters’ backstories. Why do they matter?

The backstories shape the characters into who they are. It is one of the aspects that musical theatre characters complex. I prefer complex characters over simple characters. That is because they are more “real” than the simple ones.

Eponine:

What would Eponine be if she wasn’t raised by the Thenardiers? Yes, it is a horrible upbringing. If she wasn’t raised to be a thief and criminal, and ended up being unloved and neglected, Marius wouldn’t have meant anything to her. See what I mean- her upbringing is a huge reason why she is the Eponine we know her to be.

Elphaba:

What would Elphaba be if she wasn’t born green? What would she be if her father didn’t love her growing up? Part of her complexity comes from how she was raised.

Phantom:

Who would the Phantom be if he wasn’t born without a deformed face? Due to how to he was treated because of it, it lead him to become ashamed of it. See what I mean.

The pattern continues with a number of characters. What happens to anyone growing up makes them who they are. Backstories are important to anyone. Backstories can be tragic- but the results are different: their actions show that- look how Phantom dealt with it versus Eponine. Phantom dealt with his pain in a negative way while Eponine dealt with her pain in a more positive way. Some backstories are not tragic at all- it still made those characters who they are.

Do you agree? Do backstories help shape a story into who they become? Does it believe it makes a character complex?

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Mary Poppins Returns Review

Here’s the thing about musical sequels- they usually do not work. I know “Mamma Mia: Here We Again” worked. On January 10th, I watched “Mary Poppins Returns”- the question was would it work as a sequel. I would have to see for myself. The original had so much charm and magic in it found in the acting and the songs.

Story:

“Now an adult with three children, bank teller Michael Banks learns that his house will be repossessed in five days unless he can pay back a loan. His only hope is to find a missing certificate that shows proof of valuable shares that his father left him years earlier. Just as all seems lost, Michael and his sister receive the surprise of a lifetime when Mary Poppins — the beloved nanny from their childhood — arrives to save the day and take the Banks family on a magical, fun-filled adventure”

Characters:

From the beginning, I knew we had another sequel that worked. It started with Jack (Lin Manuel Miranda) doing his job as a lamp lighter. He was the counterpart to Bert, the chimney sweep, in the original. I knew it worked because I enjoyed the first song. When you know that from the start, that says something. I later learned in the film that Jack was an apprentice to Bert, which does help connect this film to the original. I loved Jack as a character- he seemed to love the Banks children as much as Bert loved Michael and Jane.

Georgie, Anabel, and John are the new Banks children in this film. Georgie is the youngest, who has the biggest imagination of the three who keeps on wondering off. The other two are so protective of Georgie, it seems, as they go after him when he wonders off. Love these children.

Emily Blunt has huge shoes to fill as she takes on the role of the fun-loving and magic-filled Mary Poppins. She makes Mary Poppins her own- not a carbon copy of Julies Andrews. She has everything you would expect in Mary Poppins- fun and the magic. She has them swimming in a bathtub and spending time in a pot.

Michael Banks is in a financial crisis right now. He has moved on to work at a bank (just like his father). Their family has fallen on hard times- he lost his wife about a year ago. If they can’t pay off a loan, it means losing the house. It is so different from seeing him as just a child to him as an adult. The same applies to Jane as well.

There are new characters as well- Jack I already mentioned. You have Mary Poppin’s cousin, who is hilarious in some ways. Wilkins is our chief antagonist, who at first glance does not seem like he his, but as the story advances, you realize that he is. There are characters that are memorable that are not named like the balloon lady.

Songs:

The songs are KEY to any musical. They give a music its charm and heart. If I didn’t like or love these songs, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this movie in any way. I keep on forgetting the names of them, though.

Underneath the Lonely London Sky- I already said I love how it begins with Jack doing his job while riding a bicycle. It is like Bert doing the chalk drawing in the original. Very similar- something you would expect from a Mary Poppins film. The overture starts right after that.

Can You Imagine That- This is a fun number. This one takes place in the bathtub. It has a lot of magic in it. Loved this scene- one of my favorite songs from the musical.

