Favorite Female Musical Characters: Part One

I recently talked about my favorite male musical characters. Now its the time for my favorite female characters. As a matter of fact, my favorite musical character is female and I will identify which she is. So here is my list of favorite female characters.

  1. Elphaba- Favorite
  2. Glinda
  3. Eponine
  4. Young Cosette
  5. Fantine
  6. Annie
  7. Grizabella
  8. Female Von Trapp Children
  9. Christine
  10. Mimi
  11. Belle
  12. Katherine
  13. Maria- Sound of Music
  14. Anna- King and I
  15. Audrey

These are my favorite female characters I can speak of right now. The next post will go into some of these characters more into detail and explain why I love them. About the the last two, they are two characters I love, but are not from musicals I love.

What Makes a Musical Character Complex?

Just like there are complex and simple musical plots, there are also simple and complex characters. But what exactly makes a character complex?

It was Wicked that made me start to understand the complexity and emotional side of musicals. Elphaba and Glinda were the first two characters I was able to call complex especially Elphaba.

I think a complex character has a lot to them. They tend to have some kind of inner conflict in their lives. There tends to be a lot to them and feel so well-rounded and feel well real to me. They are characters who tend to express negative emotions due to all of the conflict that is  happening in their lives.

Some memorable complex musical characters include Elphaba, Glinda,  Eponine, Javert, Jean Valjean, Fiyero (doesn’t seem complex, but now he does), Jack Kelly, Grizabella (yes I just included a cat) and yes there are more, but just can’t think of them at this moment.

Complex characters are the ones that are more fascinating. The complex characters are always in complex plots. Some of these characters don’t seem complex, but they are. Grizabella might seem simple in a way because she is a cat, but still she is complex. That is due to the fact that she is a heartbreaking and tragic character and has to deal with a lot of conflict struggling to be welcomed back into the Jellicle tribe when she came back.

Elphaba is complex in many ways. She has this incredible relatable nature and there is a lot to this character. I keep on being surprised that I keep on adding things to this character. She deals with a lot of conflict and has to face serious discrimination. She is smart, determined, unique, talkative, big-hearted and believes in equality and staying true to herself. The most important part of Elphaba is her relationship with Glinda.

Glinda is complex because at first she just seems pure comical, but in the second act, she goes through a lot of conflict because she has to hear rumors being spread about Elphaba. She even has to put up the fact that Fiyero has broken up with her and now she has unrequited love for Fiyero since he left her for Elphaba.

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Fiyero is a character who doesn’t seem complex at all, but recently I began to realize the complexity of him. At first he is just this super rude and annoying Shiz student who doesn’t care about anything. His complexity comes from the love triangle. I keep on questioning him. Did he have a crush on Elphaba without realizing it? I saw signs of that possibility right before “I’m Not That Girl” and after the lion cub incident. Or did he know, but just didn’t tell anybody? Or was he only friends with Elphaba, but didn’t develop a crush or fall in love with her till later? I keep on questioning this because he eventually ends up with Elphaba. For me, I really think he had a crush on Elphaba in act I, but had no clue. He eventually realized it when he heard the rumors spread about Elphaba and could not believe Glinda was supporting all of this and so he decided to break up with her.

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Jack Kelly is complex in my opinion. He is very well-rounded and in the musical, he has a hobby of drawing and is very talented at it. He is also the leader of the rest of the Newsies and is quite protective of his brothers especially Crutchie. He eventually goes through a lot of inner conflict after this big fight breaks out.

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Jean Valjean is quite a complex character. He is the main character of Les Mis. He has to live his life as an ex-convict. He faces many moral dilemmas. He does his best to live by the example the bishop taught him. There is just so much to him. It must be challenging being an ex-convict and having to raise Cosette. True, Valjean shelters and protects Cosette a lot, but I don’t blame him. He is an ex-convict trying not to be sent back to jail because he knows Javert wants to.

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Than there’s Javert. He was a character I honestly didn’t want to get to know. I am not an antagonistic fan person. I eventually noticed the complexity of him. I didn’t even care about him or even his fate. Before seeing the show in the West End, Javert didn’t even matter. I saw three Javerts through the movie, 25th anniversary concert film, and the community college, but none of them made me care about Javert. In the West End, I feel like I finally saw Javert for the first time and I finally cared for him during the suicide scene. Javert only sees the world in black and white and is incapable of showing mercy, love, or forgiveness. His main focus it to recapture Valjean. He takes his job to the extreme and follows the law too strictly.

