It is important to pay attention to the context surrounding a musical song to understand and pick up on the emotion. Context can refer to the scene that happened right before the song because that scene can help set up the song.
Santa Fe- Newsies
At first glance, this song does not seem like it is sad, but it actually is. The context at the beginning of the show and the scene before helps in understanding the emotion of the scene. Right before Santa Fe, there is this big fight that breaks out. Jack witnesses all of this and he sees his brothers getting hurt and Crutchie being arrested. If you remember Santa Fe (Prologue), it tells you that he has such a personal bond to Crutchie.
So due to all that Jack has just witnessed, he is quite upset and that leads to Santa Fe. It is a sad song. Jack is upset that his brothers got hurt all because of the strike. He wants to give up and he does not want them to get hurt. He dreams of going to Santa Fe, but now he wants to go there more than ever due to what he just witnessed. He cares so much about his brothers that he cares more about them than the cause.
I’m Not That Girl- Wicked
Obviously this is an unrequited love song. But the scene before helps you understand the level of heartbreak the song is. Previously, Fiyero and Elphaba are in the woods freeing a lion cub. In this scene, the two characters argue in a playful way. In my opinion, I think this is the moment where Elphaba realizes that she is falling in love with Fiyero. By that, it tells you that her love for Fiyero isn’t quite that deep or strong. She literally singing “I’m Not That Girl” after the Lion Cub scene. So that shows that the song is only moderately heartbreaking.
Do you think context outside of the song helps with musical emotion?
One aspect that helps you get to know the character is through their costumes. What exactly do I mean by this? To explain, I will give some examples below.
Below is Enjolras’ vest. During “One Day More” and during act II, he wears this vest. It helps us realize he is the leader of the students and the most passionate. It makes him stand out among everyone at the barricade.
Below you will see Elphaba in her act II dress. In act I, her outfits show she is more innocent and not as mature. But in act II, her outfit looks much more mature and show how she has matured from act I to act II. I love how it looks so good with her skin. It just complements the green so wear.
Another example is from the outfits Eponine wears a lot of browns in her outfit. That is the color of the skirt in act I and the same color she wears in her act II costumes and in her act II costume, her pants, hat and coat are brown. The fact that she does the same color shows that she is poor. Her outfits also are dirty and this helps signify that she is living in poverty and that is an important part of her character.
For Valjean, his costumes help show his character arc. From this dirty costume in the opening to what he is wearing at the barricade shows his transformation. In his first costume, he looks like a convict. Than when time passes, his costume changes. He no longer looks like a convict and you can start to see his costumes representing his journey to redemption.
Glinda’s outfits during her time at Shiz show that she is girlie girl. The outfit below shows her outfit during the dance that Fiyero arranges. It is very pretty and is pink. She wears more than one dress in the show. This outfit below helps show that Glinda is young and makes you know she is a girly girl during her time at Shiz.
I don’t know what it is, but something about Jack’s outfit that makes you know he is the leader of the Newsies. I feel like it is a bit different than the other Newsies. But something about his outfit also makes you know he is a dreamer and a romantic.
Do you think costumes help a role in developing character?
I think the placement of songs can affect the emotion of a musical song. It also can help explain the sound of the song. I will use some examples to explain what I mean by this this.
“I Dreamed a Dream”
- By having this song before “Lovely Ladies” in the stage show gives the song a small amount of hope.
- However, by having the song after “Lovely Ladies” in the movie makes the song even more heartbreaking and you lose that sense of hope.
“One Day More”
- This song has to be the act I closer due to the sound of the song and what is being sung. It happens the day before the uprising. It is talking about that Javert plans to spy on the students during the uprising. It is talking about what the Thenardiers plan to due to those who died. It talks about Marius and Cosette will miss each other when they will be parted. So it has to happen before the uprising.
Actually all of the Les Mis songs are carefully placed. That is part of how brilliant the musical is.
“As Long As Your’e Mine”
- This song has a very mature melody. It has to be because at that point in the story, both Fiyero and Elphaba have matured so the song has to sound the way it does. It also has to be in act II due to the plot twist.
“I’m Not That Girl”
- The innocent feeling of the song is in there due to who Elphaba is when it is sung. By this point, Elphaba has not yet matured and is a bit innocent, which explains why the melody has that feeling in it. It has to be in act I or else the plot twist really wouldn’t be in the story.
What you think about this? Do you think placement of the song is important?
Musicals are known for being emotional. One of my favorite emotions is heartbreak, which is an emotion I once was blind to. Les Mis was the musical that brought heartbreak to life. I love the several layers that come to it. That basically means that some heartbreaking songs hurt more than others. On this post, I will describe the layers and the best way I can do that is through two songs.
“I’m Not That Girl” and “On My Own” both share the same root, which is unrequited love. However, both have different levels of insight.
“I’m Not That Girl” is dealing with Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero. This song is only moderately heartbreaking. The song has innocence, vulnerability and fragility. Literally moments before, it is the first time the audience realizes that Elphaba is falling in love with Fiyero. Elphaba’s love for him isn’t that strong at this point, which why the melody is very consistent and the melody also shows Elphaba’s innocence at this point in the story. This song once was a sad song for a couple of years, but it was “On My Own” that helped me realize this song was heartbreaking. About the insight, Elphaba admits in the song that she doesn’t think she is good enough for Fiyero because she is green and she does reflect on her best friend realizing that she is in a relationship with him and that is part of why Elphaba accepts the fact that Fiyero does not love her.
“On My Own” is the more heartbreaking of the two. For starter’s, Eponine’s story revolves around unrequited love. By the time “On My Own” happens, the audience already knows that Eponine is in love with Marius. There are these little sung bits of dialogue that show that she loves him and in “In My Life” and “A Heart Full Of Love”, there are parts of the song that show she loves Marius. By observing her actions, it is already made clear that she loves Marius. Marius cannot seem to pick up on the fact that she loves him.
