Musicals I hope to See- why?

Just like bookworms have their TBR list, you also have a TBW for musicals. That is specifically referring to musicals you hope to see in person. This time, I thought of writing out that TBW list, and say why.

Hadestown

I have been fascinated by this musical since it swept the Tonys. Ever since I heard it was based off a Greek Myth, I knew I just had to see this musical. I have always loved Greek Mythology- so that would come of no surprise I wanted to see this tragic love story. I have listened to like two to three songs. It is coming to Charlotte October of 2021- hopefully that is enough time for Blumenthal to open their doors up for musicals.

Oliver

I will start by saying that I did see the stage show of Oliver back in 2007, but have no recollection of seeing. After reading the book and seeing the movie musical, I really want to see the stage show. I want an actual memory of seeing the stage show.

Beauty and the Beast

It is just one of two musicals I still need to see in person. It is such a magical and romantic musical. I once thought I did see the stage show, but turns out that isn’t true. I somehow came across the stage songs- I think through Pandora. It hasn’t toured for a long time or even had a revival on Broadway.

Frozen

I would have seen this musical if COVID never hit. I already had tickets to see Frozen this month, but not happening. I have loved the animated film since 2013. Right when I heard about the stage show, I knew I had to see the musical. I somehow heard some of the new songs- which I did fall in love with. If you think about it, it shares a number of parallels to Wicked. Of all contemporary princesses, I relate to Anna the most.

Something Rotten

I did fall in love with a few songs from this musical. That is basically what made me want to see it. It came to Charlotte before, but missed it. So now have to wait till that tours again. It actually takes place during one of my favorite time periods of history- The Renaissance.

Once

There was a year (I think 2015) where I had to choose between Once and Pippin. I had seen the actual film, and did quite like those songs. Once is one of those musicals where you literally have to be a quadruple threat- that is because the actors are actually playing instruments on stage. So you have to know how to play an instrument, act, sing, and dance. I feel like seeing this musical would give a different kinda of nature to musicals- their songs are sort of different then what you think. My favorite song, as of now, is “Falling Slowly”.

Anastasia

Well- I would have tried to get tickets this year if the pandemic didn’t get in the way. Due to already falling in love with five songs, I knew I had to see this musical. Just by listening to songs such as “Journey to the Past”, “In a Crowd of Thousands”, “My Petersburg”, “In My Dreams”, and “Once Upon a December”, I was able to learn a little bit about Anya and Dimitri.

Wicked

Why do you think this was one of the ones I said last? Well, I already saw Wicked four times, and due to that wasn’t too disappointed of the postponement of the musical this year. Wicked always tours to Charlotte- at Ovens Auditorium, the biggest Blumenthal theater. I know there is still a lot more to be found in the musical- that is so true for the love triangle. I overlook a lot of things in Wicked- except for the love triangle and friendship.

Les Mis

Like Wicked, I have seen this musical a lot. The stage show totals six times- crazily enough, saw it every other year. 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 were the years I saw it- 2013 was 3x times due to ushering twice for that production. Last year, my mom managed to keep a Les Mis secret- I found out I was seeing the musical in October, but my mom got the tickets in January. This was actually the 2nd date I saw Les Mis with my mom- she did take me to the West End show of Les Mis.

Les Mis is always one that list of TBW. It is such a powerful, epic, and emotional musical. The reaction the stage show gives me is incredible. I have always been an emotional wreck- well, not always. That response was built up over time. Massive Les Mis fans were probably understand why it keeps on being added back to that list.

What about you- what musicals keep on being on that list?

Musicals I Love based on Books

A number of musicals are either based off a book, movie, or opera. There are times when literally, the musical is much better than the book. Now, what are some of my favorite book based musicals?

