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?

Advertisements

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?

A Little Fall of Rain Analysis (Part 2)

MAJOR SPOILERS:

I have done an analysis on this song before. To understand this song is to understand Eponine. Before I describe what is going on in this song, I will talk about Eponine. Eponine is the eldest child of the Thenardiers. The Thenardiers have raised Eponine to be a thief and criminal. The family is living in extreme poverty. Eponine is all alone in life, and wasn’t shown kindness or love growing up from her family- so her life is quite dark and tragic.

There is only one good thing in her life- Marius. He is the only person who does treat her with kindness. That is why she loves him. However, he doesn’t know she loves him. He falls in love with Cosette. She will do anything for him. So she lives an empty life, but the light of her life is Marius so at least he is in her life.

Samantha Barks as Eponine performing "On My Own" in the movie
“On My Own” in the movie

Back to “A Little Fall of Rain”. In the stage show, a few scenes back, Marius has sent her away from the barricade in hopes to protect her from being hurt or worse killed. However Eponine does come back, which all leads to “A Little Fall of Rain”. She sacrifices her life to protect Marius from being killed. As a result, she was fatally wounded. Marius does not realize this at first, but soon does after she collapsed in his arms.

"A Little Fall of Rain": Marius and Eponine's duet from Les Mis. Eponine's death scene where Marius is with her until she dies. From the movie
“A Little Fall of Rain” scene from movie

Marius was devastated- he knew she was dying, but decided to stay with her. “A Little Fall of Rain” is a very touching, heartbreaking, and bittersweet song. By understanding how much Marius means to Eponine makes you understand why Eponine is happy in that scene- it does not make sense all because it is her death scene. It does show he truly did care, and how much compassion he was capable of. You feel heartbroken for both of them. In that scene, I am heartbroken that one of my favorite characters is dying, but at the same time feel joy for her knowing that Marius is there- she is comforted by him, and at the same time I feel heartbroken for Marius knowing how much pain he feels. It is hard watching that scene knowing that Marius is not going to just lose Eponine, but everyone else as well.

This song highlights the friendship quite well. It shows how Marius valued his friendship with her. Eponine was able to see that Marius did care about her. She knew in this scene that Marius was breaking, and this is when Eponine confessed that she loved him. After she died, he said to the students, “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”. He knew she lived a dark and horrible life- at least he was with at her at the time of her death. Having him end the song alone is devastating- thinking about the rest of the trauma he has to go through.

At one point, I thought a musical song could never happen during a death scene. This scene sure proves that wrong. What are your thoughts on this song?

Unpopular Opinions in Musicals (Part 2)

I know I did an unpopular opinion on musicals before, but I decided to do it again. 

Major and Minor Spoilers:

No Hamilton Interest- many know I am a musical theatre fanatic. However, I have no interest in seeing Hamilton. I am listened to some songs on Youtube, but I have felt “meh” on them. If that happens, I never want to see the musical. So no way I want to see Hamilton. Many people respond by saying “but your’e a musical fan. 

Christine and Raoul- I love Christine and Raoul as a couple. I do not want it any other way. They are meant for each other. Phantom is too dangerous for Christine- he acts in revenge, is a murderer, and is destructive. So I am always a Christine and Raoul couple fan. 

Les Mis love triangle is not silly- You saw that right. The Les Mis plot line is so carefully planned that if you get rid of one plot line, the entire storyline falls apart. I love all three characters- with Eponine being my favorite character in the love triangle. Marius now is almost a core favorite character. Marius and Cosette are meant to be together and Eponine is meant to have the unrequited love especially because Cosette represents hope and light. After all, I am fascinated by the switch that happens between Eponine and Cosette. 

Love Marius and Eponine as friends- Yes, their friendship is NOT in the book. I love how it is in the musical. Marius never mistreats Eponine, and she always sees the kindness in him. His kindness moves her to fall in love with him. He is the only person to treat her with kindness- it is all she has in life. People think he did not treat her fairly- I disagree- he did treat her fairly. I know it seems that way when he asked her to do those errands for him. Look, at the barricade- I believe he sent her away with the letter to keep her safe from being hurt or worse KILLED. When he discovered she is dying- he stayed with her and held and comforted her- that is COMPASSION. I love them as friends- he never treated her unfairly. Without Marius in her life, she would not have any light- she needed him in her life even if he did not love her. I loved how he was with her at the time of her death- that was one of the happiest moments of her life. 

