As a ton of people know, Les Mis is quite a meaningful musical. It is quite different from a lot of other musicals. It went against the musicals I grew up with. Here are some things it disproved:
All musicals are happy and comic- I grew up with just those; I interpreted all the musicals I grew up like that. So imagine my shocking surprise when Les Mis entered my life- a TRAGEDY.
2. You will never love a tragedy-yes, I told myself I will always hate tragedies. I thought they were pure sad: Les Mis goes beyond tragedy- it has a beautiful underlying spirituality.
3. Death scenes can never be memorable, especially towards a favorite character- Les Mis is home to memorable deaths. Compassion is shown at them, and they are touching and moving and bittersweet.
4. Musical theatre songs can never be a death scene- well look at Come to Me and A Little Fall of Rain- two songs that are death scenes
5. About emotions, they can never push past sad- well, wrong again. Heartbreak entered the picture. Emotions have much more capability than I believed.
6. All musicals have to be home to showtune songs- Les Mis does not have those. I was waiting for those songs- I never once heard a showtune in Les Mis. Showtune was the type of song I associated with musical- I knew about other types of songs, but showtune was the one that came to mind the most.
All of these show part of the impact Les Mis had on my life. It disproved many things- turns out I had many misconceptions about musicals that I didn’t know I made until Les Mis. There was a reason why I was so shocked and confused the first time I saw the movie. I am glad I watched it a 2nd time- if I didn’t, Les Mis wouldn’t have been in my life.
Did Les Mis do that to you- challenged the way you view musicals?
To continue on yesterday’s heartbreaking love songs, today I thought I would talk about ALL heartbreaking songs. I was 100% blind to heartbreak before my first year of college, but I did know about the emotion of sad. So at least I knew about sad- one of the emotions part of heartbreak. Heartbreak is basically a more devastating form of heartbreak. What are the other emotions associated with heartbreak? The ones I have found are anger, guilt, and loneliness among others. Heartbreak can hit you like a pile of breaks and can reduce you to tears. So now here is a list of the heartbreaking musical theatre songs.
I’m Not That Girl
On My Own
I Dreamed a Dream
Come to Me
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
Drink With Me
A Little Fall of Rain
Bring Him Home
All I Ask Of You (Reprise)
Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again
If I Can’t Love Her
If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)
Letter From the Refuge
This Nearly Was Mine
These heartbreaking songs come from a number of musicals- Wicked, Newsies, Les Mis, Lion King, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Rent, and Cats. Some of these songs are more devastating than others. Some of him hit me harder than others. Some hit me like a pile of bricks, and some don’t. Some of them make me tear up while others don’t. Heartbreak is one of the most beautiful emotions in musical theatre and one of the strongest.
If a musical theatre song is both a love and sad song, it will ALWAYS be heartbreaking. That is always the truth- that’s for sure. These songs can be ironic or non-ironic. Those songs fall under unrequited love songs, breakup songs, or if the plot is a tragic love story. What are examples of these songs? Below I will list some of those songs.
I’m Not That Girl/ I’m Not That Girl (Reprise)
On My Own
As Long As He Needs Me
This Nearly Was Mine
If I Can’t Love Her/ If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)
All I Ask Of You (Reprise)
I’m Not That Girl was the FIRST heartbreaking love song I was emotionally connected to, but was sad in the beginning. I never called I’m Not That Girl a sad love song- I never combined emotions together- I called it sad. On My Own, just like I’m Not That Girl, began as a sad song, but after a year I realized it was heartbreaking- On My Own was key to realizing I’m Not That Girl was heartbreaking. As a matter of fact, On My Own made me realize all sad love songs were heartbreaking. The heartbreaking love songs have a combination of emotions- they can be home to sad, anger, and loneliness: it depends on the song and the actor and actress who is playing the character. Some of those heartbreaking love songs are much more heartbreaking than others: for instance, On My Own is more heartbreaking than I’m Not That Girl.
It sounds crazy how some of them are ironic- that means the love situation improves in the end or you don’t expect the character to sing it. I’m Not That Girl is the best example- after all the unrequited love shifts from Elphaba to Glinda, which is why the song is sung twice. In addition, the spell gets broken in Beauty and the Beast, which makes If I Can’t Love Her/ If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise), and Evermore ironic. The same situation happens with This Nearly Was Mine because Nellie goes back to Emelie in the end.
Non ironic- that means the situation NEVER improves in the end. That would mean that character might have unrequited love the entire time. In Les Mis, Eponine has unrequited love for Marius till the end of her journey in Les Mis- she does have a tragic ending, but at the same time, her fate is touching and moving and is home to joy. Eponine’s fate is death, but she gets to die in the arms of Marius after getting shot- that is where the joy comes from. So On My Own is not ironic at all. So the heartbreaking love songs are both ironic and non-ironic.
The heartbreaking love songs are some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. They are fragile, vulnerable, and some of them are home to innocence. It just depends on the character and how much they love the person they are in love with at that point in the story.
Like many people know, Les Mis is tragedy. That means, characters do die in Les Mis. At the same time, there are those that do survive. Les Mis is the “everybody dies” musical- there are four characters left in Les Mis.
