Complex Musicals- What makes them complex

As several musical theatre fans know, musicals have an extremely wide range of plot, songs, and the characters. There are both simple and complex musicals. What exactly makes complex musicals.

For starters, let’s go into the songs. Those songs tend to have BOTH happy and sad songs- as in sad songs being strong enough to remember. These songs, especially at heartbreaking songs, can easily make us feel like we are hit by a pile of bricks: meaning having the ability to give us goosebumps and tears.

Second- let’s venture into the characters. These characters are complex due to having flaws, strengths, and can be portrayed in several ways. These characters are the ones who have an emotional journey. They tend to have a strong backstory to make them complex in the first place. Each time you see the same show, and something is added to the character, that would make them complex.

Third, the plot itself- They have the main story along with subplots. Their stories are powerful and come with incredible messages. The subplots do show that a musical is complex. After all, it means that other characters’ stories are important just like the main characters’ are.

I tend to lean towards complex musicals because those feel the most relatable, feel real and believable, and are truly “human”. After all, life is messy and complicated. We tend to have some of the strongest emotional connections in them because we truly can see themselves as actual humans. It is because of their flaws, strengths, backstory, and their emotional nature that we can see ourselves in them so easily.

What are examples of complex musicals:

  1. Wicked
  2. Les Mis
  3. Rent
  4. Phantom of the Opera
  5. Newsies
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Aladdin
  8. Lion King

There are others, but those are the ones I can think of for now.

Things in Common between all Favorite Musicals

As all musical fanatics know, there are musicals we don’t like and at the same time there are musicals we love. While I tend to lean towards complex musicals, there are still simple musicals I love. While I tend to want spectacle or dance, not all musicals I love share that. So, what exactly is in common towards all of them?

Well, to make a musical, we need songs, plot, and character. It is extremely difficult to love the plot and characters if the songs are not good. That is one thing in common between all my favorite characters-as in amazing songs. That is usually my first step for a musical to become amazing.

Now that song is taken care of, it is time to look at the characters. That’s right, I look at the characters before the plot. After all, the characters create the plot in the first- no matter how small or big they are to the show. I have to love characters in the show. The characters are a huge reason why the songs become the songs we tend to love. We want the songs to complement the characters.

Finally- what about the plot? All three together create one. I have to love the plot. If the plot is boring, it will lead to boring songs and even not so amazing characters.

Now, what is especially important is the emotional connection to song, character, and plot. That emotional connection is where the WANT, DESIRE, and REASON comes from. It makes you want to listen the songs, go on the characters’ journey, which connects to the plot. All of the musicals I love I formed a strong emotion with: Wicked, Les Mis, Annie, Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, etc…….ALL have an emotional connection. Because of our emotional connection, it makes us love feeling the emotions in the first place. Positive emotions are the easiest to love feeling, but when it comes to negative emotions, that emotional connection is really important. After all, it truly matters what the characters’ lives and story are.

Yes, it will hurt at times in a musical. But, it isn’t our emotions we are feeling; instead it is the characters’. While we still feel the negative emotions, those have created some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. We end up loving listening to those sad/heartbreaking songs. “I’m Not Girl”, “Santa Fe”, “On My Own”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “If I Can’t Love Her” are examples of songs I love despite the sadness that they have. I love dealing with these emotions due to the emotional connection I have with these characters.

So, what I am saying about all favorite musicals, they all share an emotional connection. That is exactly why I love each of them. The range of musicals is quite gigantic: “Music Man” to “Les Mis”. That really does show a lot.

Below are pictures from favorite musicals of mine: not all of them, but some.

Childhood Musicals- The Importance

There are different phases when it comes to musicals, which it was for me. So far, it was the childhood musicals, middle school/ high school musicals, and the college musicals. Those combined are way I am the musical fan I am today.

Yes, the childhood musicals are the beginning of what I know them to be. After all, it is very hard to not to be exposed musicals after childhood. After all, several of children are exposed to Disney, which makes an amazing chance they will come across a musical at least once in my life time.

While Wicked truly was the beginning of my musical theatre journey, those childhood musicals still made a part in my love for musicals. Due to being born in 1994, I was around the classic Disney musicals: Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, and Aladdin were the ones I remember the most. It was their main love song that stuck with me the most- I fell in love with “Beauty and the Beast”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, and “A Whole New World” are a huge reason why I know I saw those musical movies. It was the childhood musicals that made me want to see Dance/Spectacle in musicals, and they started one of the core emotions: the one of excitement.

It wasn’t just Disney musicals I fell in love with in childhood. The ones I remember the most outside of Disney were Annie and Sound of Music. “Tomorrow” and “Edelweiss” are my favorite songs from those musicals. Now that I know of emotional connection in musicals, I now have realized why I loved them and why both of them are meaningful. I was connected to Annie’s optimism- I am also an optimistic person. So without knowing, I already formed an emotional connection with Annie. Just like Annie, I couldn’t figure what the meaning of Sound of Music, but after picking up on emotional connection, I know exactly why it is one of the meaningful musicals- it belonged to family and music. They also formed a role in the foundation of musicals.

I really don’t remember if love was also was an emotion I discovered in elementary school or middle school. While three love songs stuck with me in elementary school, I honestly don’t know if I picked up on them in love. So, that was a huge reason why I usually say excitement and joy began the first core emotions, and at the time had no idea there were five of them. Some of my childhood musicals had sad or heartbreaking songs, but I honestly had no idea.