Les Misérables

This is one of Victor Hugo’s masterpieces. It is one of those musicals that is quite faithful to the book. Yes, there are a few differences, but I do love the changes. I love how Marius’ relationships are different in the musical. He is best friends with both Enjolras and Eponine the musical. As a matter of fact, I love that he is closer to both of those characters. Marius’ friendship with Eponine develops the love triangle even further- these two create one of my favorite musical friendships. Just like I love Eponine and Marius’ relationship, I also love the relationship between all the students: making Marius one of the main revolutionaries in some ways further develops Marius along with Enjolras. Those two relationships actually is deeper meaning that there would be more of an emotional punch in “A Little Fall of Rain” and creates a wonderful solo for Marius- “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”.

Les Mis is such a powerful, epic, passionate, uplifting, and inspiring musical. The songs perfectly complement the characters.

This was probably one of the hardest musicals to adapt from the book. You are literally creating a musical that is based of a 1000+ book.

Wicked

Well, the musical and book really aren’t faithful to each other. The book is more of a tragedy while the musical is more of a comedy. The friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, and the love triangle between Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero aren’t exactly present in the book. I actually feel a stronger emotional connection to the musical. The fact that the musical centers around the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda makes Wicked a powerful musical. I really think the love triangle adds a lot more- we see a more drastic transformation happen with Fiyero. The love triangle does strengthen the friendship: after all, you can truly see Elphaba and Glinda’s loyalty in the love triangle.

Phantom of the Opera

Yes, I never read the book. All I know is that the novel reads more like a gothic and horror genre. My favorite characters in the musical are Raoul and Christine- I really love their romance. The musical has such a mysterious, beautiful, and angelic love triangle.

Oliver

I actually saw the stage show before reading the book- however don’t remember that first experience. So I eventually saw the musical again, but that time through the film. I learned to love Nancy even more in the musical- you really get to see her affection for Oliver grow, and with the addition of “As Long As He Needs Me” makes you care for that character even more.

Man of La Mancha

Don Quixote is one of my favorite books. The musical can be a bit confusing due to ” story within a story concept”. You really feel like you are in Spain due to the hispanic sound of the song. I loved how Aldonza is actually a character- it almost in some ways makes Don Quixote a better character in some ways. Don Quixote was the first tragicomic character I came across- still don’t fully understand that concept, but it does fascinate me.

Joseph

Shows based on stories found in the Bible count. I actually was introduced to this musical in elementary school- I was in the children’s choir at church, and for our end of year performance, we sang songs from Joseph. However, I didn’t fall in with the musical until this year- love those songs.

Godspell

While still on the topic of the Bible, Godspell is one of them. This is just one of three Stephen Schwartz musicals I love. It takes place during the last couple of days before the crucifixion. It almost feels as if they inserted the story into a modern setting- that has to do with the costumes.

What about you, what are some of your favorite book based musicals?

Characters more Complex than they Seem

This can happen in all sorts of literature. At first glance, some characters appear to be simple, but in reality they are complex. Today I will talk about musical characters that are like that.

Fiyero- Major Spoilers

In Wicked, it is most obvious that Elphaba and Glinda are complex. However, at first glance, Fiyero isn’t. Fiyero goes through a drastic transformation- from being a jerk to softening up to eventually becoming a courageous and mature young man.

When he arrives at Shiz, he really is a jerk. He does’t care much about anything- he has been expelled from a number of schools. When we first meet him, he accidentally knocks over Elphaba, which sends her school books flying. Elphaba honestly can’t stand him- you get the feeling that she will never fall in love with him. All he really cares about is having a good time- as shown in “Dancing Through Life”.

The Lion Cub Scene: it is important to play close attention to Fiyero. He actually has softened up a bit. Right now, Elphaba and Fiyero are in the woods getting ready to free a scared lion cub in a cage. You can tell there is a strong chemistry between Fiyero and Elphaba, which indicates that Fiyero actually has a crush on Elphaba. These two are literally like basically filtering with each other in a playful way. You also start to notice that Elphaba is falling in love with Fiyero- there is a reason why her spell didn’t affect him. The Lion Cub scene is truly when the love triangle begins. After this scene, Fiyero can’t seem to forget about this scene in particular.