Want Marius and Cosette together- I want them together. They are perfect for each other. These two bring hope to the tale. By the end, all they have left is each other. Marius lost Eponine, Enjolras and the rest of this friends and Cosette lost her adopted father. I love the two of them together- I know people say “he should have been with Eponine”- I disagree”. I always wanted him with Cosette- once you understand why a love triangle is set up the way it is- you love it more. 

Marius is not a jerk- I HATE it when people call him a jerk. I did explain a lot of why he is not a jerk in an earlier unpopular opinion. He is kind, sweet, awkward and compassionate. If he was a jerk, Eponine and Cosette  NEVER would have fallen in love with him. He ended up fighting at the barricade- that shows an incredible act of bravery. At the beginning of act II, I believe he sent Eponine away with that letter to protect her from the uprising. His best act of compassion was at the time of Eponine’s death- he stayed with her till the end. He truly cared about her- it does show- he was devastated in that scene. He is not a jerk one bit- he is fully aware of Eponine situation- right after she died, he said to the students- “her name was Eponine, her was life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”. If it wasn’t for Marius, Eponine’s life would not have a source of light period. 

Favorite Friendships in Musicals

You know how love shows up a LOT in musicals through ROMANCE? What about love that shows up through friendship? What are the memorable ones for me? Today, I thought I will talk about those.

Major and Minor Spoilers:

1. Elphaba and Glinda- seriously, what can this post be without Elphaba and Glinda? They are the first friendship I ever fell in love with in a musical. You never thought they would be best friends. They started out as basically enemies, than later became best friends. When they both fell in love with Fiyero, they did not let a boy get in the way of their friendship. They changed each others lives for the better. The fact that Wicked centers on their friendship is why Wicked is one of my top two favorite musicals. “For Good”, the most emotional song in the musical, really shows just how they changed each others lives for the better. It is a bittersweet moment for the two of them- it is the last moment they will see each other, but at least they can say what they meant to each other.

unknown

2. Enjolras and the Students- I just love their brotherly love for each other. You just can’t help but love them. Then you love their hope and passion for their cause. I just love how they take in Gavroche. I really love how they keep their passion strong- even at the end when they know they are going to die.

tumblr_mg1is1kwwr1qkk5w8o1_500

3. Newsies- I am going straight to the Newsies because the Newsies parallel Enjolras and the students. Just like the students, the Newsies have a cause they truly believe in and have hope in it plus have a brotherly love for it. The result is different: only difference in the Newsies is that they win. On a side note: I love the intimate bond found between Jack and Crutchie: I just love how they are best friends and that Jack is so protective of Crutchie. Jack is the one who cares more about his brothers than the strike, but it is Crutchie he cares about the most.

4. Rent Batch- This is another friendship I love. I love how they live how they do their best to live their lives in love and in the moment. They may not get along at times, but they do make up for it. They are this family.

maxresdefault

5. Lumiere and Cogsworth- I don’t what it is about these two, but there is something interesting about this friendship. I mean we are talking about a talking candle and a talking clock throughout most of Beauty and the Beast. I find something fascinating about this friendship- don’t you find something fascinating about this particular friendship?

images

6. Marius and Eponine- I know this is a unpopular opinion, but I do enjoy their friendship. Look, Eponine has a dark and tragic life: at least Marius is in her life. People believe Marius is a jerk to Eponine. I do not believe that at all. Marius and Eponine are seen as close friends in the musical- I know that doesn’t exist in the book- I like how that is changed in the musical. It makes the love triangle stronger and “A Little Fall of Rain” more emotional. Marius is kind to Eponine, and that is why she falls in love with him. I know it doesn’t seem that way when Marius asks Eponine to find Cosette for him and those other errands.

I believe at the barricade, Marius asks Eponine to deliver the letter to try to protect her from the uprising. He does not want her to get hurt or worse KILLED. That is why he was worried when she came back. That is why he asked, “why she came back”. When she collapsed in his arms, he realized she was shot, and that her wound was fatal. He was devastated. He could have left her in that moment, but he didn’t. He stayed with her- that shows he is kind and sweet. By being with her in that moment, it shows an incredible act of COMPASSION. He offers her comfort and peace while she was dying. It shows that he truly did care about her.

