What I Learned from Tragedy

Well, it was back in high school when I first discovered the genre of tragedy. I treated the genre very poorly. Told myself I will NEVER love a tragedy (little did I know what would happen in my first year of college. Throughout all the years I was at Fletcher (referring to high school)- stayed close minded to that genre. Each time one was read, I already did not like any of them.

Then out of the blue in December 2012, I experienced Les Mis for the first time. My family was taking my sister and I to see the film. I actually was unsure coming in, but the only reason why I decided to go is because I knew the song, “I Dreamed a Dram”. I wasn’t even told what genre the musical was so that way I would even go. If I had known Les Mis was a tragedy, that first time never would have happened.

Well it was after Fantine’s death when I realized Les Mis was a tragedy. I was extremely shocked and refused. Never did a tragedy exist in musicals before: all I had seen previously were happy musicals. Nothing made sense at all. I didn’t even know how to respond or feel or react. So that experience was not the best time I even had. Even though I thought Les Mis was TOO DEPRESSING, I somehow came out with “Do You Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head. Then a day or a few weeks later, I don’t know why I did that, but I started researching the musical myself.

March 2013- I don’t know why I decided to watch the film again. That time around, I got so much more out of Les Mis. It helped a lot knowing ahead of time that I was seeing a tragedy. I was able to realize there was something special about Les Mis, and at the same time, I felt uplifted at the end. That made no sense at all- I originally thought all tragedies were pure sad. But after the 2nd chance, the rest is history.

Halton Theater

By Summer of 2013, I was obsessed with Les Mis. I had dug quite deep into the musical trying to figure out why I felt uplifted. I soon found the answer: the themes of hope, love, forgiveness, compassion, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption were why. That same year, the community college I attended put on a phenomenal production of that musical. I was there three times: first with family on Nov. 15, and an usher the 17th and 24th. That production truly was the motor for wanting to see Les Mis in the West End.

Well, July 30th, 2015 was when I saw the West End production. I already was going to be in England that year for a Bristol Pilgrimage, which would start in London. My family went up two days early to get used to the time change and get more out of London. I was seeing Les Mis with my mom, and our seats were the 9th row back from the stage. It was surreal at first- from seeing the Queen’s Theater to buying souvenirs to noticing I had an understudy for Valjean to seeing the set to seeing how close I was- nothing felt real. Then after I heard the first notes of the orchestra, I knew this was no dream, but a dream becoming reality. Those first notes also told me it was going to be more than expected, and they were right.

What do you know: Nov. 5th, 2017 was my fifth time seeing the stage show. This time I was Gardner Webb University. Once again had a understudy (this time for Eponine). I was seeing it in Greenville at the gorgeous Peace Center. I came in fresh meaning I wasn’t go to compare the cast to my West End. Making that decision made me see the US Tour cast for what they were, and was able to respect and appreciate my understudy. It actually lived up to the West End cast in their own way. After all, this was the 25th anniversary production: it felt like it had more Victor Hugo in it, and it truly showed the vastness of Paris. There were some scenes I loved a lot more in this particular production: for example, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”.

Peace Center

What do you know again: that every other year pattern continued. This time, I experienced the US Tour with Blumenthal. That was Nov. 3rd, 2019, and was another date with my mom. 2019 had five of the exact same actors/actresses playing the same role as 2017- the Javert (Javert), Cosette (Jillian Butler), Marius (Joshua Grosso), Enjolras (Matt Shingledecker), and Madame Thenardier (Allison). Another thing happened again: another understudy (for Valjean).

Just like 2017, Joshua Grosso and Matt Shingledecker were still standouts. I can easily say why Joshua was a standout, but not for Enjolras. As a matter of fact, Joshua has become my favorite Marius- part comes from his chemistry with Cosette, part came from an added personality trait (awkwardness), and part from how he interacted with Eponine. Due to that, I was able to explore Marius and Cosette a bit further, but at the same time not ignoring Eponine. That new personality trait made Marius a much more charming character- due to that, Marius is almost a core favorite character.

Ovens Auditorium

So in a short period of time- four theaters, four casts, and in total six times. The stage show might only have four casts, but I have seven casts in total: I also have seen the film, 25th concert, and the staged concert of 2019 (which I saw in cinemas). I think it is crazy how for some characters, I only have five actors, some I have six, and for some seven. 2019 was filled with a number of repeats—part of which were from my West End cast.