The Royal Dulton Music Hall/ Introducing Mary Poppins/ A Cover is Not That Book- this all takes place in the pot- it is where the animated part of the film happens.

The Place Where Lost Things Go- This is the lullaby that Mary Poppins sings to the kids. It is something that Mary Poppins does- it is part of who she is.

Trip a Little Light Fantastic- this is pretty much the “Step in Time” number. It is found between all of the lamp lighters. It is a fun dance number, and love all of the lyrics. It is amazing how certain song are kind of similar to some of the original songs from this movie.

No Where to Go But Up- Another fun number. It is a very fun number to watch.

So Mary Poppins returns is another sequel that works. It has the same kind of feeling that the original had. The magic, the innocence, the fun, the animated aspect, and songs numbers that still have that same kind of feeling (just in a different way).


The Uniqueness of Bittersweet Musical Theatre Songs

Two days ago, I analyzed “For Good” and a few days before that, I analyzed “A Little Fall of Rain”. There is something in common between both of those songs- they fall under the category of bittersweet songs. There is something touching and moving about those types of songs. What exactly makes a musical theatre song bittersweet?

A bittersweet song is usually one of those “goodbye” type of songs. They tend to have a combination of joy and sad. Some are much sadder than other- some fall under the category of devastating. All bittersweet songs have joy and happiness in them. It can be very hard to describe why those songs have joy and happiness in them due to the sad part of them. The more devastating bittersweet songs are the hardest songs to describe the joy. You have to understand the characters to understand why the songs are bittersweet in the first place. I will use “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain” to bring up what I am talking about.

Elphaba and Glinda at "For Good" during a production of Wicked
“For Good”

“For Good” is a song that happens towards the end of Wicked. This is the song where Elphaba and Glinda realize that they have to part ways. They will never see each other again, and how much they have meant to each. Elphaba is the only friend that has truly mattered to Glinda, and Glinda was Elphaba’s only friend. It is sad in the fact that they will never see each other again, but joyful in the fact that they are able to tell each other what they meant to each other. It is the most emotional moment in Wicked. It hits you harder than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”.

Eponine dying in Marius' arms during "A Little Fall of Rain" in the film
“A Little Fall of Rain”

Now, “A Little of Rain” is more devastating. It is Eponine’s death scene- you might be thinking, how can a death scene be bittersweet. Eponine is dying in Marius’ arms. You have to understand Eponine’s life, and why Marius means something to her to understand why. Marius was the only person in her life who treated her kindly. Her parents, the Thenardiers, didn’t care about her and raised her to be a thief and criminal. Her life was dark- her only light was Marius- the only good thing in her life. She fell in love with him due to the kindness he showed her.

Back to the song. Leading up to “A Little Fall of Rain”, seeing that Marius was about to get shot, Eponine sacrifice herself to save Marius. She would do anything for him no matter the cost. The joy of the song comes from the fact that Marius was there with her, the only good thing her life. You do feel heartbroken for both of them- the fact that Eponine was dying and the fact that Marius was devastated, but at least he was there. Eponine got to die in the arms of the man she loved- there’s the joy right there. If you did not understand Eponine- you would not understand why this scene is bittersweet.

There is something touching, moving, and special about the bittersweet songs. I don’t know why the first songs that come to mind when I think of the bittersweet songs belong to “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. The bittersweet are some of the most emotional songs in musical theatre.

What are some your favorite musical theatre bittersweet song?

“For Good” Analysis

Glinda and Elphaba during "For Good" at a production of Wicked

Major and Minor Spoilers:

“For Good” is one of my favorite duets. “For Good” is unique in for one way: 1) that it is sung by two women, and 2): that it is not dealing with romance, but instead about friendship. “For Good” is the most emotional song in Wicked. Yes, even more emotional than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”. Friendship is center core in Wicked. The musical is truly about the friendship found between Elphaba and Glinda. You never expect them to become the best of friends and change each others lives for the better. In the beginning, these two young women hated each other, and later became the best of friends. They do both fall in love with Fiyero, but they do not let a boy get in the way of their friendship, and that is why they do pursue him when each of them deal with unrequited love (yes, each of the girls at some point have unrequited love for Fiyero). I believe the love triangle in Wicked helps strengthen their friendship.