There is a reason why I said pay close attention to Fiyero in the Lion Cub scene. At the end of act I, Elphaba still has unrequited love. You truly think that Fiyero and Glinda are endgame. Think again- in “Thank Goodness”, after hearing about the rumors about Elphaba, he all of a sudden realizes he is in love with Elphaba. This love triangle really does develop in the same way the characters do. So, an unrequited love shift happens- that is a huge reason why he is complex.

Through his love for Elphaba, he shows a lot of courage and maturity. He literally is willing to sacrifice his life for her, and the same is also true for Elphaba. These two don’t want the other hurt- that is why Fiyero demands “to let the green girl go”. Fiyero looks like he might possibly be tortured- at the same time, Elphaba is trying spell after spell to save him. They both are considered outcasts.

Marius

Just like Fiyero, Marius is the male romantic lead. He truly does seem like a simple character. He appears as if he is just this romantic revolutionary. However, that is far from the truth. Due to reading the book, I realized he is more complex than he seems. He has a political conflict with his grandfather, is a revolutionary, and fell in love for the first time. At the same time, he is good friends with Eponine.

It might seem as if he is a jerk, but that is not true. If he was a jerk, Eponine never would have fallen in love with him. I know it appears that way when he asks her to do these errands for him. However, Marius is the only person who treats her kindly. He does worry about her and does care- he knows of her tragic and dark life. Look, at the beginning of act II, I believe he sent Eponine away to try to protect her from getting hurt or killed during the uprising. That is why he asked Eponine: “why did you come back”. He was really worried- you notice this when he realizes she was dying. He was devastated, but yet shows compassion. He comforted her and held her in this moment- how can people not see the compassion shown in “A Little Fall of Rain”. If he truly didn’t care or have compassion, he would have left her to die alone and wouldn’t have been devastated.

What are his characteristics- awkward, kind, sweet, romantic, and brave. I actually believe that awkwardness makes him a more charming person. He may not be a tragic character, but terrible things do happen to him. He was the only survivor of the barricade. All he has left is Cosette, the love of his life. He had to deal with survivor’s guilt. The sad thing about Cosette and Marius is that at the end of the musical, the only thing they have left is each other. Together, these two bring hope to this tragedy.

Are are other musical characters you think are more complex than they appear?

Full Circle- Wicked and Les Mis

Of all musicals that entered my life, Wicked and Les Mis are the most meaningful. These two musicals are most responsible for the love I have for musicals today. I talked about how they came full circle before, but this post will be kinda of different.

Broadway

It was August 2006 when I first saw Wicked. I was in NYC with my mom. One of the best things we did was seeing Wicked on Broadway. While I don’t have vivid memories, I do remember that “Popular” was my favorite song. At the time, I was only 12. Wicked was the musical where I began to understand emotional connection, and the emotional and complex side to musicals.

Due to Wicked, four core emotions were at the forefront. Those belonged to excitement, joy, love, and sad. Wicked was the musical where I first began to understand love triangles.

West End

This is connected to Les Mis. Les Mis entered my life by the film. Before falling in love with the musical, I had to give the film a 2nd chance. March 2013 was when I fell in love with Les Mis. Les Mis challenged what I already knew about musicals. Tragic musicals started to enter, a new core emotion was introduced (heartbreak), love triangles started to be understood even stronger, and the concept of death. How did Les Mis change death? Prior, I literally thought that death couldn’t be memorable or happen during song- Les Mis proved me wrong. I finally could understand that unrequited love was heartbreaking.

By summer 2013, I was obsessed with Les Mis. It truly was Central Piedmont Community College’s production of Les Mis that ended up being the motor for wanting to see the musical in London. I thought it would take a number of years before that happened. I already knew about The Bristol Pilgrimage- I already was aware that it would happen summer of 2015. At the time, did even think that Les Mis would happen just because there was no talk about going up early. Then November 2014 comes around, and that was when I told that my family was going up early- that was literally when I started nagging my parents to take me to Les Mis. December 2014- finally I was told that I would see a show in The West End.