Les Mis truly taught me a lot about the genre of tragedy. What I once believed about tragedies and what I knew about musicals were challenged. I never knew a tragedy is not just a tragedy. Due to Les Mis’ spiritual side, it makes it such a inspiring and uplifting. Due to the nature of the book, it makes perfect sense why the musical is sung-through. Through several of the songs, there is some kind of spiritual nature happening. Compassion is shown at death scenes, most of the characters have hope, etc……I believed that death scenes would be both unmemorable and that song couldn’t happen at those moments. I thought I knew the full capability of musical emotions, but Les Mis truly showed me a different side to emotions: due to heartbreak entering the picture, it strengthened them and made them more powerful. I think I had a hard time with tragedies at first because the word can through you off guard, and it seems as if I didn’t know “catharsis”- that is why tragedies are more and make you have a positive experience and not the other way around.

Les Mis is the reason why I am passionate about musicals. I actually am able to pick up on negative emotions faster in other musicals. It still is odd going back to Fletcher remembering how I once felt about the genre. Les Mis proved me wrong in more ways then none.

Negative Emotions- What is the Point

The musical theatre world is known to be comical and funny, but also emotional. True, there are a LOT of happy musicals, but there are tragic ones (which I learned the hard way). In middle school, through Wicked, I was able to discover sad- as in it came to the forefront meaning it became a core emotion. I defiantly knew it was common by just ONE musical. So I was able to understand WHY we needed sad in musicals- it was for believability and for a character to become complex; there were some things that were missing that I didn’t realize. At least I understood something- the basic point of sad, and that it existed and was core.

Then, Les Mis entered. I had told myself TRAGEDIES did not exist in musicals. I had told myself emotion couldn’t push past sad- meaning I did not know it could NOT get more devastating then it already was. That basically means I was blind to HEARTBREAK. I had told myself DEATH was unmemorable and that there was no way a song could exist in a death scene. Well, you got all of those disproven in just ONE musical. I had to learn this the hard way. The first time I watched the film- I was shocked and confused, and believe it or not called Les Mis TOO DEPRESSING and did not know if I liked it. I had told myself in high school, I would NEVER love a tragedy- that might be part of why I was having a hard time with Les Mis in the beginning. YES, that was the beginning of my Les Mis journey. December 2012.

March 2013 (I think)- I don’t know why, but I told myself to watch that Les Mis film a 2nd time. This time, by knowing Les Mis was tragic, I was able to calm down. I began to notice something- there was something about the musical that makes it more than tragic. I noticed it strongly at the end- I felt uplifted, but I wanted to know why. I went from calling it too depressing to calling it inspiring and uplifting.

So, the core emotions of sad and heartbreak are meant to be in musicals. They actually are in more musicals then non-musical fans think: Wicked, Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, South Pacific, Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, West Side Story, Rent and Les Mis- I intentionally ended with the tragic musicals to show that even happy musicals have sad and tragic moments. Why do you think there has to be sad and heartbreaking moments in musicals?

Well, music is an universal language. Sad and heartbreak are a part of life- those two lead to other emotions. In the musical world- sad and heartbreak are also connected to love. The strongest of musicals have heartbreak in them. Those make the musicals feel more real and complex. If sad and heartbreak did not exist- there would not be conflict in musicals at all. Conflict is the cause of heartbreaking, sad, and tragic events. Think about the love triangles and the tragic love stories- there would have to be heartbreak, loneliness, anger and pain or else they would become dry and wouldn’t be needed. The love triangles I love the most are complex, strong, and add texture to those musicals: Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, and Wicked automatically come to mind.

How would you feel if sad and heartbreak did NOT exist in musicals?

Not Expecting Someone to Enter your Life

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. Yes, it will be connected to another Les Mis character. This time instead of Jean Valjean, our protagonist, it will be Eponine, who is one of the lead characters.

I do not think Eponine was expecting someone like Marius to enter her life. Think about it: she was raised by unloving, abusive, neglectful, and criminal parents. She had a better life as a child- than after Jean Valjean rescued Cosette, her life started to become even worse. Her parents did not care about her or love her. They were only being cruel and abusive towards her and using her for their advantage. She was raised as a thief and criminal- being watchdog for the law. She was not expecting anyone to show kindness or compassion towards her.

