Musicals- Taken Off Guard

Well, there are many many incredible things about the musical theatre world. One of the best things to do are exploring the characters. When I have seen a show more than once, there is a chance you might be taken off guard. Taken off guard means you find something in a character you are not expecting. I will give two examples below.

Les Mis

US Tour

Before the US Tour, I saw productions at community college and in the West End. Yes, I was taken off guard in the West End production, but not quite as much as what happened during the US Tour. Coming into the US Tour, I was smart by making the decision to not compare my US Cast with My West End cast.

It existed in the love triangle found between Marius, Cosette, and Eponine. I usually expect Eponine to be the strongest actress or a Marius just as good, but something happened that made me really view the love triangle from a different perspective. Pretty much, what happens when your favorite character in the love triangle, but someone else was the strongest- that was the case. The actor, who played Marius, was the strongest in the love triangle.

Joshua Grosso

For starters, I did get to see him in person twice- as well as his Cosette (Jillian Butler). Both times, Joshua Grosso was a standout and even better than the two Eponine actresses I saw. With Joshua Grosso, I found this unique awkwardness found in Marius that made the character more charming. He literally treated falling in love with Cosette like “I don’t even know what to say”- that did feel like this was his first time in love. For whatever reason, Jillian Butler was able to strongly connect to his Marius. Due to that, I was able to explore Marius and Cosette a deep further while at the same time not ignoring Eponine.

Another incredible example of being taken off guard did happen at “A Little Fall of Rain”. There are several ways to portray that particular scene- with Joshua, he focused more on comforting Eponine than the heartbreak he was feeling: he decided to show the heartbreak after she died- both times were effective. People might say he wasn’t showing enough emotion, but don’t forget he also is showing compassion during this scene. His chemistry with Jillian as well as the little things he did with his character almost made him a core favorite character.

Due to all of that, he became my favorite Marius.

Wicked

Mary Kate Morrissey

She was a standby when I saw her as Elphaba. I knew coming into Wicked, I would be more vulnerable and emotional. That was because I was coming in knowing “I’m Not That Girl” was a heartbreaking love song. I thought that was when things would change. Turns out I was wrong. She was able to express the entire first act in a more innocent voice, and at “Defying Gravity”, she changed her voice to more mature. This is what really surprised me with emotions: “No Good Deed”. I really am not the biggest fan of that song, but she was able to find a way for me to find some appreciation of the song. For years, this particular song was emotionless, but this time around I finally felt emotion. I was feeling anger and frustration during that song. I always thought “No Good Deed” will always stay emotionless, but this time around it actually stuck.

Unloving/Tragic Families- All Fiction

Well, in fiction I have across a number of families. They have come into two categories: loving and unloving (however sometimes tragedy can happen in a loving family). This time, what if I focused on those type of families. What comes to mind first really shows the relationship between characters and the author?

Sarge’s Family

Sarge is the first one that comes to mind. After all, I created Sarge. I know of his abusive and tragic life. At only four, his mother left him. All Sarge has left now is his abusive and cruel father. That abuse started at age four all the way to thirteen—-then his father left him. While this abuse was happening, Sarge’s father was still the leader of the Toads. Sarge was next in line—so his father was expecting him to lead at only thirteen. The abuse Sarge was facing started with words alone and later it got physical (physical to the point where he got permanent scars). His Uncle (Marge’s father) really wanted to help his nephew, but he cared a lot more about his daughter. Even Marge’s father did not know what was going on with his brother. As a result to Sarge’s abuse, Marge was not even allowed to see her uncle to keep her safe. Another result belongs to Sarge: due to the abuse he faced, he became conflicted, jealous, confused, more lonely than he realized, and all of that made him become the bully he is especially towards his cousin. He couldn’t even see kindness, love, or compassion growing up.

Aurora and Jasmine

While these fraternal twins may have been born with a loving family, tragedy struck. They were born in 1998. They were born into an artsy family who also were big fans of Disney. They always did crafts with their family. Then one day, when their parents and them got into a car wreck, Aurora and Jasmine were the only ones that lived. All they have now is each other- they were best friends before the car crash. Jasmine was more optimistic and felt furiously protective towards Aurora. Now that they are orphans, a lot is gone. All Aurora has, outside of her sister, is the final doll her mom and sister made. However in the car crash, a craft bag with supplies to make the dolls, was saved by Jasmine. This did affect Aurora a lot more- Jasmine knew she had to be with Aurora in the hospital, but many staff did not believe. However, there was only one nurse who did- “Nichole” is my fill-in-name now: she eventually convinced the other staff that Aurora desperately needed her sister.

