Ingredients to a Good Musical

What makes a good musical? What makes you drawn to the material?

For me, the first thing to look at are the songs themselves. For me, if the songs are good, the musical is also good. Something has to draw you to the characters and plot and that usually starts with the songs. When you fall in love with the songs, than you usually slowly fall in love with the emotions themselves.

The next things to truly look at are the characters and storyline. This also connects to the nature of the songs. Do the songs reflect the characters and the storyline? Do the emotions of the story also fit with the songs? In a lot of ways, the songs, characters, and storyline all depend on each other.

The best characters tend to always be some of the complex characters. In addition, almost always, the best storylines tend to reflect both positive and negative emotions and do not usually have a simple plot. That is just in general, but sometimes every so often, you can fall in love with a plot or character that is very simple or you can fall in love with a plot that doesn’t even have the negative emotions.

For me, sometimes the dance or spectacle helps me fall in love with a musical. I tend to look for that when I see a new musical. Sometimes the dance helps strengthen the characters or storyline. It even can help with the setting as well.

But overall, the most important aspect to look for in a musical is an emotional connection. Do you have an emotional connection to the material? Was it worth feeling all of the characters emotions? Did you have joy feeling the negative emotions if they were present? Did you feel like you truly care about the characters?

Listed below are some of the best musical songs (only one per show):

  1. Tomorrow
  2. Seize the Day
  3. Some Enchanted Evening
  4. Corner of the Sky
  5. Edelweiss
  6. For Good
  7. On My Own
  8. Seventy Six Trombones
  9. Memory
  10. Seasons of Love
  11. Music of the Night

Now listed below are some of the best musical characters:

  1. Elphaba
  2. Eponine
  3. Crutchie
  4. Annie
  5. Pippin
  6. Maria (Sound of Music)
  7. Mimi
  8. Don Quixote
  9. Nellie
  10. Grizabella

Now I am listing some of the best musical plots

  1. Wicked
  2. Les Mis
  3. Newsies
  4. South Pacific
  5. Sound of Music
  6. Annie
  7. Rent
  8. Music Man
  9. Fiddler on the Roof

So, the songs are key to a wonderful musical. You can fall in love with the characters and storyline, but if the songs are bad, it can make everything else kind of boring. Bad songs lead to you not caring about the characters and the emotions. Good songs can help bring out the best in the characters and allows you to stay emotionally connected.

In your opinion, what do you think makes a good musical?

Hard Work of a Musical Actor

The word pretend truly reminds of how much work an actor needs to do in order to get into character. Each time I see a musical live, I am surprised at what an actor is able to do. In the past two years, I have seen six different musicals which are Music Man, Pippin, Newsies, Sound of Music, Wicked, and Les Mis. In these shows, the actors need to live the character’s lives eight times a week. The characters from these shows have been either comic, tragic, dramatic, romantic, etc. In all six of these musicals, there were both simple and complex characters. Some of the characters from these musicals were simple such as Winthrop , Theo, and the younger Von Trapp Children and some were more complex such as Elphaba, Glinda, Jean Valjean and Eponine.

In some of those musicals, characters age over a wide range of time such as Javert and Jean Valjean. In that same musical, even Cosette and Eponine get older over a nine year gap. In some of the character’s lives of these musicals, some tragically die, but while several characters die in Les Mis, their deaths are memorable. I cannot imagine what it is like to portray the tragic characters where you have to die eight times a week and where the character lives a very unfortunate life.

Some of these characters do not live tragic lives, but live a life filled with conflict and hardship and these are characters such as Elphaba and all of the Newsies. For the Newsies, that is especially difficult on Crutchie as he has a bum leg and has to rely on crutch. That makes him more vulnerable to certain situations, but he has such spirit and helps keep the group together and truly depends on Jack Kelly. Elphaba has to face a life of being a outcast all because she is green, but at least she finds love in Fiyero and friendship in Glinda.

Some of the actors from these musicals had to learn to dance and others had to know how to do aerobatics. I was the most impressed with the dancing from Newsies because it blows your mind away and those actors are jumping high, jumping over each other, back flips among other incredible things. I may have loved the dancing from Newsies the most, but I still loved the dancing and spectacle of Wicked along with the circus and dance elements of Pippin

Newsies was the only cast where the entire cast was basically all male and only like three females. I did love the other casts as well especially the ones from Les Mis and Wicked. When it comes to Les Mis and Wicked, I have high expectations. In Wicked, I saw one of the best Glinda and Elphaba pairings and they delivered “For Good” perfectly. As for Les Mis, I did have higher expectations only because I was seeing the show in the West End and the thing I truly wanted from the West End production was that the emotions needed to truly and deeply and powerfully move me. I was living my dream by seeing it in the West End and the entire cast delivered and that was the best cast I ever saw live.