When June 2015 came around, I finally figured out which musical. I was texted French Flags and Musical note emojis. I did not quite understand the text, and then was told to check my email. I found out I was seeing Les Mis- that moment I saw that, I ran up to my mom crying. It would happen on July 30th. It was interesting how I saw Les Mis this year- that was due to taking Acting I in Spring 2015 at GWU. It just connected so well into the Bristol Pilgrimage.

“I Dreamed a Dream”

Just like Wicked, it was a date with my mom. It literally worked for the Bristol Pilgrimage- Les Mis is Valjean’s spiritual journey. So I saw Les Mis the day before going on my own. Not only was I living my mom, but my dad and sister got their own date. Nothing felt like reality- from seeing the Queen’s Theater to buying souvenirs to seeing the set to nothing how close I was- nothing once felt real. Then, the first notes were heard, and I knew I was living the dream. Do you know what those notes told me? They told me it was going to be more than expected- I actually see the orchestra as a character. I came in knowing I would be an emotional wreck and that I would get a laugh every once in a while. Those notes weren’t lying- it was more than expected. It was my 4th time seeing the stage show.

At least with Les Mis in London, I knew my cast. I did not keep the playbill for Wicked on Broadway. I had a culture shock in The West End- buying my playbill. I did have an understudy as Valjean (Adam Bayjou) and actually got to meet him at stage door- I literally have a signed playbill and picture with the Valjean.

Gardner Webb University

As a number of readers know, Gardner Webb was the university I went to. Broadway and The West End aren’t the only way Wicked and Les Mis came full circle. GWU is close enough to Charlotte and Greenville that it is possible to see touring productions.

Wicked

Wicked was the very first tour GWU took students to. I was one of the first to sign up. I knew the slots would fill up quickly. This actually marked the 4th time I saw Wicked. Seeing a musical with a school that changed me for good and seeing a musical that changed me for good. I had a standby (Mary Kate Morrissey). I knew I would be more vulnerable this time around. For the first time, “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking- thanks to the help of “On My Own” and memorizing the lyrics. I really was able to explore Fiyero a bit deeper to help figure out the plot twist in the love triangle.

was really surprised at “No Good Deed”: that song was always emotionless, but this around I could feel the energy and emotions that came with that song. “For Good” did make me tear up= it was a combo of the actresses and being with GWU.

Les Mis

GWU decided to take students to Les Mis. This time, we would be in Greenville at the gorgeous Peace Center. I had a tough decision to make in 2017- see the tour with my university or see it in my hometown of Charlotte. I choose Greenville- I really wanted to make the most of my final year of university, and I actually was able to help those who didn’t fully know the musical.

Peace Center

I came into this production smart. I would not compare this cast to the brilliant West End cast I already had. Just like London, I had an understudy, but this time for Eponine. I love both productions- I think the 25th has a bit more color and more Victor Hugo. There are moments I loved more in this production- “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” for instance. Yes, I was taken off guard in London, but quite as much as this production. In the love triangle, my favorite character is Eponine. However what happens when your favorite character in the love triangle isn’t the strongest- that happened to me. My standouts were Nick Cartell (Valjean), Joshua Grosso (Marius), and Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras).

With Joshua, I saw a side I never saw to Marius. It was a personality shift: I saw an unique awkwardness that made the character more charming. Due to Joshua, Marius is almost a core favorite character. Still don’t know how Jillian Butler (Cosette) was able to connect to Joshua. I loved how he treated falling in love with Cosette (It felt like I don’t what to say). Even how he portrayed “A Little Fall of Rain”- he did focus more on comforting Eponine than showing the heartbreak he was feeling- yes, the heartbreak showed, but not until the end when he finished the song alone. There is just something special about his Marius- he ended up becoming my favorite actor in that role.

Conclusion:

So I saw both Wicked and Les Mis on two major touring districts and both were dates with my mom. The other way they came full circle was seeing the tours with my university. I truly believe that if Wicked didn’t enter my life, Les Mis wouldn’t have. I didn’t fully describe the casts because this post would have been too long.

