Sympathy and Empathy in Musicals

The word sympathy reminds me of musicals. A musical has the advantage of song to make you feel for the characters. They want you to feel empathy for the characters, but sometimes all you can feel sympathy for them especially if you are feeling for a character you don’t like.

The emotions the actors are played to the audience makes the audience feel what the character is feeling. In my eyes, I feel like the characters personally know everyone in the audience and are comfortable with sharing their emotions to the audience even if they are not willing to share it to the other characters.

Some musical emotions are hard to feel and are tough. You don’t want the characters to go through what they are going through at times, but you still learn to care about them and they end up living in you. The negative emotions are the best example of feeling sympathy and eventually empathy for them. I don’t mind feeling the negative emotions especially if I fall in love with the sad and heartbreaking songs and fall in love with the character and plot because you feel like you are ingrained into the plot and when that happens, you end up having a positive experience.

What makes the songs make you feel for the characters? Well, for starters, songs are usually more powerful than words alone. Sometimes a musical’s use of crescendos makes a song feel strong and powerful, which is a very unique thing to see. The crescendo makes you see just how strong a character is and that can make you feel the emotions the song is trying to convey. There are key changes when it comes to a crescendo. Songs like “On My Own”, “One Day More”, “Defying Gravity” among others have a use of crescendos and crescendos help with emotions a lot. It lifts the song and makes a song even more powerful.

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I feel like the melody shows the nature of the emotions. A slow and quiet song is how you end up feeling love and the sad or heartbreaking songs fit under that category as well. “I’m Not That Girl” is an unrequited love song, but because the melody stays consistent throughout, it  shows that Elphaba’s love for Fiyero is not that strong at that point in the story. But with the case of “On My Own”, which is another unrequited love song, the melody which has this whole introduction shows just dark and empty Eponine’s life is and when that sudden key changes after “all I see is him and me forever and forever”,  the melody  slowly builds up over time sells how just strong and deep Eponine’s love for Marius is. So melody does play a part in the emotion of the song. The exciting songs have the pattern of starting and suddenly speeds up and that gives you the wow factor that an exciting is supposed to have.

What is your opinion about feeling sympathy and empathy in musicals? Do you like the use of crescendos in musicals? Why you think songs bring out the emotions in the characters better than words alone?

Sympathy

Crescendo

Dilemmas of Jean Valjean

Possible Spoilers:

In Les Mis, the main character, Jean Valjean, has to face many difficult discussions and he always does the right thing. The biggest dilemma he has to face is during the “who am I” scene. He just learned through Javert that they have captured “Valjean” and he is about to face the court and possibly be sent to prison. Valjean does not know what to do because he knows that someone falsely accused of being him could go to jail even though the man is innocent. He is thinking “do I save this man or do I not to help save my factory workers”. If he saves the man through showing everyone he is the real Valjean, then his position as owner of the factory and mayor of the town would be at risk. But if he doesn’t reveal himself, he will have the sense of freedom he wants.

Valjean finally decided what to do. He actually faced a difficult decision, but in the end he did the right thing. He actually decided to go to court and reveal that he is in fact the “real” Valjean”. He just could not see an innocent man go to Jail and Valjean knows through experience that being in prison is one of the worst things ever because you are faced to lots of hard labor. He also knows that being a prisoner can harden you and make you someone you are not. He actually showed empathy for the innocent man, but this act made Javert closer on recapturing Valjean, which he was obsessed through since Valjean broke parole.

Despite turning himself into the police, Valjean continued to fulfill his promise to the dying Fantine. After this act, he went back to the hospital to comfort Fantine during her final moments. During those moments, he promised Fantine that he will raise Cosette as his own. But due to the incident in the courtroom, Javert arrived at the hospital ready to arrest Valjean. They went through a long confrontation and Valjean was able to escape and rescue the broken Cosette from the abusive Thenardiers’.

There are other dilemmas that Valjean face, but the one in the courtroom was the hardest one to face. Another one was when Valjean became aware that Marius, Cosette’s lover, is at the barricades and has a possibility that he will die. He does not want to lose Cosette forever, but he doesn’t want Marius to die either. But ultimately he decides to go to the barricades and save Marius from possible death. Valjean loves so Cosette so much that he is willing to sacrifice his happiness to give Cosette best possible life.

Valjean is a very complex character with this incredible journey. He goes on a strong spiritual journey to redemption. This journey starts out with Valjean as a harsh, angry, and hateful man. Valjean  gets redeemed very early on by the bishop, who saved his soul for God. The bishop was the only one who would show him compassion, forgiveness, and hospitality when he was released from prison . The bishop gave him a room and something to eat, but out of desperation, Valjean woke up in the middle of the night and stole the bishop’s silver. But the bishop was able to forgive Valjean and gave him two candlesticks, which became an important reminder to Valjean. They reminded him of the kindness the bishop gave him and helps him became a saint-like man. He shows compassion towards the poor and even to Fantine and Cosette. He saved both of them from a life of poverty. He saved Fantine by intervening and insisted that she is not to be arrested but instead sent to a hospital. Because Valjean learned that she had a child, Valjean promised to Fantine that he will raise Cosette as his own. He was shocked to discover that Cosette was very broken and never felt loved. Valjean and Cosette have an interesting relationship because they both were broken before they found each other. Eventually by the end of the musical, Valjean become into almost like a saint-like man.

Dilemma

Conundrum

Benefits of Musical Theatre

Benefits of Musical Theatre

How is musical theatre beneficial? I never thought about why musical theatre has been such an important part of my life. Growing up, I know that seeing a musical is very special. I was fully aware that they have a strong emotional connection to them. But I never thought about why they have their benefits.

Now that I am older, I have put more thought into that question. I believe that theatre teaches empathy. Musicals teach empathy because they are filled with so many emotions. There are some things I have never gone through that are a part of musical theatre such as unrequited love. I have never personally felt unrequited love but I have felt it due to characters like Elphaba, Glinda, Phantom, and Eponine. These characters either go through that heartbreak either for a short period of time or throughout their entire life. Seeing how they respond to that kind of heartbreak shows how far people will go for love.

Empathy is hard to learn, but musicals can teach you that. Through the different journeys musical characters have gone, I can develop a sense of empathy. Musicals have an unique way of emotionally connecting you to the story and you feel what the characters are feeling, which is why you can develop an empathy for them.

They have allowed me to understand emotions in a safe environment. The emotions are all over the place, but when combined, they take you through the whole scale of emotions. Excitement, joy, love, sad, and heartbreak are the main emotions and the other emotions sprout from them. When you emotionally connect to a musical and you are loving it, than joy will always be with you.

When you care about what happens to the characters, you want to feel their emotions and go on the journey with them. Death is one of the main components of musicals and there are songs about them. That is a hard concept to get used to, but I learned to love those scenes. Sad is that kind of emotion that cannot sit alone and the only way to adjust to that emotion is to have it increase bit by bit. That emotion needs some sort of support to get used to it and that support tends to be a positive emotion.

Musicals teach you about history because they can led you to researching information about the time period. I Learned a lot about 19th century France because I was interested in learning more about “Les Mis” and “Phantom of the Opera”. Musicals show how certain themes of the past are still relevant today. Those are themes such as injustice, racism, death, unrequited love, humanity, friendship, and family. I know there is more to learn from musicals. Learning about society connects to history as well. They introduced me to parts about society that I never knew existed such as prostitution and that is a difficult topic to have in musicals. Watching “Lovely Ladies” makes me feel uncomfortable, but I learned to tolerate it because I understand why it is in the show. Les Mis shows how society treats criminals, which is usually unfair because they are treated poorly, which can change who a person really is.