“For Good” helps show how much they meant to each other. It is so emotional. These two realize that they will never see each other again. Glinda is pretty much the only friend Elphaba has never had, and Elphaba is the only friend that truly mattered to Glinda. They helped make each other better people. My most recent Glinda (Amanda Jane Copper) and Elphaba (Mary Kate Morrissey) were so excellent that I was crying at “For Good”- in my opinion, you NEVER can have an excellent Elphaba without an excellent Glinda and you never can have an excellent Glinda without an excellent Elphaba. That sounds crazy, but “For Good” is the moment that is supposed to hit you the hardest. It is more emotional than “I’m Not That Girl”, and will always be.

What are your feelings on this song? Do you agree that it is the most emotional moment in the musical?

The reason why Cast is not one of the Reasons to Convince me to See a Musical

I understand that the cast is one of the reasons that convince people to see a musical. It could be because one of their favorite actors or actresses is in that cast. However, that does not apply to me. Cast is not one of my reasons to convince me to see a musical. Why is that that?

There is a reason why I do not use the cast to convince me. For starters, I discover my hometown’s season in the spring. That is before I know who is going to be in the cast. It is usually in the spring where I start to decide what shows I want to see in the upcoming season. I do understand that there is a number of talented actors and actresses in the United States. Another reason is due to the fact that there is the possibility of getting an understudy.

There are times when I discover who my upcoming cast will be over the summer. Then are times where I do not who is the cast until the day of the show. That is what happens when you rely on tours- at times. Discovering the season in the spring- it does make you begin to make you start deciding on what shows to see- that is before knowing who the cast is. See what I mean? I use other factors to decide if I want to see it- loving it before, if I already love the composers, recommendation from someday else, not remembering the first time, and so on. If it is seeing it again, the important thing is to not compare- to get the most of the cast you are about to see.

A Little Fall of Rain Analysis (Part 2)

MAJOR SPOILERS:

I have done an analysis on this song before. To understand this song is to understand Eponine. Before I describe what is going on in this song, I will talk about Eponine. Eponine is the eldest child of the Thenardiers. The Thenardiers have raised Eponine to be a thief and criminal. The family is living in extreme poverty. Eponine is all alone in life, and wasn’t shown kindness or love growing up from her family- so her life is quite dark and tragic.

There is only one good thing in her life- Marius. He is the only person who does treat her with kindness. That is why she loves him. However, he doesn’t know she loves him. He falls in love with Cosette. She will do anything for him. So she lives an empty life, but the light of her life is Marius so at least he is in her life.

Samantha Barks as Eponine performing "On My Own" in the movie
“On My Own” in the movie

Back to “A Little Fall of Rain”. In the stage show, a few scenes back, Marius has sent her away from the barricade in hopes to protect her from being hurt or worse killed. However Eponine does come back, which all leads to “A Little Fall of Rain”. She sacrifices her life to protect Marius from being killed. As a result, she was fatally wounded. Marius does not realize this at first, but soon does after she collapsed in his arms.

"A Little Fall of Rain": Marius and Eponine's duet from Les Mis. Eponine's death scene where Marius is with her until she dies. From the movie
“A Little Fall of Rain” scene from movie

Marius was devastated- he knew she was dying, but decided to stay with her. “A Little Fall of Rain” is a very touching, heartbreaking, and bittersweet song. By understanding how much Marius means to Eponine makes you understand why Eponine is happy in that scene- it does not make sense all because it is her death scene. It does show he truly did care, and how much compassion he was capable of. You feel heartbroken for both of them. In that scene, I am heartbroken that one of my favorite characters is dying, but at the same time feel joy for her knowing that Marius is there- she is comforted by him, and at the same time I feel heartbroken for Marius knowing how much pain he feels. It is hard watching that scene knowing that Marius is not going to just lose Eponine, but everyone else as well.