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Eponine is another complex character in Les Mis. You first meet her in 1823 when she was just eight. Through the way the Thenardiers treat Cosette and through realizing they are pickpockets during “Castle on a Cloud” and “Master of the House”, you get an idea of the environment she is going to be growing up in.

Her real complexity shows when she becomes a teenager at age 17. Her life has gotten even worse because at first she was spoiled and appeared to be loved by her parents. But you soon realized that is not even true. She was raised to be a criminal and she is horribly abused, neglected, and lonely. But she is brave despite what she has deal with everyday. You got to understand Eponine’s life outside of Marius to understand why she loves him so much. He was the only source of light in her miserable life and that is a huge reason why she loves him. Yes, she had unrequited love for him, but she still shows true love and would do anything for him. Even though she knows Marius will never be hers, she continues to love him till the end of her story.

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In your opinion, what makes a musical character complex?

Parallels in Musicals

Yesterday, I talked about why musicals rely on each other. This post is kind of similar, but this post I am going to be talking about parallels that you can find in musicals.

One parallel is “Memory” and “I Dreamed A Dream”. These two songs are from Les Mis and Cats. “Memory” is sung by Grizabella in Cats and “I Dreamed A Dream” is sung by Fantine in Les Mis. Both songs are heartbreaking songs and reflect on the past. Both Grizabella and Fantine do not have very good lives at all so in both of these songs, they think about the past and realize just how worse their lives have gotten. In my opinion, “I Dreamed A Dream” is a stronger song and part of that is due to the fact that I have a stronger emotional connection to Les Mis

Without “I Dreamed A Dream”, I never would have realized “Memory” is a heartbreaking song. I did see Cats when I was in elementary school, but have no recollection of seeing. However, I do remember I always loved the song “Memory”.

Another parallel is between “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl”, two unrequited love songs from Les Mis and Wicked. They are both heartbreaking songs and without “On My Own”, I never would have realized “I’m Not That Girl” is heartbreaking, but at least I knew the song was sad.”On My Own” is about Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and “I’m Not That Girl” is about Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero.

In my personal opinion, “On My Own” from Les Mis is stronger and more heartbreaking than “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked. The thing with Elphaba is that literally just moments before she sings “I’m Not That Girl”, she realizes that she loves Fiyero and as a result, the song does not have room to be fully heartbreaking and her story doesn’t revolve around unrequited love, but instead her friendship with Glinda. In my opinion, this song goes beyond the unrequited love. One of her lines is “I wasn’t born for the rose or pearl” and through those lines, you realize that Elphaba doesn’t think that she is good enough for Fiyero because she is green  and outside of that line, she realizes that her best friend, Glinda, also loves Fiyero and that line is part of why “I’m Not That Girl” is an insightful song. In this song, you need to be quite vulnerable, but at the same time you need to keep some innocence alive due to who Elphaba is at this point in the story.

“On My Own” is stronger and more powerful than “I’m Not That Girl” and as a result you feel even more heartbroken. Unlike Elphaba’s story, Eponine’s story revolves around her unrequited love for Marius. There is a big reason why she loves him so much. Outside of Marius, Eponine’s life is extremely tragic and heartbreaking. Her parents are the Thenardiers, who don’t even love her and horribly abuse her. She was raised to be a criminal and all she saw was darkness growing up. She was completely left to fend for herself on the streets. So in this burst of light, Marius entered her life and for the first time someone treated her with kindness. Because Marius is literally all she has in life, it explains why she loves him so much. She literally will do anything for the one she loves.

In “On My Own”, Eponine accepts the fact that Marius will never be hers, but she still decides to stick by his side no matter what. In my opinion, this song goes beyond the unrequited love. One of Eponine’s lines is “without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to” and you do realize just how empty her life is and another line is “a world full of happiness that I never known” and this shows just how unhappy she is and how her life has gotten even worse over the years. Those two lines shows just how insightful the song is.

Besides the “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl” parallel and the “Memory” and “I Dreamed a Dream”, there are other parallels in the world of musicals. Musicals vary so much in storyline, character, melodies, and emotion. It is crazy how one musical song can help you understand another musical song.

Dependability of Musicals

This is a very hard post to write. In my opinion, I feel like all musicals rely on each other. It is hard to exactly explain why, but as a musical fanatic I can understand that. Musicals do a wonderful job of balancing each other in the best way possible. The past couple of days, I needed to say I love both simple and complex musicals.

When it comes to the simple musicals, they are the ones where the emotional nature truly begins. Some of them honestly don’t have the need to even have those negative emotions because the plot is truly wonderful without them. Shows like Singing in The Rain are pure fun and you need to view them in a very entertaining way. These simple musicals even show traces of sad and heartbreak. Cats for instance is a very simple musical but the character of Grizabella is a very heartbreaking character and her song, Memory, is heartbreaking. That is the only instance as far as I know where an entire song is heartbreaking in a very simple musical.

