The Importance of Backstories of Musical Theatre Characters

I can’t believe I never talked about this on my blog: the importance of musical theatre characters’ backstories. Why do they matter?

The backstories shape the characters into who they are. It is one of the aspects that musical theatre characters complex. I prefer complex characters over simple characters. That is because they are more “real” than the simple ones.

Eponine:

What would Eponine be if she wasn’t raised by the Thenardiers? Yes, it is a horrible upbringing. If she wasn’t raised to be a thief and criminal, and ended up being unloved and neglected, Marius wouldn’t have meant anything to her. See what I mean- her upbringing is a huge reason why she is the Eponine we know her to be.

Elphaba:

What would Elphaba be if she wasn’t born green? What would she be if her father didn’t love her growing up? Part of her complexity comes from how she was raised.

Phantom:

Who would the Phantom be if he wasn’t born without a deformed face? Due to how to he was treated because of it, it lead him to become ashamed of it. See what I mean.

The pattern continues with a number of characters. What happens to anyone growing up makes them who they are. Backstories are important to anyone. Backstories can be tragic- but the results are different: their actions show that- look how Phantom dealt with it versus Eponine. Phantom dealt with his pain in a negative way while Eponine dealt with her pain in a more positive way. Some backstories are not tragic at all- it still made those characters who they are.

Do you agree? Do backstories help shape a story into who they become? Does it believe it makes a character complex?

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The Uniqueness of Bittersweet Musical Theatre Songs

Two days ago, I analyzed “For Good” and a few days before that, I analyzed “A Little Fall of Rain”. There is something in common between both of those songs- they fall under the category of bittersweet songs. There is something touching and moving about those types of songs. What exactly makes a musical theatre song bittersweet?

A bittersweet song is usually one of those “goodbye” type of songs. They tend to have a combination of joy and sad. Some are much sadder than other- some fall under the category of devastating. All bittersweet songs have joy and happiness in them. It can be very hard to describe why those songs have joy and happiness in them due to the sad part of them. The more devastating bittersweet songs are the hardest songs to describe the joy. You have to understand the characters to understand why the songs are bittersweet in the first place. I will use “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain” to bring up what I am talking about.

Elphaba and Glinda at "For Good" during a production of Wicked
“For Good”

“For Good” is a song that happens towards the end of Wicked. This is the song where Elphaba and Glinda realize that they have to part ways. They will never see each other again, and how much they have meant to each. Elphaba is the only friend that has truly mattered to Glinda, and Glinda was Elphaba’s only friend. It is sad in the fact that they will never see each other again, but joyful in the fact that they are able to tell each other what they meant to each other. It is the most emotional moment in Wicked. It hits you harder than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”.

Eponine dying in Marius' arms during "A Little Fall of Rain" in the film
“A Little Fall of Rain”

Now, “A Little of Rain” is more devastating. It is Eponine’s death scene- you might be thinking, how can a death scene be bittersweet. Eponine is dying in Marius’ arms. You have to understand Eponine’s life, and why Marius means something to her to understand why. Marius was the only person in her life who treated her kindly. Her parents, the Thenardiers, didn’t care about her and raised her to be a thief and criminal. Her life was dark- her only light was Marius- the only good thing in her life. She fell in love with him due to the kindness he showed her.

Back to the song. Leading up to “A Little Fall of Rain”, seeing that Marius was about to get shot, Eponine sacrifice herself to save Marius. She would do anything for him no matter the cost. The joy of the song comes from the fact that Marius was there with her, the only good thing her life. You do feel heartbroken for both of them- the fact that Eponine was dying and the fact that Marius was devastated, but at least he was there. Eponine got to die in the arms of the man she loved- there’s the joy right there. If you did not understand Eponine- you would not understand why this scene is bittersweet.

There is something touching, moving, and special about the bittersweet songs. I don’t know why the first songs that come to mind when I think of the bittersweet songs belong to “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. The bittersweet are some of the most emotional songs in musical theatre.

What are some your favorite musical theatre bittersweet song?

“For Good” Analysis

Glinda and Elphaba during "For Good" at a production of Wicked

Major and Minor Spoilers:

“For Good” is one of my favorite duets. “For Good” is unique in for one way: 1) that it is sung by two women, and 2): that it is not dealing with romance, but instead about friendship. “For Good” is the most emotional song in Wicked. Yes, even more emotional than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”. Friendship is center core in Wicked. The musical is truly about the friendship found between Elphaba and Glinda. You never expect them to become the best of friends and change each others lives for the better. In the beginning, these two young women hated each other, and later became the best of friends. They do both fall in love with Fiyero, but they do not let a boy get in the way of their friendship, and that is why they do pursue him when each of them deal with unrequited love (yes, each of the girls at some point have unrequited love for Fiyero). I believe the love triangle in Wicked helps strengthen their friendship.