Emily, Rosie, Paige, and Mollie

Well, while I still don’t know how their parents died, I know some facts about them. Emily and Rosie were born in 1999- the youngest of all the Greatest Discovery characters. Mollie and Paige were actually born in 1997. All the GB girls’ ages had to line up either on or after October 30th, 2003- it had to somehow connect to that date. SPOILERS FOR ALL THE ORPHANS: Greatest Discovery has two meanings in that that story: first it was a scavenger hunt T.V. (which helped all six girls in some way)- it was their caregiver that helped them get on the show. Well, at the end of the novel—-Emily and Rosie were 10, Aurora and Jasmine are 11, and Paige and Mollie were 12. The 2nd meaning of GB has to do with the grand prize was: all of them did get adopted, and they ended up seeing Wicked on Broadway. In Aurora/Jasmine’s case, they got adopted by their favorite nurse, who is “Nichole”.

Thenardiers

Now, I can go to the already created unloved families. The complete opposite did happen to Gavroche and Eponine. As in, I have stronger empathy and personal relationship to the characters I created- after all, I know them better than the Thenardier Family. That is where the difference lies- Victor Hugo created the Thenardiers. While I know that the Thenardiers horribly abused, neglected, and showed no love to their children, Gavroche and Eponine had one good thing happen in their life. Gavroche was taken in by the students and with Eponine, it was Marius. Eponine had to deal with horrible abuse, being raised by criminals, unkindness and fell into extreme poverty. Her life seemed like there would be no light. Marius was the only one who treated her kindly leading her to fall in love with him despite the fact that it became unrequited: the love she had for him was so deep that she would do anything for him no matter the cost.

So, while I actually developed such a deep bond with Eponine, it is not her family that comes first in mind. I know a lot about Eponine- the abuse, the poverty, the unkindness, and the unrequited love. I even know just how neglected, unloved, and lonely she became. But I did not create Eponine- that is where the difference lies. She is actually my favorite character in the love triangle, but that does not stop me from loving Marius and Cosette as a couple. I just wouldn’t have fallen in love with Eponine if her horrible living conditions and unrequited love did not exist. Due to her tragic life, I loved her fate: “A Little Fall of Rain”- she sacrificed her life for Marius. It showed Eponine happy for once and showed how much compassion Marius was capable of, but at the same time it showed how much she meant to him: after all he was worried and devastated. Even the ending shows that Marius knew she lived a tough life: “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet unafraid”- those lyrics are how I knew Marius was aware she lived a tough life, but also knew how brave she was.

This does might sound odd to some people (but obsessed Les Mis fans might understand): all it took was an entire year for me to understand who Eponine was- from 2013 to 2014, I was spending time trying to figure out who she was due to not knowing why I had this emotional connection and strong love came from. Only saw two Eponine actresses in that time frame- Samantha Barks and Kayla Ferguson. While it was three experiences with Les Mis- the film, Central Piedmont Community College, and 25th concert- two actresses. There is a reason why my favorite Eponine is Samantha Barks: she was most responsible for my love for the character and standout in the film and 25th concert. In addition, she was my first making it hard for other actresses to be better. No matter how close they get to being pretty much just as good, my opinion stays the same. While I don’t know why I gave the film a 2nd chance, Eponine was one of the first characters I emotionally bonded to. I believe the first songs I began to start being an emotional wreck were “I Dreamed a Dream” and “A Little Fall of Rain”- think that’s true but don’t fully remember.

Elphaba’s Family

Another example of a broken family. This time, I am exploring Elphaba’s family-but not quite as much as Eponine’s parents. That is all because Eponine’s parents played a huger role in Les Mis then the role Elphaba’s parents had. Elphaba is the musical character I have the most personal and relatable with- she is my favorite musical character. In Elphaba’s case, her father hated her for being born “green” while putting her disabled younger sister on a pedestal. Elphaba was fiercely protective of Nessa. The only characters who really accepted Elphaba for who she is were Glinda and Fiyero. Let me go next: it might explain something.