Thenardiers- These two characters are the true villains of Les Mis. They are abusive, despicable, greedy, and unloving. They only care about themselves- they are pick-pockets. They are the parents of Gavroche and Eponine. They kicked Gavroche out at quite a young age and raised Eponine to be a thief and criminal. They do not love their children and do not care that those two died at the barricade. They are two of the ones to survive in the end. In the book, the are not funny- HOWEVER, in the musical, they serve as comic relief- I am so glad that they serve that purpose because it is much-needed.
Cosette- She is Fantine’s daughter, who becomes Valjean’s adopted daughter. I love her much more than those Thenardiers. She used to live with the Thenardiers. As a child, she was horribly abused by them having to work as a servant. She had a strong spirit as a child- having hope she will be rescued, and she was rescued by Jean Valjean. She was overprotected and sheltered by Jean Valjean- I don’t blame that for happening since they were always on the run from Javert. She becomes part of a love triangle between Marius, Eponine, and herself. She is the symbol of light and hope in this tragic. She is a wonderful character- it is such a shame that she is hated by so many people- I love her. It might seem like she has her happily ever after, but she lost her adopted father. All she has left is Marius, the love of her life.
Marius-Just like Cosette, disliked for the most absurd of reasons. Of all the survivors, he is my favorite character. He is brave, awkward, compassionate, kind, and sweet. He might seem shallow on the surface, but he is a complex character. People don’t understand why he is oblivious to Eponine’s love for him: don’t forgot she never told him she loved him. He had a lot going on: he is a revolutionary and fell in love for the first time. People say he never treated Eponine fairly- once again I disagree- all because of the errands he asks Eponine to do. I believe at the beginning of act II, he sent her to deliver that letter in order to protect her from the uprising in hopes to prevent her from getting hurt or worse killed. Compassion- I do see the compassion in Marius the most in “A Little of Rain”- this is Eponine’s death scene- Marius is there for her and never leaves her side in this moment-that is COMPASSION right there. By fighting at the barricade- that makes him brave. People also think he gets his happily ever after- think again- he lost all of his friends at the barricades- Eponine, Enjolras, Gavroche, and all the students died at the barricade. There is something about Marius’ awkward nature that makes him more charming. Marius and Cosette’s love for each bring HOPE to this tragic tale- they are meant for each other.
I know I did an unpopular opinion on musicals before, but I decided to do it again.
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 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 her. 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.
How come I never created a tag? What if I do a Les Mis tag? I am thinking of picking songs from Les Mis, and then choosing the answers from other musicals.
“Do You the People Sing” (A Character or Group of Characters who Stand up for What they Believe In)- The Newsies- they stand up for what they believe in. They never give up on the strike. Even Jack does not give up despite the fact that it eventually is difficult on him.
“On My Own” (a character who struggles with unrequited love)- My first thought was Elphaba. It was Eponine that made me realize unrequited love was heartbreaking, which helped me with “I’m Not That Girl”. Elphaba deals with the unrequited love well. She does not want a boy to get in the way of her friendship with Glinda. To see where this unrequited love ends- I recommend to watch this musical (Wicked).
“A Heart Full of Love” (a couple you love)- So many options. My first thought is Jack and Katherine. They have been my first thought a lot lately. They are my favorite contemporary Disney couple. I just love “Something to Believe In”. I love that Newsies has Katherine in it because it helps give a female voice to a male dominant show.
“Master of the House” (a villain to laugh at)- Gaston for sure. He is a hilarious villain. It is hard to describe why he is funny. His songs like “Gaston” and “Me” are songs to laugh at.
“Bargain/Waltz of Treachery” (a villain who is easily manipulative)- The Leading Player for sure. She hides her manipulative nature extremely well. Whenever she is around Pippin, she is playful making it seem to Pippin that she is someone to be trusted. She only lets her evilness truly show in songs where Pippin is not involved- she only reveled that to Pippin at the final songs.
“Work Song” (a memorable opening number)- “Circle of Life” is the first one that comes to mind. The animals come down the aisles. It is breathtaking to watch. The way the light changes in the background- it is hard to describes why it is so memorable.
“One Day More” (a memorable act I closer)- “Defying Gravity” for sure. That song is empowering and very powerful. The effect of Elphaba flying has some of the best special effects ever.
“The Confrontation” (an intense scene or song)- The stampede in Lion King. I love the way they stage it in the stage version. It is hard to describe how they do it, but is is amazing to watch.
“Stars” (A villain or antagonist with a clear motive)- This is my 2nd time I am using Gaston. From the opening number, it is very clear he wants to marry Belle. He keeps that as his motive from start to finish. That leads him to want to kill the Beast. When he learns that Belle has feelings for the Beast, he gets jealous and wants to kill the Beast as a tactic of getting Belle in the end.
Gardner Webb University was the university I attended for 3 and 1/2 years. I got involved in student activities. They did things such as school dances, Pinterest night, Candy and Critters, The Big E, and Winter/ Spring Formal. Two of their events meant a lot to me: Gardner Webb was about one hour away from Charlotte and about I think one hour and a half or so away from Greenville.