This line after she died shows that he knew how dark her life was- “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”.

Unknown

Top Ten Songs From Les Mis

Oh Boy, how can earth can I pick my top ten songs from Les Mis. That to me is like picking a needle in a haystack. Les Mis’ songs are just that brilliant, but will just do the best I can do. This musical is filled with emotional songs that touch you in such a way that even words alone can’t describe them.

Extremely Spoiler Heavy:

1. On My Own- this will always be in my top ten no matter what. It is just a very beautiful song with a lot of depth and strength filled with emotion. I have this very beautiful connection to Eponine. I love being able to experience just how deep and strong her love for Marius goes, which is perfectly expressed through this song. It even gives you a glimpse of her life outside of him through this song. This even has become my favorite solo in the entire solo. This song can be portrayed in several different ways: each way a different group of emotions can be shown.

2. A Little Fall of Rain- this song is filled with emotion in a very touching and bittersweet way, but super heartbreaking. This is after all Eponine’s death scene. Marius is devastated  in this duet, but he does the right thing by being there for her. It allows her to be happy for once in her life. It is packed full of emotions. It really shows just much Marius really cared for her. It shows just how compassionate he really is. Even though he is breaking, he stays brave for her. There is just something about this song that touches me in such a beautiful way. This just happens to be my favorite death scene in the entire musical. This is once again another song that can be portrayed in several different ways- for instance, Marius can show his grief and compassion and Eponine can express her emotions, pain, and dying in various ways.

Unknown

3. One Day More- this song just had to be there. Just the perfect act I one closer: do I have to say more?

4. Do You Hear the People Sing- another perfect ensemble song. It perfectly expresses the students’ passion for the uprising. You can feel their fire, their passion, and it makes you root for them even if you know what is to happen in the end.

5. Epilogue- This includes both a death and a reprise of Do You the Hear the People Sing making it show both the tragedy and the spirituality of the show. Valjean is dying, but like with most characters, he doesn’t die alone. Cosette and Marius arrive so he gets to die with Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side. So during that death, you are feeling very heartbroken, but once that reprise happens, you start feeling this sense of hope. I feel like this version of Do You Hear the People represents heaven. This shows how Les Mis perfectly mixes tragedy with elements of spirituality. Perfect ending to such a heartbreaking musical.

6. Empty Chairs At Empty Tables- of all the characters who don’t die, Marius is my favorite character. That is part of why this song is in my top ten. It shows all the trauma Marius faced at the barricade. He had to witness the death of Eponine and later all of his friends got killed. This song is extremely devastating: I even think it is even more devastating than On My Own. It reminds you of everything that happened at the barricade.

7. Drink With Me- What I love about this song is the intimate feeling found between all the students. It doesn’t seem that sad the first time you watch Les Mis. But once you know the fate of the uprising, it gets heartbreaking. This is when you really see how much they really care about each other. When you know this is really the last moment they will be with each other, it really hurts. You are faced with the reality that all of the students, but Marius, will die if you know what is going to happen.

Unknown

8. Bring Him Home- even this song does the same thing that Drink With Me does. Once you know what is going to happen, it affects this song. Valjean is singing this song hoping Marius will survive. It is just a very beautiful song that is a prayer and shows the importance of God in the musical. It reminds me of the reality that Marius will be the only one to make it out alive. That really hurts.

9. I Dreamed a Dream- Yes, I was going to include this song. Once again; another heartbreaking song. It is hard listening to this song; it hurts me much more in the movie than the stage show due to placement. It shows how Fantine got caught up in the situation she is in. Sad reality she has to put up with.

10. A Heart Full of Love- this song has a incredible brilliance behind it. It is mostly this romantic duet between Marius and Cosette so I am literally feeling so happy for the two of them. But just out of nowhere, Eponine starts singing. Than I have no idea what on earth to feel: I am still feeling happy for Marius and Cosette but then I am feeling heartbroken for Eponine- it becomes this jumble-load of emotions being thrown at me.