The complex musicals are the musicals where the negative emotions are just natural. These are shows like Wicked, Newsies, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis. They all have to deal with songs that are either sad or even worse heartbreaking. All of the musicals I just listed have heartbreak in their songs.

Wicked has the bittersweet “For Good”, the heartbreaking and insightful “I’m Not That Girl” and the frustrating and angry “No Good Deed” and it is one of the happy musicals. Wicked is one way I can explain why musicals depend on each other. Wicked was how I started to understand the emotional nature of musicals. Before Wicked, I feel like musicals were more about the dance and spectacle instead of the emotions. One of the biggest reasons why I started to understand the emotional side of musicals in Wicked was because I was 12 so I was at the right age to have a better understanding of the emotions and it was the first musical I saw on Broadway.

Well fast forward to the time of Les Mis. Growing up, all musicals were happy and comedic and there were the four main emotions of excitement, love, joy, and sad. I didn’t even know what heartbreak meant for a musical. Les Mis comes along and tests me on the emotional knowledge that I had recently learned. It showed me that musicals have more emotional potential than I once believed. It was how I realized that there are heartbreaking songs in the world of musicals. For example, Les Mis has songs like On My Own, I Dreamed a Dream, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, A Little Fall of Rain and Come to Me and all of those songs are heartbreakers.

Here is a perfect example of why musicals rely on each other. Look at I’m Not That Girl. It started out as being just a sad song, which stayed that way for seven years. I saw Wicked for the 3rd time in 2013 and that song still stayed just sad. Growing up, I spent more time on Wicked’s story of friendship over the youthful and complicated love triangle.

 I don’t remember when it was, but there was a time when I realized I’m Not That Girl and On My Own were both about unrequited love. At that time, I already knew On My Own was heartbreaking and through that connection, I was able to understand that I’m Not That Girl was heartbreaking. Even though both are unrequited love songs, they still vary in emotional strength, vulnerability and fragility.

In I’m Not That Girl, Elphaba just found out she loves Fiyero literally moments before she sings that song, which is why that song cannot be fully heartbreaking. I cannot be 100% vulnerable in that song or you lose the innocence that Elphaba has at that moment. Another reason it isn’t fully heartbreaking is because Elphaba’s story doesn’t revolve around unrequited love.

As in the case of On My Own, the love that Eponine has for Marius is so much stronger and even more heartbreaking than Elphaba’s situation. You have to understand why Eponine loves Marius so much in order to understand On My Own. Eponine is a Thenardier and she was raised in an abusive situation and was unloved and neglected by her parents. She was raised to be a criminal. In this burst of light, Marius entered Eponine’s life and was the only person who ever showed her kindness, which is a big reason why her unrequited love is so heartbreaking and painful. Through the example shown by these songs, it is a nice example of why all musicals depend on each other.

I feel like with Les Mis in my life, it makes it much easier to find the negative emotions in new musicals. I can spot darkness and negative emotions much quicker. I even can find negative emotions in the most unexpected of places. When you start finding parallels between certain songs, you can find a way to understand the song like in the case of I’m Not That Girl and On My Own. The dependability comes from the fact that musicals need to help balance each other out, which is why there needs to be both simple and complex musicals and why not all musicals have to put up with negative emotions.

Why do you think musicals rely on each other?

Favorite Heartbreaking Musical Songs

I once made a list of favorite sad musical songs. It included songs that are not heartbreaking, but just sad. All heartbreaking songs are sad, but not all sad songs are heartbreaking. I find the heartbreaking songs to be so much more beautiful, strong, fragile, and vulnerable than the songs that are just sad. Heartbreak is a deep level of sad, which has other negative emotions associated with it like loneliness and anger.