This song highlights the friendship quite well. It shows how Marius valued his friendship with her. Eponine was able to see that Marius did care about her. She knew in this scene that Marius was breaking, and this is when Eponine confessed that she loved him. After she died, he said to the students, “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”. He knew she lived a dark and horrible life- at least he was with at her at the time of her death. Having him end the song alone is devastating- thinking about the rest of the trauma he has to go through.

At one point, I thought a musical song could never happen during a death scene. This scene sure proves that wrong. What are your thoughts on this song?

2018 in Review

2018 was been a very exciting year for me. Parts of it were tough. Parts of it were unexpected. It is time to talk about highlights in 2018.

January

Spring 2018 semester was my final semester at Gardner Webb. I knew it was going to be tough- I was stuck in Western Civilization II (one of the hardest General Ed. classes at Gardner Webb).

Birthday Celebrations- one of the things I love about the opening of each year is that it celebrates my birthday. I had two birthday celebrations- one was with my family, and the other was with my suitemates. With my suitemates, we went out to lunch, and while we were out, their boyfriends decorated my room. Later that day, we watched the live Beauty and the Beast movie. My suitemates gave me a present- a snowglobe, which has a picture of all three of us in it.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/birthday-fun/

Snow Day- There was a snow day in January. There were no sleds in the suite, so one of my best friends (Sydney) decided to use the cushions in our suite. We covered them with a grocery bag and used them as a sled. After sledding, we made snow creme. The next day, I made a mini snow man.

Sight of Snow from my Suite
Snow Creme
My Little Snowman
https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/snow-days-delight/

Big E- The Big E is in Gaffney, SC. At 11:00, they close it off to Gardner Webb students. Students can choose from a number of movies to watch and I choose Greatest Showman. I ended up falling love with the movie musical.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/greatest-showman-review/

February

Candy and Critters- Every year around Valentine’s Day at Gardner Webb, there is an event called Candy and Critters. You make a stuffed animal and make a box of candy. This time, when I was a stuffed animal, I planned to name the stuffed animal after a musical character, but here’s the catch, the stuffed animal had to resemble a musical character plus it had to be a musical character I love.

I ended up making two stuffed animal. Someone at student activities said if we stayed long enough, and if there was enough animals left, we could make another one. My first stuffed animal was Eponine, who was named after Eponine from Les Mis: the bear had a brown color scheme with heart-shaped patches that had stitch marks around the patches- which to me resembled the character. The other bear was named Tiedye. Eponine means a lot more to me- those who know me know about my obsession with Les Mis and my love for Eponine.

Here are friends and I with the stuffed animals we made.

Eleemosynary- This was the first play I saw in the Spring 2018 semester. It only consisted of three actresses.

March

Spring Break- I went to Ponte Vedra, Florida. I ended up visiting the Guana Preserve, and went to the movies to see “A Wrinkle in Time”.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/a-wrinkle-in-time-review/

Asheville- One of the things that happened in March (but unexpectedly), two of my friends and I went to Asheville after class. We drove part of the trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and walked a little bit in Downtown Asheville. It seems crazy that a determined college student would literally go for a little adventure like that (after all Asheville is an hour away from Campus).

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/adventures-outside-of-campus/

April

Big E- This had another Big E event. This name I choose to watch “I Only Imagine”. Most students picked horror movies, but I choose “I Only Imagine”, which is about how that song got written. There were only about 15 of us who went to that movie.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/i-can-only-imagine-review/

Peter and the Starcatcher- this was the last show I saw at Gardner Webb. I wasn’t expecting this, but I was asked to usher. Turns out they didn’t have enough ushers, so I was asked to usher. This was one of my favorite shows they did.

May

Spring Formal- this was a real highlight. The theme was Casino night. It is always nice to have Spring Formal as a break from studying for finals.