DON’T CONTINUE: SPOILERS AHEAD

For whatever reason, I think Elphaba was responsible for my love for Eponine: sounds strange, but look at what’s in common: broken family, taken advantage of: with Elphaba the Wizard and with Eponine her family, and the last thing in common is unrequited love. In Elphaba’s situation, she somehow ended up with Fiyero making the unrequited love shift to Glinda. That love triangle actually shows Elphaba and Glinda’s loyalty to each other: they don’t let Fiyero get in the way: they don’t try to steal him away when they have the unrequited love. See what I mean. Like Elphaba, I am smart, unique, have a big heart and stay true to myself. There is a lot of Elphaba I have in common but at same time have differences. I think Elphaba might be the very reason why I was able to understand both emotions, complexity and emotional connection starting in middle school. I think that was why all four core emotions were at the forefront: excitement, love, joy, and sad. Coincidentally, “On My Own” was key for “I’m Not That Girl” to become heartbreaking. It took over seven years for “I’m Not That Girl” to change from being sad to heartbreaking, but took a year for “On my Own” to change from being sad to heartbreaking.

My favorite Elphaba, Mary Kate Morrissey (standby), actually was the most taken off guard I have been in a musical. She was my 4th- she had everything I already knew about Elphaba, then the way she changed her voice from starting out innocent and then shifting to more mature, her chemistry with both Amanda Jane Copper (Glinda), and Ashley Parker Angel (Fiyero), and for the first time, an emotionless song ended up having emotions. That would be “No Good Deed”- it was the only time frustration, fear, and anger struck: in a way that they would actually stick. This production had my favorite trio, and individually all three were my favorite in those characters.

Conclusion

So, there is a HUGE difference between the characters that already were created versus your own. So, despite my strong bond with Elphaba and Eponine, I don’t think of their families first. It actually belonged to Sarge and my orphans. While the six orphans were born to a loving family, their family eventually became tragic. Sarge was the only one who has an unloving family: it was only found in his extended family where there was a loving family: his uncle and cousin both loved Sarge: his uncle loved him and so did Marge (I believe deep down despite being his easiest target). As an author- we know the MOST about them. No matter how much we know about musical characters, we will always know MORE about the ones we created. After all, we strongly strongly personally know our characters: they in some ways are like your own children. You know pretty much everything. See while I know a lot about Eponine and Elphaba, I know A LOT more about Sarge and the six orphans due to creating them in the first place.

Well, what unloving and tragic families come to mind (that includes the ones we created)? Understand the difference?

The Two Most Meaningful Musicals

While I am a musical theatre fanatic, who has multiple meaningful musicals, there are only TWO that stand out from the rest. Both Wicked and Les Mis entered my life at separate times in my life. Wicked entered my life: August 2006, and Les Mis: March 2013. I was only in middle school when I saw Wicked and only my first year of college when Les Mis entered. In simple terms, I will try to say only certain things that made each musical meaningful (will try not to go too much in detail.

Wicked

Emotional connection- where I first discovered the importance. Strongly showed through Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero. Especially in the case of Elphaba.

Emotional and Complex side- discovered both the emotional and complex side. All because of Wicked, four core emotions existed: excitement, joy, love, and sad (would be helpful later on). In addition, was the first time discovering what it meant for both a character and plot to be complex

Who did I see with- 1st time was on Broadway with my mom August 2006—this was really special, think my 2nd time was in 2008, 3rd time was date with my dad US Tour 2013, and went with Gardner Webb with the US Tour 2016. Look, the really special thing about GWU is that I was watching a musical that changed me for good with a school that changed me for the better. Even seeing Wicked on Broadway was special: was my first time and date with mom.

What I knew about musicals (overall): spectacle/dance; fore core emotions- excitement/love/joy/sad; the importance of emotional connection, and the emotional and complex side to musicals—-or so I thought

Favorite Actors/Actresses

Mary Kate Morrissey- Elphaba

Amanda Jane Copper-Glinda

Ashley Parker Angel- Fiyero

Les Mis- this might take some time

Before moving on, I have to say I kinda say that I had to grow into it. So 2nd chance was when it all began (March 2013). I kinda have to describe the meaning through the various experiences I had with Les Mis.

overall meaning:

  • Learned to love Tragedy the hard way– when I still was at Fletcher, during high school, I had told myself I will NEVER love a tragedy. I thought I knew the genre, but Les Mis proved me wrong. Well, had to give that film a 2nd chance- still don’t know why, but most about had some connection the first time (something tells me it most likely belonged to Fantine and the students). Said that because coming in, I already knew “I Dreamed a Dream” was a Les Mis song and coming out of cinemas, had “Do You Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head. Well, that 2nd chance is when everything else is history- here is one thing I remember about that 2nd chance on the film—I started developing a strong love for Eponine—so Samantha Barks became my favorite Eponine (that has not changed no matter how close other actresses get: being first is part of why), and I don’t know exactly where that came from, but eventually I think it had something to do with Elphaba.
  • Emotional Nature– one new core emotion entered (Heartbreak). All because of that, I have a deeper and stronger understanding of emotions. Les Mis makes me an emotional wreck: that response never fails starting at “I Dreamed a Dream). Well, the emotional and powerful nature in Les Mis was something new to me- had no idea how intense musical emotions could be
  • Death– well, some things surprised me about this. I really thought deaths were unmemorable and in no way would happen during a song. Proven wrong by Les Mis due to “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Finale”.