There is something about childhood musicals that can’t be expressed in other musicals. After all, when I seem them I feel like a child again, and then of course there is the nostalgia. I love all of them more than ever now- now that I am aware of the five core emotions. Those musicals really started the foundation of what I want in a musicals. So, they played a huge part in my journey before the love was sparked.

What do you think makes childhood musicals so special?

Favorite Major Characters (that are not the main character)

You know how we have protagonists in musicals, who serve as the main characters. There are still characters who are quite important- these are called major characters. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out who are the secondary characters and who belong in the major characters——-the secondary characters are the next level down. So here some of my favorite major characters.

  1. Genie
  2. Jasmine
  3. Katherine
  4. Nala
  5. Fiyero
  6. Raoul
  7. Eponine
  8. Enjolras
  9. Fantine
  10. Marius
  11. Cosette
  12. Beast
  13. Lumiere
  14. Chip
  15. Mrs. Potts
  16. Cogsworth
  17. Crutchie
  18. Davey
  19. Rafiki

I wish I could think of more major characters. I know I love more than this list.

A Whole New World

I thought it was finally time to talk about one of the classic Disney musicals. Disney is an important part of the musical world- I already made mention of one I love: Newsies. Aladdin is a classic musical, but in some ways contemporary because the animated movie came out in the 90s, but the stage show came out around 2014 (I believe). So, it has the famous songs, the character, and the plot we know, but has a contemporary edge to it. Why do I love the musical Aladdin- I will bring in aspects of the stage show?

Songs:

They are a nature of exciting and emotional songs, but mostly exciting. The two duets are love songs- the stage show makes Aladdin and Jasmine a better couple by adding “A Million Miles Away”- you start to see a connection much quicker, well you saw that connection really in “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, and Kassim”. But “A Million Miles Away” really shows it if you missed it earlier. When I mean emotional- I am referring to “Proud of Your Boy”- that song made me a little emotional, as in almost to tears when I saw the stage show and then the two love songs. So the additional songs do help develop the characters further- Jasmine has a solo (“These Palace Walls”), etc…….I loved the Original Broadway Songs so much that I now own the songs.

It still has the famous songs- “A Whole New World”, “Prince Ali”, “Arabian Nights”, “Friend Like Me”- the additional songs bring Aladdin to a whole new level of complexity

Characters:

Aladdin- I love the clever and charming “street-rat”. I put the word “street-rat” in quotes because he doesn’t deserve to be treated that way- he is just in a rough situation. He and Jasmine make a lovely couple.

Jasmine- She is this smart and strong princess. She wants to go outside the palace, but not allowed. She does not to marry a prince just because he is a prince- would rather marry for love instead. Her connection to Aladdin early on shows that those two will emotionally fall in love.

Babkak, Kassim, Omar- We all know about Aladdin’s monkey Abu, but he never made it to the stage show. Aladdin still has friends and they are Babkak, Kassim, and Omar. For some reason, they make Aladdin more complex, and I have no idea why. They are wonderful characters and loyal to Aladdin (you strongly saw this in “High Adventure”) and do allow for wonderful scenes and songs to happen.

Genie- Who can not love the Genie? He is funny. He does end up with Aladdin. He does help Aladdin throughout his journey.

Plot:

I love the story of Aladdin. The story of an underdog (Aladdin was poor) raising up to become a prince- that is the basic story. He still has some hurdles- Jafar getting in the way is the main conflict. Jafar wanted the lamp not Aladdin so Jafar is spending the plot trying to get it back. Aladdin had to deal with the struggles of being poor before having the lamp and the hurdles after becoming “Prince Ali”- so basically a prince in disguise. His three friends along with the Genie do help him with his journey

Dance/Spectacle:

It is a Disney musical. That means there will be dance and spectacle. It is an incredible show to look at especially during “Friend Like Me”. When you enter the Cave of Wonders, it is an incredible set. I also loved how they staged “A Whole World”.

Conclusion:

This will be the first of other classic Disney musicals I love. I thought it was finally time to talk about why I love one of them.

Favorite Song: A Whole New World

Characters I Find Impossible to Dislike

Yes, there are characters that some people do not like and some that others dislike. However, haven’t you come across some characters that you find impossible to dislike- that no matter what ALL people will love. I will make mention of those characters.

  1. Enjolras and the Friends of the ABC
  2. Jack Kelly and the Newsies
    • Both of these groups- how can you dislike a band of brothers filled with so much courage and who stand up for what they believe in. That is why BOTH groups are impossible to dislike.
  3. The Genie

Wish I could think of more. It is just ALL I can think of for now.

Favorite Protagonists of Musicals

One of the most crucial elements of a musical is the protagonist (the main character). It is their story that we want to follow along with the various subplots. Who are some of my favorite protagonists?

  1. Elphaba/Glinda
  2. Aladdin
  3. Belle
  4. Simba
  5. Elsa/Anna
  6. Jack Kelly
  7. Christine
  8. Jean Valjean
  9. Annie
  10. Oliver
  11. Harold Hill
  12. Maria- the Sound of Music one

Why do two have two protagonists listed. Frozen and Wicked just happen to have two main characters in them, and I wouldn’t choose one over the other to be the primary protagonist.