It was January 2016 when Wicked was touring to Charlotte. Student Activities had arranged for a group of 50 students to go. When I found out, I knew I was going to go. After all, like “For Good” says, “I have been changed for the better” because of Wicked. I kept on an eye for the time when students could sign up because I knew all the spots would fill up fast. The moment I found out, I went to Student Activities right after class to sign up. I actually was one of the first ones to sign up for Wicked- it would become my 4th time seeing Wicked. So I was going to be seeing a musical that changed me for good with a school that changed me for good.
I made a smart decision coming into this production- I was going to examine that love triangle more closely. I was determined to figure out that plot twist better. I did not want to leave that theatre confused again asking myself “WHY”. It was my first coming in with the knowledge that “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking: it was sad the other times- “On My Own” made me realize the song was heartbreaking- after all BOTH are unrequited love songs. In this production, I had a standby for Elphaba, which made me a tad nervous. As a matter of fact, this was the production I felt the most vulnerable and got the most emotional. A huge part of that was being with Gardner Webb.
Here was my Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero: Mary Kate Morrissey was Elphaba, Amanda Jane Copper was Glinda, and Ashley Parker Angel was Fiyero. They all were just perfect in their roles. Mary Kate embodied Elphaba perfectly while still bringing new to the role- she actually made me appreciate a song I always HATED: “No Good Deed”- that song was ALWAYS emotionless- this time I actually felt emotion in it. About Fiyero, I finally figured things about the plot twist: the way he played the lion cub scene was brilliant: he played it as if he had a crush on Elphaba, but deep down did not realize he it. My actor already decided to have stronger chemistry with Elphaba, but weaker chemistry with Glinda foreshadowing the plot twist in act II- now everything was starting to make sense- now I was less confused. It got to “For Good”- I was literally crying in that number: that truly showed how brilliant my Elphaba and Glinda were.
By seeing Wicked with Gardner Webb- Wicked has so much more meaning in my life. I think that was why I felt as vulnerable as I did, and why the emotions hit me the way they did. Those three turned into my favorite Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero- as a matter of fact, they were the only portrayals I remember out of four. Funny story: after the Matinee, we discovered the bus that we took to get up there was broken down; so we had to wait a while to get back.
Gardner Webb Student Activities decided to take a group of students to see Les Mis November 2017. That summer, it was in my mind to see the tour in Charlotte. Then my final year of Gardner Webb started up- I discovered Student Activities was taking students to see Les Mis in Grenville. I was puzzled- I didn’t know what to do. “See Les Mis in Charlotte, my hometown, or see it in Greenville with my school?” I easily wanted to do both- I am a Les Mis obsessive fan. I had seen musicals at both Ovens and the Peace Center. I did want to make the most of my last year of Gardner Webb- so I finally settled on seeing the show in Greenville.
Just like Wicked- meaning was added due to seeing it with Gardner Webb. Made an extremely smart decision coming in- after all, this was my cast after the West End- to NOT COMPARE THIS CAST TO WHO I SAW IN THE WEST END. That was especially important on Eponine because in Greenville, I had an understudy, and it is very important to truly respect them, and they deserve more credit then they are given. It also was important because it was the 25th anniversary production, not the original production so the staging was different, which I believe affects portrayal.
This was my US Tour Cast: Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean), Josh Davis (Javert), Melissa Mitchell (Fantine), Jillian Butler (Cosette), Joshua Grosso (Marius), Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine), Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras), J. Anthony Crane (Monsieur Thenardier), and Allison Guinn (Madame Thenardier).
So glad I did not compare this cast to my West End cast: I was able to see this cast for what they are. Nick Cartell was a very talented Valjean: His “Bring Him Home” was quiet enough, but strong enough for what the scene required and truly sounded like a prayer. Fun fact: I had previously seen Nick in Phantom of the Opera in the ensemble, so it was nice seeing him as a lead. Josh Davis mastered Javert’s voice and delivered a fine rendition of “Stars”, but I felt like he was lacking somewhere. Melissa Mitchell’s Fantine focused on the more naive side of her.
The love triangle surprised me in a way. Basically “what happens when your favorite character is Eponine, but your strongest actor is Marius?”- that is exactly what happened. Joshua Grosso was stronger then both Jillian Butler and Talia Simone Robinson. His Marius was both charming and awkward: he treated falling in love with Cosette like “I’m in love, but what on earth do I do with it”. He did bring out the heartbreaking nature of the character in act II. Jillian matched with Joshua make a perfect Marius and Cosette pairing. What about Eponine? She did struggle at first, but eventually grew into the role- I saw moments I strongly loved about her- such as at “A Heart Full of Love” and “A Little Fall of Rain”.
As for the students, Matt Shingledecker was such a passionate and confident Enjolras. This dynamic is always strong no matter what. Allison Guinn and J. Anthony Crane were hilarious as the Thenardiers. As for the ensemble- brought out the passionate, epic, and powerful nature of the show. Loved the staging- the addition of color, using the candles in “Empty Chairs”, and how they showed the vast scope of Paris.
By seeing Wicked and Les Mis with Gardner Webb, those two have so much more meaning in my life.