  1. On My Own- Les Mis
  2. I’m Not That Girl- Wicked
  3. I Dreamed a Dream- Les Mis
  4. A Little Fall of Rain- Les Mis
  5. Empty Chairs At Empty Tables- Les Mis
  6. Castle On A Cloud- Les Mis
  7. Come To Me/Fantine’s Death- Les Mis
  8. Memory- Cats
  9. Your Eyes- Rent
  10. One Song Glory-Rent
  11. Will I?- Rent
  12. I’ll Cover You (reprise)- Rent
  13. This Nearly Was Mine – South Pacific
  14. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again- Phantom of the Opera
  15. Letter From The Refuge- written for the Tour of Newsies
  16. Somewhere- West Side Story
  17. If I Can’t Love Her- Beauty and the Beast

Possible Spoilers:

There was a time when songs like “I’m Not That Girl” were not interpreted as heartbreaking. I didn’t even know that emotion actually existed at the time. I didn’t fully know what it meant for a song to be heartbreaking. It was a heartbreaking musical that made me understand the negative emotions differently. “Les Mis” made me look at the negative emotions fresh and gave me a much clearer understanding of those emotions. While most musicals are happy, the sad musicals are just as essential as the happy musicals. When it comes to the negative emotions, I find something very special about feeling heartbroken. Heartbreak seems to the main source of sad. I was actually quite surprised that some of these songs are death songs.

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The most memorable death in musicals so far is the death of Eponine in Les Mis. There is just something touching about “A Little Fall of Rain”. She has been shot and her wound is fatal. While she is dying, she in the arms of Marius, a sweet and compassionate boy  who she falls in love with unrequitedly. Being in his arms at the time of her death is the happiest moment of her life. While this leaves Marius devastated, he stays brave for her and comforts her until she dies.

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Sometimes I feel like heartbreak can be very hard to describe. Even that layer of sad is layered too. For instance, I understand that both “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl” are heartbreaking unrequited love songs. But “On My Own” is more heartbreaking than “I’m Not That Girl”. The thing with “I’m Not That Girl” is right before Elphaba sang this song, she just realized she loves Fiyero. But with “On My Own”, when it is sung by Eponine, she already has known she has loved Marius for some time now and she loves Marius a lot more than how much Elphaba loves Fiyero.

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Some of these songs I had to revisit. Some I don’t quite remember if I was able to view them as sad the first time around. I had nearly forgotten about “Letter From the Refuge” when I saw Newsies in August. It was written for Crutchie, but when I found the song again and listened to it again, I recognized one line that I remembered from the stage show. That was the one moment that I had forgotten about, but so glad I was able to revisit the song. I It took a couple of listens to understand the song was heartbreaking. Being at the Refuge is rough on Crutchie because he has a bum leg, which makes him quite vulnerable there. I do remember at the beginning of Newsies, you learn of the special love that Jack has for Crutchie and was worried that he will end up in the refuge. Jack is very protective of Crutchie and when Cruthcie was arrested at the end of Act 1, this leaves a lot of inner conflict for Jack to handle, which almost caused him to give up on the strike.

Aware

Negative Emotions of Happy Musicals

As of now, most musicals are in fact happy. It is important that they have negative emotions in them. It helps balance things out and help make a story more real and characters more well rounded. There are a few exceptions because there are musicals with a very weak plot, but yet still have a sad or heartbreaking song. It is through happy musicals where I first discovered sad. However don’t remember much of what sad was like before college. I kind of had to relearn the emotion except for one show. I never forgot that sad was in Wicked. Its just that some musicals I lost track of. However knowing that sad existed when I was younger actually helped prepare me for what was about to come.

True there are sad musicals and they play a part in developing the negative emotions, but because they are still currently so rare, the best place where tragedy can really grow is through the happy musicals. The negative emotions are quite capable in the happy musicals. Below is a list of happy musicals that I know that have negative emotions in their scores and might include the songs that have those emotions.  But for others, will not list a sad song. The reprises will not be listed, but will include the songs that have sad as a piece of a song. Some shows might be surprising on this list, but make sense.

  1. Newsies- Santa Fe
  2. Wicked- I’m Not That Girl, No Good Deed, For Good
  3. Annie- Maybe
  4. South Pacific- This Nearly Was Mine
  5. Sound of Music- Edelweiss
  6. Beauty and the Beast- If I Can’t Love Her
  7. Lion King- Endless Night
  8. Cats- Memory
  9. Fiddler on the Roof
  10. Man of La Mancha

Sad Musical Songs

Musicals are known to be emotional. The best musicals tend to have at least one sad song. I think sad songs give a show strength and creates conflict. These shows tend to be the most real and also are some of the most beautiful and memorable songs ever. Here is a list of some sad musical songs. This list does not include reprises or any song that only has a small portion of sad in it.

  1. Santa Fe (Newsies)
  2. I’m Not That Girl
  3. On My Own
  4. A Little Fall of Rain
  5. Drink With Me
  6. I Dreamed a Dream
  7. Empty Chairs at Empty Chairs
  8. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again
  9. Will I
  10. Without You
  11. Your Eyes
  12. One Song Glory
  13. Somewhere
  14. This Nearly Was Mine
  15. Memory