“For Good” helps show how much they meant to each other. It is so emotional. These two realize that they will never see each other again. Glinda is pretty much the only friend Elphaba has never had, and Elphaba is the only friend that truly mattered to Glinda. They helped make each other better people. My most recent Glinda (Amanda Jane Copper) and Elphaba (Mary Kate Morrissey) were so excellent that I was crying at “For Good”- in my opinion, you NEVER can have an excellent Elphaba without an excellent Glinda and you never can have an excellent Glinda without an excellent Elphaba. That sounds crazy, but “For Good” is the moment that is supposed to hit you the hardest. It is more emotional than “I’m Not That Girl”, and will always be.

What are your feelings on this song? Do you agree that it is the most emotional moment in the musical?

The Wicked Trap

This might sound nuts, but I always fall into sort of a Wicked trap each time I watch it. I am emotionally connected to Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda- NOT to the other characters. I know there are storylines OTHER than the friendship and the love triangle. I am quite aware of the discrimination, and that the romantic subplot is more of a LOVE PENTAGON. I know there is more in the storyline than the friendship and the love triangle- but I always overlook things. 

Major Spoilers:

Each time, I ALWAYS closely examine the love triangle and friendship. I tend to not WANT to explore the other storylines as well. It does sound crazy. After all, the main storyline is the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba, and they are 2/3 of the love triangle. Fiyero completes the love triangle. There is a LOT to be explored in the love triangle- especially in regards to Fiyero. You question things about him: you wonder why the unrequited love jumps from Elphaba to Glinda. You have to closely look at Fiyero to understand that part better- I personally believe he had some kind of crush on Elphaba in Shiz, but wasn’t exactly fully aware of it- that explains part of that puzzle.  

I am like if Elphaba is my all-time favorite character- why do I always OVERLOOK her sister? That does sound odd in a way. But then again, Nessa’s song, “The Wicked Witch of the East”, isn’t on the soundtrack, and she is a supporting character. Boq is overlooked too- after all he has no song of his own. I know of their unrequited love storylines- but keep on overlooking them so I basically forget about them each time. 

I OVERLOOK the two main antagonists as well: Madame Morrible and the Wizard as well. That’s odd as well. I know what happens to them, and it is part of Elphaba’s storyline, and why she is the way she is. Still. 

See how crazy that is: I get so invested in the friendship and the main love triangle that I want to explore both more deeply each time I see the musical. That is why I fall into this Wicked trap each time. It is not like I am unaware of the other characters and storylines- I am aware of what happens to them- just overlook them. I am not just that emotionally connected to the other characters. I am only emotionally connected to Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero especially towards Elphaba. 

Has this ever happened to you in a musical? You see a musical again- closely examine the same storylines, but ALWAYS overlook the other ones you know are in there. 

“A Very Wicked Halloween” Review

This was a special concert celebrating Wicked’s 15 years on Broadway. It aired on NBC on Monday at 10, but that was too late for me, so I prerecorded it. So I ended up watching it on Tuesday. Idina Menzel and Kirstin Chenworth, the original Elphaba and Glinda hosted the special. Those two actresses are some of the most well-known actresses on Broadway. Idnia won a Tony for her performance as Elphaba.

The concert began at the Gershwin Theater with the current cast performing “One Short Day”. My first thought was “I cannot believe my first time time seeing Wicked was at that theatre”. It was crazy believing I once saw Wicked there. That experience began my journey with Wicked.

The performances were all Wicked songs. The second song was “As Long as Your’e Mine”. It was between Adam Lambert and Ledisi. I learned that Adam Lambert did play Fiyero at one point.  I loved it as well. “As Long As Your’e Mine” is one of the favorite moments in Wicked. I love the mystical feeling of the mist and fog and how unexpected it is. I learned in this concert that every performance Wicked uses 400 tons of dry ice- that’s a lot.

Now we get to a performance by Kirsten Chenoweth. It is “Popular”, my favorite song from Wicked. It was my favorite song as a 12 year old- I was that old when I saw the musical on Broadway. While she still sings the same song, she adds her own little twist to the song at times, and it makes it very funny.

I mean how can earth can a group of 5 singers pull of an ensemble number. That is what Pentatonix sang. They somehow pulled it off. Still “What is This Feeling” is an ensemble number, which requires more than 5 singers. Still they still managed it.

Of course Idnia Menzel sang “Defying Gravity”. She still got it. She still can pull it off. This song is one of the most act I closers. This is the moment when Elphaba finally matures and says nothing will hold her back. Such a huge-character moment for Elphaba.