Graduation- for a good chunk of the semester, it almost seemed as if Graduation was not going to happen. It was all because of Western Civilization II. There were times when it seemed like I wasn’t going to pass the class- but I managed to pass that class in order to graduate.

Other Gardner Webb 2018 Memories

Skate Night- I participated in Skate Night this semester

The Gathering- Almost every Tuesday, I made sure to attend the Gathering, Gardner Webb’s student-led worship service.

June

Oklahoma- My first musical of the year. It was a date with my mom. It felt nice going back to Central Piedmont Community College. After all, it was the beginning of the college journey. I already knew what to expect from CPCC’s musicals- I had in the year’s 2012 and 2013 seen Godspell and Les Mis- so I knew just how strong their musicals can be. When I went to see Oklahoma, I wondered would I see any of the actors or actresses I had seen previously at CPCC. Turns out I did see two of the actors previously (those who played Laurey and Will Parker (they both were in Godspell and the one who played Laurey was also in the Les Mis ensemble). They used a minimal set, and it was the actors who moved the set pieces, and the show moved smoothly, and like excepted- it felt way more than a community college production.

Sugar Mountain- my family went to Sugar Mountain for a few days. It is near Banner Elk, Boone, and Grandfather Mountain. Part of the trip was exploring nearby towns and a little bit of hiking.

Grease- I saw my 2nd musical this month. I ended up seeing it with my sister and one our friends. I had seen the movie, but never seen the stage show. I did not know how different the stage show would be. When the show started, I realized how different it was- there were songs that are not in the movie. CPCC got special permission to use four songs not originally in the stage show.

Pops Symphonies- every June in Charlotte, there are outdoor Symphonies. I went to two. The first one was Broadway-themed and the second was Celebrate America. I took one of my best friends (Sydney) to the Broadway one).

Broadway Symphony
Celebrate America

July

Newsies- My 3rd and final CPCC production. This was the most UNEXPECTED musical. I wanted to see it at CPCC so badly this year- I saw Newsies on tour two years ago- I mainly wanted to see how CPCC could handle the dance element. I kept on convincing my mom to buy tickets, and she never seemed to buy tickets (even during the week of production). After Friday, I accepted the fact that Newsies wasn’t going to happen (or was that true).

Saturday- earlier in the day, my mom was having me try on dresses to look for job applications. She was not letting me take the last one off. My best friend, Sydney, showed up (I didn’t know she was coming). She asked me do you know what we are doing (I said I have no idea). I told her we could go to the mall. I did not find it strange that she was getting dressed into something different in the car. I soon said all I wanted to do this week was see Newsies at CPCC. When I realized we were close, she was asking me to direct her to CPCC- she was telling me I want to see the Campus. The next thing I knew we were heading towards the theater. The next thing, she said was I want to see the theater- I said only those seeing Newsies can see the theater- we were in will call line at that point- I was telling her ask an usher to see the theater- guess what, we were in will call line for her to pick up tickets for Newsies- it was her graduation present to me- my family (including my sister), and Sydney kept that a secret for me from me for a month. I was 100% convinced Newsies wasn’t happening- so there’s that- my 3rd musical for the year. My Jack Kelly of this production was also Curly from Oklahoma.

Lake Hartwall- I ended up spending some time with my third cousins. Yes, I have third cousins. I ended up helping bake a blueberry pie. I did not spend much time on the lake. I only was the on the lake once

July or August

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again- I don’t remember when I saw it in July or August. Usually I don’t think musicals should do sequels. Usually musicals struggle as a sequel. But this one is an exception in so many ways- a number of sequels just don’t work.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-review/

August

I do not know if I have anything exciting that happened in August or not

September

Kanuga- after a two year break from not being at Kanuga, I finally got to go back. Kanuga is an Episcopalian Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. Every year, my church has a Parish Weekend at Kanuga. Kanuga is where I began to believe in God. It is where I found my enjoyment of hiking. It is one of my “happy places”. I have missed that place, and was glad I was able to go back- my church went over Labor Day. It consisted of singing, some alcohol ink art, hiking, square dancing, and fellowship, etc.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/my-labor-day-weekend-at-kanuga/

Lion King- after CPCC, I finally saw my first tour. This would make it my fourth musical. You would think Lion King would be my first “professional” musical. To tell you the truth, CPCC’s musicals do feel “professional”. So technically, Lion King is the fourth “professional” musical I saw- but by definition Lion King was my first professional production. The reason why I wanted to see Lion King was because I don’t remember seeing it my first time. This was a girl’s night out- that meant it was my mom, sister, and I. At Belk Theater, all three of us were in the orchestra at the aisle.