Loving Tragic Characters

Tragedies are one of the genres found in fiction. They can easily be misunderstood. It is so easy to say you will NEVER love a tragedy. That did happen to me in high school. So, I really wasn’t expecting a musical like Les Mis to enter my life. Here is something that some people fail to understand: 1) you can love tragic characters and 2) the catharsis. Tragedies don’t really work unless you love that catharsis- it makes you glad you went through all of that grief and suffering.

Tragic Characters

Just because a character is tragic doesn’t mean you will dislike them. I do love complex, strong, and brave characters. A strong amount of tragic characters have those three characteristics. When I think of tragic characters, Les Mis comes straight to mind. Something tragic happens to all of those characters, but not all of them are tragic.

Fantine- well, her demise wasn’t even her fault. It had more to do with society. There was a time in her life where her lover abandoned her leaving her to care for Cosette alone. She eventually left her daughter in the hands of the Thenardiers not knowing how poorly they will treat their daughter. The Thenardiers made Cosette a servant of the house- they abused her. In addition, they sent Fantine fake letters. She eventually found herself working in Valjean’s factory, but after the factory women found out about Cosette, she was fired. There wasn’t many ways for Fantine to care for her child- all she could do was sell her hair, her teeth, and become a prostitute. Due to living on the streets, she became deathly ill. She eventually was harassed by an abusive customer. Javert saw this happen and was going to send her to jail- but Valjean intervened. On Fantine’s deathbed, he promised to raise Cosette as his own. For once, Fantine was at peace and comfort. Fantine is such a strong and brave character- she showed a strong love for her daughter.

“I Dreamed a Dream” is Fantine’s solo number. It is heartbreaking, and that song is usually the first moment I truly start to be in tears.

Eponine- she starts out as this spoiled child, who appears to be loved by her parents. After Valjean takes Cosette away, Eponine is stuck with the Thenardiers for the rest of her life. She ended up becoming unloved, neglected, and extremely lonely. The family ended up living in extreme poverty. She wasn’t shown kindness at all. Then, Marius entered her life and showed her kindness for once. Due to the kindness he showed her, she fell in love with him, which became unrequited. Despite that, she still risked her life several times for Marius- she literally gave her life for him. He was the only good thing in her life, and she died is his arms. This was the happiest moment of her life- she realized that Marius did care for her. That was why at the barricades, he sent her away with that letter and why he asked why she came back. He was worried about her safety. Marius showed Eponine compassion at her death-he stayed with her- I don’t see why people see Marius as a jerk especially in this scene.

Eponine is a strong, brave, loyal, and tough young girl. She may be a Thenardier, but she is still able to fall in love and can somehow see kindness in Marius. She does have a spark of goodness in her, which is truly shown through her love for Marius. I am glad that she has at least Marius in her life- without him, her life would literally be a world of just darkness.

“On My Own” really does show how strong and deep her love for Marius is. “A Little Fall of Rain” is such a bittersweet, touching, and moving duet.

Javert- He is the antagonist of Les Mis. He sees the world in black and white and believe that “once a criminal always a criminal”. He fails to show mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. His main motive in Les Mis is to recapture Valjean. He wants to do the right thing, but is recapturing Valjean the right thing. After Valjean ended up showing him forgiveness and let him free, it made Javert really question his beliefs. Due to struggling with this, he eventually killed himself. He saw no more purpose to life. In some ways, I think there is symbolism behind the Les Mis deaths- Javert is the only character who dies alone.

Grizabella- Yes, she is a cat. However, she still is a tragic character. In some ways, I can parallel her to Fantine. After all, Grizabella used to have better life, but it became tragic when trying to be accepted by the Jellicle Cats again.

Her main solo, “Memory” reminds me so much of “I Dreamed a Dream”. “I Dreamed a Dream” actually made me realize “Memory” is a heartbreaking song.

Any other tragic characters you can think of?