The next number in the list is Ariana Grande singing “Wizard and I”. Loved this singing as well. The first moment we really get to meet Elphaba.

But the best moment in this concert is “For Good”- they got together a number of former Elphabas and Glinda and together they sang “For Good”. That was very touching. Idnia Menzel and Kristen Chenoworth started the song, and soon enough the others joined in. I mean- that was the best moment of the evening.

I don’t when this happened, but there was a moment where on a map, they like showed various countries Wicked has played in. Each country was singing a bit of the show- that does help show just how massive the musical has become. I mean- 15 years- incredible. “Because I know you, I have been changed for good”- that is what is has done for me.

I Have Been Changed

October 30th, 2018- Wicked celebrated 15 years on Broadway.

Little did I know in 2006 at age of 12 when I stepped foot in the Gershwin Theater I would be changed for good. I don’t have vivid memories of that night. All I remember was that I saw Wicked with my mom, and that “Popular” was my favorite song. Despite the fact that I don’t remember much, the impact clearly shows. Wicked sparked my love for musicals- that was a big reason why it changed me for good. The picture below is from when I saw Wicked the 1st time.

Wicked Meg Mom NYC

The two storylines I focus on the most are the friendship and the love triangle. I don’t remember when I picked up on the love triangle- it was either the 1st or 2nd time I saw the show. At least I knew it was connected. In addition, Wicked was when I began to understand what it means to have an emotional connection- of all Wicked characters, the only characters I formed an emotional connection to are Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero. The character I formed the most emotional connection to belonged to Elphaba, a character I strongly relate to. Like Elphaba, I am smart, determined, unique, big-hearted, and believe in equality and staying true to myself: that is why she is my all-time favorite musical character. With Wicked- the negative emotions came to the forefront: that is when I began to understand sad in the first place.

Before Wicked, I didn’t understand complex stories or complex characters. I started to understand that concept because of Wicked. I think it most likely was the 2nd time when I realized Elphaba and Glinda were complex character. Before I didn’t realize, musicals were home to subplots so Wicked was the beginning of understanding subplots. For instance, the main plot is focused on the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, but one of Wicked’s subplots is the love triangle between the girls and Fiyero. Those two storylines are the ones I pay the most attention to. Only “For Good” and “I’m Not That Girl” are the only songs that stuck with me growing up that were home to sad- that’s it. So Wicked was crucial to the start of complex plots and the beginning of understanding the importance of sad and what it meant for a song to be sad in the first place.

What is my vision in musicals? A happy and comic musical with spectacle and dance with complexity and romance with positive and negative emotions in the score and a strong emotional connection. That was my vision before my first year of college. I had interpreted Wicked as a comedy- still do- part of that comes from I still kind of approach it from the point of view of a 12 year old. The picture below comes from the 3rd time- my date with my dad. Funny story: before the show began, the tallest guy in the auditorium sat in front of me, and my dad switched seats with me giving me the better view.

NC Charlotte UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_9cad

(Off Wicked for a bit)

Les Mis entered my life in 2013. With Wicked, I discovered sad- I thought the negative emotions could not do anything else. Les Mis proved everything wrong- I thought ALL musicals were HAPPY- Les Mis showed me that TRAGIC musicals exist and that HEARTBREAK is an emotion. To be honest, I do not think Les Mis would have entered my life or had the impact it had on my life if Wicked never entered my life.

Okay, just like Wicked, Les Mis is home to a love triangle. The song, “On My Own”, would help one of Wicked’s songs. It took from 2013-2014 for “On My Own” to go from just a sad to a heartbreaking song. “On My Own” is an unrequited love song. Soon enough, in the 2014-2015 year span, I realized that “I’m Not That Girl” is also an unrequited love. By realizing that, I was able to figure out “I’m Not That Girl” is not just a sad song like I once believed- it also helped that I choose to memorize the lyrics. Memorizing the lyrics made me find the parallel lyrics between “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl”.

The picture below comes from the 4th time. I went with Gardner Webb. Gardner Webb is one hr away from Charlotte. Student Activities took 50 of us- I was one of the first to sign up. I was the most vulnerable the 4th time. This is the Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero I can describe the best. For starters, the emotions were the deepest because I came in knowing “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking. 2nd) It was the first time “No Good Deed” had emotions in it. 3rd) Elphaba and Glinda were excellent: the best casts tend to have an excellent Elphaba and Glinda- it always make it better. 4) I was watching Wicked with a school that changed me for good. 5) I was determined to want to know why the plot twist in the love triangle happened- I didn’t  want to leave with that “why” question.

Funny story: after the show ended, we went to the bus, and the bus turned out to be broken down.