Conclusion

Here is what I am going end up- naming each year I saw it, and then saying who I know for a fact is my favorite for some characters.

  • Well did see Les Mis 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019: I think that says something about the meaning. 2015-date with mom in West End while 2017 went with Gardner Webb to Greenville during US Tour. 2019- another date with mom and some actors/actresses were same characters in 2017. Well, it is important to mention my 2019 Fantine-she was only in my ensemble 2017 and eventually secured the part of Fantine (she knew the role due to being understudy). 2019- got the same Javert, Cosette, Marius, Enjolras, and Madame Thenardier: standouts still Joshua and Matt. This could surprise UK fans, but while my strongest love triangle may be in my West End, but due to not comparing both 2015/2017- my favorite Marius is Joshua Grosso and Cosette is Jillian Butler.

Going to say here, who I know for a fact belong to my favorite actor/actress in the principal roles. Some, really have no idea. Some are literally that difficult- Valjean, Enjolras, and Fantine are the hardest ones to know who my favorite is. While Matt Shingledecker is a standout in the US Tour, Bradley, Ramin, and Aaron are literally basically tied with Matt. Here is what makes Fantine difficult- seven actresses. With Valjean, my top three are Nick, Adam, and Alfie- tough call.

  • Cosette- Jillian Butler
  • Marius-Joshua Grosso
  • Eponine-Samantha Barks
  • Javert- Jeremy Secomb
  • Thenardiers- Phil Daniels/Katy Secombe

What I know for a fact is that all of the actors/actresses I had seen combined have made the characters they are today.

Complexity of a Love Triangle

There was a time where I did not even know about love triangles in musicals. It was only couples- there was not a third wing. One musical would make me pick up on love triangles, and that musical was Wicked. It is between Elphaba x Fiyero x Glinda. It actually adds an incredible texture to the musical and actually , in my opinion, strengthens the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda.

MAJOR SPOILERS:

As with love triangles, there is always a couple and the third person has to put up with unrequited love. That is what tends to happen. In Wicked, Fiyero arrives and Elphaba can’t stand him. So it kinda of seems as if it will just be Fiyero x Glinda as a couple: we think they will stay together for the rest of the musical. A few months later- I think- something changes in him. He begins to soften up a bit and in class after a new teacher arrives with a scared lion cub in a cage, Elphaba is furious and accidentally casts a spell on the entire class, which for some strange reason does NOT affect Fiyero.

The Lion Cub Scene is very important on BOTH Elphaba and Fiyero. You actually realize that Elphaba has started to fall in love with Fiyero: now we officially have a love triangle. But there’s more- look closely at the way the two are interacting with each other: there is a strong connection and they are playfully sort of teasing each other- not as in being friends-as in a little bit more. It almost seems as if Fiyero has a crush on Elphaba. At this point, he still deep down doesn’t seem to be aware; Elphaba can’t pick up on this either. Ever since- he still can’t stop thinking about the Lion Cub incident- could Fiyero be falling in love with Elphaba?

Back to the Lion Cub Scene itself at the end- when Fiyero asks her, why the spell did not affect him, she was not able to answer. I actually do not think she was going to anyways because of Glinda’s relationship to Fiyero. She was trying to not steal him away from Glinda- she would not let a boy get in way. So- that is a strong trait in a friendship- loyalty. You really have gotten convinced that it will stay Glinda x Fiyero and that Elphaba will have the unrequited love from start to finish. Elphaba did get the entire unrequited love song, “I’m Not That Girl”- during that song, she found out just a few moments earlier that she had feelings for him and she still had innocence so that song can’t be vulnerable to the point of that innocence being lost- knowing the result of the love triangle can make feeling the emotions of unrequited love a bit harder to feel.