Sometimes I get the most impressed by the understudies. In Newsies, Wicked, Les Mis, and Pippin, there were understudies for lead characters. Those characters were Pippin and the Leading Player from Pippin, Jean Valjean from Les Mis, Elphaba from Wicked, and Katherine from Newsies. Those understudies have to memorize more then everyone else and have to memorize different blocking depending on if they are one for a lead character or if they are one for their ensemble track. They are not always in for the character they understudy for, which means they have less opportunities. In fact, I was impressed with all of these understudies. All of these understudies truly impressed me mainly Jean Valjean, Leading Player, and Elphaba. Some people tend to forget how much harder these actors need to work compared to the regular actor in for a role. For an understudy to play Valjean or Elphaba, it can be quite scary to fill in the shoes of the main actor. Elphaba and Valjean are two of the most complex and demanding and well-known roles.

It takes way more then the actor alone to get into character. It even takes all of the work of the backstage crew to help them get into character. It helps when they actually look like the character through their costume and makeup. Backstage crew helps any lead or ensemble members handle the quick changes because characters go through more then one costume through the course of one show.

It takes several rehearsals to understand the particular production. The actors have to memorize lines, choreography,  blocking, and truly understand the character. You have to learn to portray the character in a way that makes it your own, but at the same time stays true to the character and lives up to the audience’s expectations. They need to express what the character is feeling along with what kind of a life the character lives. In musicals like Wicked and Les Mis, there is a lot of pressure for the actor because the characters are so well-loved by many. It is so cool how actors truly make the story come alive each and every night and the characters become real to you. The actors truly rely on the audience because the audience helps them make choices due to their reactions. There are many wonderful things to say about actors and so blessed that they are willing to tell their character’s stories over the course of a year and eight times a week. Think about how hard it can be to portray a complex character compared to a simple or how hard it can be to portray a character who has a very miserable and tragic life.


Awe and Wonder of Musicals

What is it about musicals that make them so appealing?

Because I am a massive musical fan, I understand the success of musicals. The thing is in musicals actors must be able to dance, sing, and act. That is a lot of talent to do all of that, which means doing the same thing night after night after night. Whenever I go to see a musical live, I am always impressed what actors are able to do. They truly turn into the characters that they are portraying. Seeing children in musicals is just mind-blowing because they are only children and still believably portray their characters.

In a play, it seems to be much harder to connect to the character’s emotions. All they are doing is speaking their lines. But in musicals, it is so much easier to care about the character’s journey. Adding songs that support the plot truly add to the joy and excitement of musicals. There is something about song that makes it easier to feel the emotions. Because a story is being portrayed, there are so many emotions that show provides. The emotions can be anything ranging form excitement, joy, love, sad, and heartbreak. There is no way to describe the emotional world of musicals because each show looks at them differently. Some shows do not take their emotions as seriously as others, but that really depends on what you make of the plot. The more light-hearted musicals want you to feel the emotions in a more entertaining way, but in the ones that are a mixture of light and dark, you need to feel the emotions with a bigger vulnerability.

On top of the songs, there is also dance and spectacle. There is nothing wrong with these two elements being in musicals. In fact, those two elements adds to the wonderful beauty of musicals. The dance and spectacle have been used for many purposes. For example, in “Wicked”, these two elements help you believe that you are in OZ. They even help with the storytelling aspect as well.

But what about the musicals that are not big on dance or spectacle? They do exist, but still manage to have the same awe and wonder that other musicals have. They just show it quite differently. “Les Mis” is that kind of musical that is different then what you except when you go to a musical. The songs are very different, but that is a good thing.  Even the plot is tragic, but once again it works. The songs in that musical are just soaring, captivating, breathtaking, moving, empathetic, powerful, and emotional. Even the orchestrations leave you in awe and wonder. The moment you hear those first notes, you can tell the musical is something special. Seeing actors portray these wonderful complex tragic characters is unbelievable.

So overall musicals  are really good at storytelling through song, dance, and spectacle. The awe and wonder really comes from what musicals are capable of. They have been capable of comic and tragic elements, different kinds of dance and spectacle, several emotions and various types of characters. Part of the awe and wonder comes from the fact that actors have to portray the same characters night after night after night. I am always thinking “how can they do that?”. That is the most impressive with the most complex characters and the most vulnerable characters. I believe that a musical is way more then just the genre. If you see beyond the genre and see more of the meaning, the experience will be worth it even more. The same thing happens when you see all the emotions through joy, which is what makes the negative emotions worth feeling.

These are pictures from when I went to see a musical. “Pippin” and “Les Mis” were from last year. “Les Mis” was in London and that was a dream come true. The picture of me in the black dress was from when I attended “Annie” with my grandma two years ago.

So, in your opinion, what makes musicals so appealing?