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With Wicked, the 2nd time was better than the 1st, the 3rd time was better than the 2nd and the 4th time was better the 3rd- it just keeps on better each and every time. I always discover something new. I get so lost in the friendship and love triangle that I keep on overlooking everything else.

So Wicked is my #1 favorite musical (but, what about Les Mis). Well, Les Mis is tied with Wicked. What makes Les Mis, the musical I am obsessed with, hard to push past Wicked: 1) I relate to Elphaba (I don’t exactly relate to any of the Les Mis characters) and 2) Wicked is home to spectacle and dance. So Wicked has some bonuses in it that Les Mis doesn’t.

Favorite songs in Wicked: “Popular”, “What is This Feeling”, “Dancing Through Life”, “I’m Not That Girl”, “One Short Day”, “Defying Gravity”, “As Long As Your’e Mine”, “For Good”. So “I have been changed for good”.

Are you a fan of Wicked? If so, why? What are your favorite storylines?

What Makes Wicked’s Love Triangle my Favorite

I have talked about this topic more times than I should on my blog: love triangle. There is one in particular I love more than the others. It has evolved a lot over the years. My favorite love triangle of musical theatre is found in Wicked. It is found between Elphaba-Fiyero-Glinda. Why is that.

1) It is the first one I emotionally bonded with. This sounds like a crazy reason. It is so true. I first discovered the concept of love triangles in Wicked. I don’t remember if I first was aware of the love triangle during the 1st time I saw Wicked or the 2nd time I saw Wicked. I do know it was connected to one of the two. I don’t know if “I’m Not That Girl” started as emotionless or if it began as just a sad song- did I realize it was a sad song my 1st time or the 2nd- once again know it was connected to those two times.

Spoilers ahead:

2) Complexity- It is more complex than the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera love triangle. In Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera- Marius and Cosette and Raoul and Christine are a couple while Phantom and Eponine are struggling with the heartbreak and pain of unrequited love- it stays that way.

What makes Wicked’s love triangle more complex? It begins like this: Fiyero and Glinda are a couple while Elphaba is dealing with the pain and heartbreak of unrequited love- you think that setup is endgame- you think that Elphaba will have unrequited love for the entire musical. Fast forward to the top of act II- Fiyero realizes something- he is in love with Elphaba- he decides to break up with Glinda leaving her dealing with the pain and heartbreak of unrequited love. So now, Elphaba and Fiyero are a couple and Glinda is dealing with the pain of unrequited love. So you have two girls getting hurt in one love triangle- it is not straight forward due to that. How do the two girls respond to the unrequited love? They decide not to steal Fiyero away- that to me shows their loyalty towards each other- they want to keep friendship alive. Why does this plot twist happen? Based upon the last time I saw Fiyero, I believe Fiyero had a crush on Elphaba without knowing, and did not realize it until act II- my actor, Ashley Parker Angel went ahead and in act I decided to have stronger chemistry with Elphaba and weaker chemistry with Glinda in act I foreshadowing the plot twist. Wicked’s love triangle is much more complex than the Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis group- all because of Fiyero’s role- he was the one who was responsible for the plot twist. Before my 4th time- I always left the theatre with “why”- I never grasped why the plot twist happened.

3) Elphaba- The fact that Elphaba is part of this love triangle is a HUGE reason why Wicked is home to my favorite love triangle. Elphaba is my all-time favorite musical theatre character. I see a lot of myself in her, and there are parts of her I don’t see myself in. So there is a bonus. That might be takes almost a bit far, but that is true.

4) Elphaba X Fiyero x Glinda- This is connected to #3. I made it known that in Wicked I am emotionally connected to only three characters. They happen to be Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero: I only am fully focused on the friendship and the love triangle each time I see Wicked. Characters play a huge part in my love of a romantic sub-plot. The entire storyline is on Elphaba and Glinda- their friendship. All three characters are complex- yes, you might think only Elphaba and Glinda are complex. But there is more to Fiyero than you think.  The complexity of this love triangle is not just because the unrequited love shifts- it is also because all three characters are complex. In high school, I remember knowing that the love triangle was fascinating and adding an incredible texture to Wicked, but I did not understand why.

The 4th time I saw Wicked- the love triangle went through some drastic changes- after my 3rd time- before my 4th time- I came to a realization- “I’m Not That Girl” is a heartbreaking song- figured that out due to “On My Own” and memorizing the lyrics. Due to paying even closer attention to Fiyero, I was able to have a clearer idea why the plot twist happened. Due to knowing “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking coming in, I had to look at that song fresh as if I never heard that song before- I knew I wanted to think more about what I was feeling- I had to pay even closer attention to the Lion Cub Scene- 1) to look for clues pointing to the plot twist and 2) to understand how heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl” is.