In this song, you realize just how strong and deep her love for Marius is. This song helps you understand her life outside of Marius. It shows that she is so alone in the world. She is unloved and lonely due to being so alone in life. Her only source of happiness is Marius and he is the only person who shows her kindness. “On My Own” helps highlight this. Throughout lyrics like “Without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to” and “a world that’s full of happiness that I have never known” reflects her life. She finally is able to accept the situation she finds herself in and this song shows that she can never stop loving him because he is the light of her life. It actually took about a year to realize “On My Own” was heartbreaking but not sad.
Just by knowing that one of these songs is more heartbreaking than other shows how layered heartbreak can be.
My favorite Fiyero actor is also from my 4th cast. It is interesting how my favorite Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero all come from the same cast. My favorite Fiyero is Ashley Parker Angel.
The 4th time, I honestly wanted to know why I love Fiyero and why the plot twist in the love triangle even happened. So the 4th round was more Fiyero-focused than Elphaba and Glinda focused. Fiyero is a character that is quite hard to know. He may not seem complex, but in reality he really is. I played close attention to Fiyero. The way that Ashley Parker Angel played Fiyero in the Lion Cub Scene helped me understand the plot twist. In that scene, the actor played that scene as if he had a crush on Elphaba, but didn’t know it yet. So there are clues in act I that foreshadow that Fiyero will end up with Elphaba.
Ashley had wonderful chemistry with Mary Kate Morissey. While he did have great chemistry with my Elphaba, his chemistry was weaker with the Glinda and I think that is what is supposed to happen. Fiyero actually does have weaker chemistry with Glinda because it helps show that Fiyero and Glinda aren’t meant to be together. Even before Fiyero realized he is in love with Elphaba, he still has incredible chemistry with her, which first shows in the Lion Cub Scene.
Fiyero is a character who seems to develop the most during spoken scenes. Because I decided to pay close attention to Fiyero, I looked closely at these scenes especially spoken moments. It also made me fall in love with Ashley Parker Angel’s Fiyero.
The fact that Mary Kate Morrisey as Elphaba, Amanda Jane Copper as Glinda, and Ashley Parker Angel as Fiyero were all part of the same cast really shows just how strong this trio is. It is a bit complicated between all of them. Elphaba and Glinda are supposed to have strong chemistry with each other and Fiyero is supposed to have wonderful chemistry with Elphaba, it complicates things a bit. It is just these three together are quite wonderful.
Next up in this series is my favorite actress who has played Glinda. My favorite Glinda is Amanda Jane Cooper. She was my Glinda at the same time I saw Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba. Amanda Jane Cooper was excellent as Glinda and you can see that shine throughout her performance.
She was hilarious in all of Glinda’s comical moments. She was able to show Glinda’s pain throughout act II. After all in act II, she has to listen to the public spreading rumors about her best friend, discovering that Fiyero does not love her, and having to say goodbye to Elphaba. So she is a character that has a lot of ups and downs in her life. Because both her and Mary Kate Morrissey were excellent, it makes “For Good” such a very powerful moment. That song made me cry last time I saw Wicked because both girls were excellent in their roles and I think had something to do with the fact that I was seeing it with my school, a school that has changed me for good.
It is just a beautiful and powerful thing when you see Wicked and both Elphaba and Glinda are excellent. They both have to be so the friendship is truly shown because after all, the story revolves around their friendship. Because Mary Kate Morrissey and Amanda Jane Copper were both excellent in their roles, it makes their characters’ relationship so beautiful and powerful.
In this blog series, I started by saying who my favorite Elphaba is: Mary Kate Morissey. When I saw her on tour January of 2016, she was the standby and just to let you know, this was the 4th time I saw Wicked. I started with Elphaba because she is my all-time favorite musical character.
Mary Kate embodied everything about Elphaba. She brought out Elphaba’s strength, smarts, and courage and all the other traits that make up who Elphaba is. She brought out everything I had already discovered about Elphaba while still showing a different side to Elphaba. She was quite excellent and had amazing chemistry with Amanda Jane Copper as Glinda and Ashely Parker Angel as Fiyero.
She did take me off guard at times and that was a good thing. The biggest example was during “No Good Deed”. I always hated the song and never got anything out of the song. The emotions never really stuck and I found no appreciation of the song. But what Mary Kate was able to do was finally make me find some kind of appreciation. I just saw this incredible energy and she made the emotions of that song finally stick. I never actually picked up on the song’s emotions but the fact that I felt anger and frustration during this number really took me off guard. So this was the first time the emotions actually stuck and were remembered and that was a big reason why I loved her Elphaba so much.
Coming into this time, I knew that something would happen with “I’m Not That Girl”. In between the 3rd time and 4th time, I came to a realization that “I’m Not That Girl” is a heartbreaking song not just a sad song like I once believed. Her version of the song was full of vulnerability and fragility but at same time still was a bit innocent. I focused so much more on what I was feeling due to knowing it was heartbreaking this time around. Her version made me feel sad and lonely so glad this song changed in the way it did.
About “For Good”, she was so excellent and so was Amanda Jane Copper so this song made me cry. That really goes to show just how excellent Mary Kate was as Elphaba. Mary Kate is such a special Elphaba and Elphaba means so much to me. She may have been the standby, but she was my favorite Elphaba I ever saw.
She changed her voice as the show continued. In act I, her voice was very innocent and youthful, but when act II started up she changed Elphaba’s voice to be much more mature so that helps show Elphaba growing up.
Next in the series is my favorite Glinda.