Lion Cub Scene- Fiyero and Elphaba
Lion Cub Scene

Well- so act II. Will things stay the same? Do we still have the same couple or will there we some switch? Fiyero listened to all of the rumors spread about Elphaba. While listening, he realized something: he actually loves Elphaba, not Glinda. So—–now we have an unrequited love shift going on. He is going to leave Glinda for Elphaba. Here is why you had to pay close attention to scenes such as the Lion Cub Scene- there were hints that maybe something was going on. Of course, Glinda was hurt, but like Elphaba—-she was NOT going to take Fiyero away: so these two best friends would never let a boy get in way of their friendship: it shows through how they both respond to the unrequited love. It is kinda of more difficult to feel the emotions for Glinda because she gets the shortened reprise of “I’m Not That Girl”.

Elphaba and Fiyero is a strong and wonderful couple. Their song, “As Long as Your’e Mine” is mystical and mature. These two showed their love for each other after the song. They ended up protecting one another- Fiyero literally told the guards to “Let the Green Girl Go”, which could possibly cause him to be tortured and Elphaba was constantly trying spell after spell to save him. They are probably my favorite couple- they are what I would call the unexpected couple. Saying they are a couple is literally a spoiler in itself.

As Long As Your'e Mine- Fiyero and Glinda
Fiyero and Elphaba

It constantly can make you ask yourself questions. You think you have it all figured out, then you realize you still can find more. It has the dreaded WHY question- the WHY as in why the switch happened- at least, it is more clear now. I am glad that “I’m Not That Girl” became the song it became- it used to be just a sad song, but later reached heartbreaking: as a a matter of fact, that song was one of the first songs I realized was sad to begin with.

The love triangle in Wicked is my favorite because it is 1)the first one I emotionally bonded with and 2) the level of complexity it has- the complexity comes from three complex characters, the development of the love triangle, and how it connects to the main storyline.

Another Look at Fiyero

One character that is very hard to get to know in Wicked is Fiyero, a Winkie Prince. He is more complex than he seems to be. He might seem simple on the surface, but in reality that is not the case- I know this from seeing Wicked four times and being around Wicked for thirteen years. PROCEED, BUT MAJOR SPOILERS:

He truly is a jerk when you first meet him. He is so annoying, and this bugs Elphaba. He did knock her over along with her school supplies- you do not think anything will happen between the two of them. He literally has been kicked out of several schools. He does not care about school one bit and cares more about the fun. In the beginning- it is Glinda and Fiyero. He organizes a school dance, and this is actually the moment when Elphaba and Glinda first bond and become friends.

Dancing Through Life- Fiyero (Wicked)
Fiyero

The Lion Cub Scene, I believe, happened a few months later. He actually has softened up a bit. Elphaba recently cast a spell on an entire classroom after seeing a scared lion cub in a cage. Fiyero is trying to figure out why that spell did not affect him. The Lion Cub Scene is when the love triangle between Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda truly begins- it actually does some foreshadowing for Fiyero’s decision in act II. Based on the way that Fiyero and Elphaba are interacting shows that Fiyero does have a crush on Elphaba, but deep down does not seem fully aware of it. It is this scene when Elphaba comes to the conclusion that she, in fact, is falling in love with Fiyero, which leads to “I’m Not That Girl”. Elphaba actually made up her mind not to steal Fiyero away from her best friend- that is how strong their friendship is- they will not let a boy get in the way.

Little does Elphaba know what will happen in act II. She will end up with Fiyero, and her best friend will get the unrequited love she faced in act I. The Lion Cub Scene was one clue that pointed to that. Another scene that showed that Fiyero had a crush on Elphaba was before she left for the Emerald City- Fiyero could not stop thinking about the Lion Cub Incident.

“Thank Goodness” was truly the moment when Fiyero picked up on his love for Elphaba he was blind to. He was upset about the rumors spread about Elphaba, and could not believe Glinda was not doing anything to prevent that (Glinda was Elphaba’s best friend after all). Glinda did not like it either, but Fiyero could believe she was supporting all of that. Fiyero automatically left to go looking for Elphaba to confess his love for her.

Fiyero went from being a jerk to softening up to becoming this courageous and mature young man. When he found Elphaba, she was able to realize that he did love her. They both ran out to confess their love for each other (“As Long as Your’e Mine”-my favorite Fiyero costume is what he is wearing in this number). Both protected each other from this number on- when Elphaba was about to get arrested- Fiyero arrived and told others to “Let her Go”, and as an attempt to protect him from getting hurt, Elphaba tried spell after spell. Their relationship is so unexpected- considering the fact that 1) Elphaba did not like him in the beginning and 2) Elphaba had unrequited love for him in the beginning.

Fiyero and Elphaba- "As Long as Your'e Mine" (Wicked)
Fiyero and Elphaba

Here’s what I believe- I think the love triangle in Wicked develops and matures in the same way the characters do.