 

Literally about all the songs I put are heartbreaking songs. That is the reality that is Les Mis. About every single song is a heartbreaking song; there is only about two or so songs that give you a breather. One of the unique things about the Les Mis songs is that are just multiple ways to portray the songs.

I couldn’t literally pick just my top ten; just picked ten for now; but some will always be there no matter what. One of the Look Downs, Red and Black and some others could have been on this list. It is nearly impossible to pick my top ten Les Mis songs.

Contribution Understudies Put to Theatre

I talked about this before, but I feel like understudies keep on being under appreciated. Without them, so many shows would be cancelled. You have to know how to truly respect them and what they are able to bring to their roles. From the years 2014-2017, I have had a lot of understudies and throughout those years, I have truly learned to really respect them. Without them, you know how much trouble theatre would be in? They would be in a lot. Below I will put a list of mine and if I remember anything about them, I will talk about them.

Possible Spoilers:

1. Grace Morgan (Christine)- I don’t fully remember her when I saw Phantom of the Opera. However, I remember getting choked up by this cast. I remember being drawn to Christine so I bet she was really good as Christine.10354149_10203791645890941_4955988638206113711_n

2. Lisa Karlin (Leading Player)- This was my first time seeing Pippin. She was the true standout in this production. Everything I know about the Leading Player was based off of her portrayal. She was able to hide her evilness around Pippin to make it seem like she was someone he can trust and to do that she was very playful around him. She was quite crafty and in “Magic to Do”, I detected a small hint of evil, and then in “Glory”, she was much more dark and evil. Everything I know about this character is Lisa Karlin. Just by one actress, I know so much about one actress: that is impressive.

3. Sam Lips- due to being so intrigued by Lisa Karlin, I don’t remember a clue about Sam.

11350834_10205766151186542_7374983499699817482_n

4. Adam Bayjou- I literally was in the West End, and I was thinking “wait a minute, I am in the West End about to live my dream and I have a understudy for Jean Valjean”. I was a little bit nervous. Here is how I can say how brilliant he was: I forgot I was watching an understudy: think about that: if you forgot you watched an understudy, that is real talent right there. Below is a picture of me with Adam at Stage Door.

IMG_0449

5. Mary Kate Morrissey- When I have an understudy for Elphaba, it can be kind of scary for me because Elphaba is my all-time favorite musical character. She was actually the standby for Elphaba. Mary Kate embodied everything about Elphaba while bringing something new to the character. She made me appreciate a song I always hated, a song that always seemed emotionless to me: “No Good Deed”. She changed her voice to fit the character: act I: her voice was so much more innocent, but in act II, she changed it to be mature.

IMG_0881

6. Kaitlyn Frank- I did basically forget about her version of Katherine Plumber. I got so into Joey Barreiro as Jack that I did forget about the other acting. I also got mind-blown with the talent into the dancing. However, I recently saw my original Newsies review and it did say she had incredible chemistry with Joey Barreiro, who played Jack Kelly.

13958231_10210190759304777_1214951112279127057_o

7. Talia Simone Robinson- this was a bit of a coincidence. How is it that my 2nd professional cast of Les Mis did I end up with an understudy? I thought that was the craziest thing, but this time instead of Jean Valjean, my understudy was Eponine. Talia wasn’t the strongest actor in the love triangle: it was Marius instead. However Talia had extremely strong moments as Eponine. She did not start out that strong as Eponine, but she eventually was able to embody the role. She was flirty and playful around Marius. As I recall, I think I heard some tears at the end of “On My Own” and during that song, I got some goosebumps. Than during “A Little Fall of Rain”, each time she tried to move, she barely could showing that she was weak and just getting weaker indicting that she was dying.

IMG_1511

So RESPECT the understudies. They have much more talent than you realize. They are able to embody the roles more than you think. Look at all of these understudies. When I saw Lisa, I didn’t even know who the Leading Player was, and Lisa was able to get me so intrigued by that character and usually the first time I discover the antagonist, that usually that doesn’t happen. Then at Mary Kate, she made me appreciate a song I always hated for once. I was able to respect what Talia was able to bring to Eponine even though she didn’t start out that strong; she eventually was able to embody the role. It is not easy to be an understudy: they have to work harder than anybody. You have to be aware how many productions would be cancelled if they didn’t exist. Just appreciate them much more.