MAJOR SPOILERS:

Than Marius entered her life. He ended up showing her kindness. She had never come across someone like him before. He was not treating her poorly. The kindness he was showing her led her to fall in love with him. Yes, the love was unrequited. However, they became close friends. He was the only light and goodness in her life. He was the only good thing in her life. Even when he fell in love with Cosette, he still was an important part of Eponine’s life. The love she had for Marius was deep and strong- Eponine would do anything for Marius. You realize just how strong it was during “On My Own”. She was the reason why Marius and Cosette got together, why her father was not able to rob Valjean’s house, and she would go as far as sacrificing her life for him at the barricade. Literally, at the barricade, Eponine gave her life for Marius.

Marius was devastated when he found that Eponine was dying. However, he did not leave her side. This does show just how compassionate Marius is. This was actually Eponine’s happiest moment of her life: the fact that she ended up dying in Marius’ arms. You have to understand Eponine to fully understand the bittersweet nature of “A Little Fall of Rain”. So Marius is quite important to Eponine’s life.

What do I love about Eponine

Eponine is the third and final wing of the love triangle in Les Mis.

Eponine: Major Spoilers

Part of what makes you love a character connects to their backstory. Eponine and Cosette are mirrors of each other. Eponine is one of the Thenardier children. During “Castle on a Cloud”, you discover that The Thenardiers are abusive and during “Master of the House”, you realize that they are in fact pickpockets. So during those two moments, you begin to get a general idea of the environment that Eponine is going to be growing up in. When she is a child, you think she is loved by her family. She also does mistreat Cosette due to following her parent’s lead. Everything changes for Eponine once Valjean rescues Cosette. The Thenardiers begin treating Eponine in the same way they treated Cosette.

Growing up, Eponine was raised to be a thief and criminal. She was forced to be a part of her father’s schemes. She ended up living in extreme poverty. She ended up this abused, neglected, and unloved teenager. She lives a dark and tragic life. She was not shown kindness by anyone except for Marius. She fell in love with Marius because of the kindness he showed her. Where does my love for Eponine fit into any of this?

My love for Eponine comes from her bravery and strength. It also comes from how she responds to her unrequited love. It is a deep and strong love. She will do anything for Marius no matter what. She needed him in her life, or else there wouldn’t be any kind of light in her life. There is a reason why she helped find Cosette for him; why she stood up to her father; why she went to the barricade; and why she sacrificed her life for him;- it all had to do with her love for him. People might see her love for Marius a weakness, but in reality it is her greatest strength. “On My Own” shows just how strong and deep her love for Marius is and that she accepts that Marius will never be hers. Even though she does die in the end, at least Marius was there.

Eponine (Samantha Barks)- "On My Own" from the Les Mis Film
Eponine

What does it mean to be an Emotional Wreck in a Musical?

Yesterday, I watched the 25th anniversary concert film of Les Mis, and I was still an emotional wreck. That wasn’t my first time watching it- I have watched it “I believe over 25 times”. I own that film and the actual movie musical. What does it actually mean to be an emotional wreck watching a musical?

You know those musicals that hit you like a pile of bricks. The phrase “a pile of bricks” means you can’t help but tear up or feel absolutely heartbroken. You can’t help it- and each time you see those musicals, you feel the same way. You are devastated and heartbroken at the same songs and you can’t help but be in tears. That is what I mean by being an emotional wreck. I never have been an emotional wreck until a certain musical entered my life.

In the beginning, I wasn’t an emotional wreck with Les Mis. It was a response I built up over time. Some songs that were heartbreakers were only sad in the beginning- they took a year or so till I realized the truth. “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Come to Me”, “On My Own”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, “Drink With Me”, “Bring Him Home”, and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” are songs I am crying during. I have listened to those songs “who knows how many times” and still hit like a pile of bricks. Les Mis makes me the biggest emotional wreck, but it isn’t the only emotional wreck musical that entered my life. I don’t think I will ever be immune to Les Mis.

The closest emotional wreck musical to Les Mis is Rent. Like Les Mis, Rent is meaningful. Rent entered my life extremely close to Les Mis. Songs like “Will I?”, “Your Eyes”, “Life Support”, “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)”, and “Without You” give a similar feel that the Les Mis songs give you. There are other songs that can drive me to tears- but they only have that capability if the musical is seen live- “One Song Glory” and “Rent” are two of two those songs. In 2017 when I saw Rent in person- I was almost as emotional as I usually am in Les Mis.