October

Sugar Mountain- I went back to Sugar Mountain, the same place to went to over the summer. We hiked two trails: the Viaduct and Linville Falls.

Viaduct
Linville Falls

Halloween- Obviously October is Halloween. I wasn’t planning to dress up. Last October, I was Rizzo for Homecoming (which was Broadway-themed), and for Octoberfest. I still had the Jacket I made for Rizzo, so I decided that day to be Rizzo for Halloween.

November

“A Christmas Story, The Musical” Informance- during the summer, I joined Club Blume, a young adult group for those interested in theatre. When I saw “A Christmas Story” on the shows coming to Charlotte for the 2018-2019 season, I wasn’t interested in the show- the only ones that interested me was Miss Saigon and Aladdin (nothing else). I still decided to go the informance to start getting involved in Club Blume. I was kinda of aware of the movie. The moment I heard that those who wrote the music for Greatest Showman also wrote the music for A Christmas Story, I was interested in seeing this musical. I picked up a voucher after the show- in order to get the discount rate on the tickets.

Church Services- there were two special church services that happened this month. Evensong and the Installation of our new rector. Evensong is very special to me- whenever I go to Evensong, I am reminded of Bristol so Evensong is connected directly to the Bristol Pilgrimage.

Thanksgiving- my family and I went to Burlington to have Thanksgiving with my grandpa and his sister.

December

A Christmas Story, The Musical- This ended up being my 5th and final of my year. 2018 ended up being my record of number of musicals in one year. The average tends to be 1-2 musicals a year- not over 3 musicals. After Lion King, I was 100% I wouldn’t see another musical. Don’t forget, I wasn’t convinced I would see A Christmas Story. I would go to a pre-party- which was basically appetizers and drinks- that was due to going with Club Blume. The musical is a good musical- funny and has energetic and emotional songs- emotional (not as in sad emotional, but a different type of emotional).

Putting up Christmas Lights- my dad and I putting up the outdoor lights on the bushes and the trees.

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindewald- love this movie. After seeing the first movie, I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters especially Newt. Love the series a lot.

Hay Ride- we went on a hay where we did some carols

10:45 Candlelight Service (December 24)- This service is my favorite service all year. All year, you only hear the organ, but at this service, you hear the organ with string with a trumpet with an oboe. You are given a candle. You is a very beautiful. The candle is used for Silent Night- the lights are off, and the candles are lit. It is hard to beautiful how beautiful it is.

Christmas- despite going to bed late, still going to bed early. I grabbed my stocking at 6:00. Then went to bed and woke at 6:30- stayed up then. I decided to open my stocking at 7:00- I secretly hoped there was going to be a musical ticket in my stocking. In my stocking, there was some chocolate, time turner necklace, block that said “when something bad happens you can let it define you, let it happen, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you”, and 3 tickets to Miss Saigon- the other 2 tickets were for my mom and dad. Some other presents I got (that were not in my stocking) were a book of Christmas Classic, Creating Characters book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them DVD, and Mamma Mia: Here to Find Them DVD, etc. 24- that is a lot of people, but Christmas Dinner worked out.

Other

One of the things I want to add is that I finally started to write my first book- over the summer. The reason why it doesn’t belong in a single month is because I worked on it in a number of months. Summer was basically my first draft. I made it through my second draft. Part of my time was spent trying to figure out what my characters look like.

It was crazy in the fact that during the first half of the year that I was still a college student, and in the second half I was no longer a college student.