Miss Saigon was the next level down from Rent. I am emotional in more songs in both Rent and Les Mis. I saw Miss Saigon this year, and like expected, I was in tears or almost in tears during some of the numbers. The song I remember being in tears the most was during “Sun and Moon”- the actor and actress playing Chris and Kim were so good that I did not want their relationship to end even though I knew it had to be.

It seems like the emotional wreck musicals exist in tragic musicals or musicals that are almost in that world. Even Phantom of the Opera has that capability. When I saw it back in 2014, I was choked up meaning I was almost in tears.

There are other songs that reduce me to tears- but not found in musicals that make me an emotional wreck. To make me an emotional wreck, it has to found in enough songs.

My favorite Friendship and Love Triangle in Musical Theatre

There are various types of relationships in musicals. It is mistaken that the main type of relationship is romance- but that is not TRUE. Something equally as strong as romance is friendship. In terms of romance- it can either exist in the form of a couple or the form of a love triangle. What is my favorite friendship and love triangle?

Major Spoilers

Coincidently, my FAVORITE friendship and love triangle is found in the same musical. Both of them are also complex. Which musical am I talking about. My favorite friendship and love triangle are BOTH in Wicked. Wicked’s storyline revolves around a powerful, strong, and beautiful friendship. Let me talk about both of them down below.

Glinda x Fiyero x Elphaba

The love triangle in Wicked revolves around Glinda, Fiyero, and Elphaba. It is not an easy one to understand. It does make you ask a lot of questions. In the beginning, Glinda and Fiyero are a couple leaving Elphaba with unrequited love- later Fiyero leaves Glinda for Elphaba. So, this love triangle has an unrequited love shift. It isn’t straightforward. You want to understand why the plot twist happens.

When you first meet Fiyero, he is a jerk. In that moment, you can tell that Elphaba can’t stand him. You don’t think that she will fall in love with him. It is that moment where it is Glinda and Fiyero. You are not expecting a love triangle to happen. Then in class, when Elphaba sees a scared lion cub in a cage, out of anger, she accidentally casts a spell on the class- but for whatever reason it didn’t affect Fiyero.

The Lion Cub Scene- now, this moment is essential to understanding the plot twist in the love triangle. Fiyero and Elphaba have ran away to help free the lion cub, and if you pay close attention, there are clues- look at the words they are saying and how they they are interacting with each other. It actually looks as if Fiyero does have a crush on Elphaba, but deep down doesn’t seem fully aware of it, and even Elphaba can’t pick up on the crush Fiyero has for her. When Fiyero finally asks, why the spell didn’t affect him, it is that moment when she realizes that she is falling in love with him. In this entire scene- you can tell that he has softened up. “I’m Not That Girl” is actually the first song of the love triangle. Even after this scene, Fiyero can’t stop thinking of this moment- once again another clue.

Another thing I noticed is that Fiyero does have stronger chemistry with Elphaba and a weaker chemistry with Glinda. He defiantly has a crush on Elphaba during his time at Shiz. I really don’t think he is fully aware of it. There still is always something to pick up on- when it comes to Fiyero. Elphaba makes the decision to not pursue Fiyero. In act II, it took hearing rumors spread about Elphaba for Fiyero to realize his true feelings for her. Now, Glinda has unrequited love for Elphaba- that is why there is reprise of “I’m Not That Girl”. She made the same decision Elphaba made- to not steal him away. Elphaba and Fiyero are a more strong and mature couple- they do protect each other- “As Long as Your’e Mine” does show how mature their love for each other. It is their actions after that shows a lot more- Fiyero protected Elphaba from being arrested and Elphaba tried spell after spell after spell to protect Fiyero from getting hurt.

That love triangle makes you question a lot of things. Why the plot twist? Did Fiyero previously have a crush for Elphaba? If so, was he aware of it, or not? Etc. There is a lot to be explored- Fiyero throws a huge curveball into the equation. That is part of what makes him complex- his role in the love triangle. Not only does the love triangle make you question things, I believe it develops in the same way the characters do. It doesn’t fully mature until the characters do- is it me or do others see that way? Wicked’s love triangle is the first one I emotionally bonded with.

Elphaba x Glinda

My favorite friendship is found between Elphaba and Glinda. Both of them are strong, powerful, and complex young women. Wicked is mostly about their friendship- it is beautifully expressed in the song, “For Good”.

When you first meet them, they are extremely reluctant roommates. They hate each other. You do not think they will bond or even become friends. It took a long time till they even became friends. It wasn’t until a school dance that they bonded- they did something for each other there. Elphaba got Glinda into the sorcery program. What the most beautiful thing was that Glinda made Elphaba’s silly dance into something beautiful and magical. For the first time, Elphaba felt accepted. They finally became friends when they went back to their dorm room that night.

Back to the love triangle. Yes, they both loved Fiyero- at some point, they did have unrequited love for him. They still wouldn’t let a boy get in the way of their friendship. There is a reason why Elphaba didn’t pursue Fiyero when Glinda was in relationship with him. She didn’t want to break up her friendship with Glinda. Glinda, when she later had unrequited love for Fiyero, didn’t steal him away from her best friend. That was how they both responded to their unrequited love. I think this love triangle helped strengthen their friendship.

“For Good”- this song explains everything. It is about how much they mean to each other and how they have changed each others lives for the better. It is a very emotional song and it is bittersweet. It is the last time they will ever see each other. It is the most emotional song in the musical. Elphaba had one friend, and Glinda had so many friends, but only one truly mattered. They made each other better people.

All Love Triangles

Major Spoilers:

Jud x Laurey x Curly- I believe this is one of the weak love triangles. It is only easy to tell that Laurey and Curly are in it. So Oklahoma does make it difficult to know there is even a love triangle in the main romance to begin with.

Ali Hakim x Ado Annie x Will Parker – Oklahoma has a 2nd love triangle, which is not as serious as the main one, but is still weak. Just like the first one, you can only pick up on Ado Annie and Will being in it.

Gaston x Belle x Beast- Now, things are much stronger. I never thought about Beauty and the Beast having a love triangle. I just thought it was only a romance between Belle and Beast.

Ellen x Chris x Kim- Now, we defiantly know there is a love triangle. When I first saw Miss Saigon, which was in Feb., I didn’t want Ellen in the picture. I didn’t want Kim and Chris’s relationship to become tragic- it all had to do with my actor and actress. At the end of the musical, I could tell that Chris always loved Kim- even more than Ellen. His reaction to Kim’s death told me that- that cry was heartbreaking.

Phantom x Christine x Raoul- I am one of those Christine and Raoul fans. I do feel for all three of the characters. However, I do not like how Phantom responds to his unrequited love- he does not accept or cope with it. Christine and Raoul are meant to be with other.

Eponine x Marius x Cosette- I also love this love triangle. I love Marius and Cosette. They are so adorable together and help bring hope to the tragedy. Cosette represents hope and light- so it makes sense why she ends up with Marius. These two are my favorite survivors= in particular Marius. Cosette and Eponine are mirrors= Cosette goes from bad to good and Eponine goes from good to bad.

Eponine is my favorite character in the love triangle. I love her strength, bravery, and loyalty to Marius. She may be a Thenardier, but she still has some kind of goodness inside of her. She risks her life several times all because of the deep and strong love for Marius. It may be unrequited, but he is all she has. He is the only person who has shown her kindness. He is the only good thing in her life. Even though she dies at the end, I love how Marius is there.

Look, some people will say the love triangle is silly, some people say Marius should have ended up with Eponine, and some say that Marius is a jerk- I disagree on all of that. Les Mis is so carefully planned out that if you get rid of ONE thing, the entire story falls apart. That is why it is not silly and that is why Marius needed to end up with Cosette. Marius is not a jerk- I have seen him as a brave, compassionate, sweet, kind, and awkward young man. If he wasn’t brave, he wouldn’t have been a revolutionary and gone to fight at the barricade. If he wasn’t kind, Eponine NEVER would have fallen in love with him. If he wasn’t compassionate, he never would have made the decision to stay with Eponine during her death scene=yes, he was devastated, but he stayed with her- that is compassion.

Glinda x Fiyero x Elphaba- Why do you think I put them last? They are my favorite love triangle. This love triangle is the one I emotionally bonded with first, and where I first discovered the concept. It also is the most complex one I discovered. All three characters are complex- yes, all three of complex even though some would say only Glinda and Elphaba are complex. Fiyero is complex as well- his development and his role in the love triangle are why he is a complex character. Unrequited love: well, both Elphaba and Glinda end up with in this love triangle, and they respond by not stealing him away from their best friend. So, the love triangle shows they will not let a boy get in the way of their friendship.

What are other musical theatre love triangles you can think of?