What does Les Mis, La Bohème, Phantom of the Opera, and Newsies have in common? They all take place during the 1800s and they are musical shows (either a musical or an opera). All of them, but Newsies, take place in France. Newsies is the one looks out of place- it is Disney and takes place in Manhattan. However- Newsies still takes place in the same century as the other three. I do love all four shows- will try to explain below.
It is obvious by now that Les Mis holds a lot of meaning. Strong emotional connection. Tragic and inspiring storyline. Powerful, emotional, epic, and passionate songs. While a tragedy- still has its’ themes of compassion, hope, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption. The characters are so interconnected that they directly and indirectly impact each others’ lives. Les Mis is so carefully planned out that if you get of one small thing- even one tiny thing-the entire thing starts unraveling itself. Those songs are emotional to the point of getting goosebumps and reducing you to tears- that is what they have done to me.
This is an opera- but still fits under the umbrella of telling a story through song. La Bohème is the tragic love story of Rodolfo and Mimi set in France in the 1830s. The songs between Rodolfo and Mimi are beautiful and truly brings out their love for each other even in the end-no matter the complications that come up in their relationship, they always had true love for each other. La Bohème so far is my favorite love story despite it being tragic.
Phantom of the Opera
Now, going further into the 1800s- as in late 1800s, we move into the Paris Opera House. This is truly a hauntingly beautiful musical. Phantom of the Opera is a love triangle found between Phantom, Christine, and Raoul. It is full of suspense, mystery, revenge, beauty, and love. While Christine and Raoul truly love each other, it makes Phantom not react well to his unrequited love, which makes it angelic and beautiful, but haunting. The music is haunting at times and beautiful at times-which fits perfectly into Phantom of the Opera.
Yes, Newsies is a 1800s musical, and it is set in 1899 in Manhattan. It is about the Newsboys Strike of 1899, and yes this event really did happen. When Pulitizer raised the price of newspapers, the newsboys went on strike. Eventually, this event was known through the musical, Newsies. There are a lot of reasons why I love Newsies- the mind-blowing dance, the energetic and at times emotional songs, the characters, and the story.
I love the Newsies mostly Jack Kelly (their leader) and Crutchie, and part of that comes from their intimate and special bond. When you see Newsies, you will see dance that will blow your mind: it did win Tony Award Choreography, and you will understand why once you see the show. Due to it being a dance-natured show, it has to have energetic songs, and “Seize the Day” is my favorite song in Newsies (there is one moment, they are dancing on Newspapers). There are even more emotional songs (“Santa Fe” is a sad song). Eventually, once it had a tour, they added in “Letter from the Refuge”, Crutchie’s solo- it used to be just “Santa Fe”, that was sad, but “Letter From the Refuge” fits that too-now both are used for all productions. The storyline is so inspiring- the fact that these newsboys stood up for what they believe in, despite barely having much, and never gave up is incredible.
Well, there are tragic musicals. That would mean characters do die in some of them. There is one thing that might be a bit surprising, which did surprise me as well. There are actually deaths that have joy in them. That would not make sense. When we think of death- we think of grief and mourning. We do not even think that happiness could happen. Well, there actually is and the only way to understand is to understand the character. Les Mis is where I first saw deaths as memorable. SPOILERS.
First up is Fantine’s death. What we have seen is nothing but tragedy in her storyline. She literally was left alone to care for her daughter, Cosette. She is a struggling single mother, who left her daughter in the hands of the Thenardiers (little does she know the abuse Cosette will face). She did find a job at Valjean’s factory, but was fired. Well, this is when things get uncomfortable- her life has literally shattered: her dreams are broken and she had to nothing left to do but become a prostitute (“Lovely Ladies” is the hardest scene to watch). She is suffering a lot, but it is all of an unconditional love for her daughter. She eventually became seriously ill due to living on the streets, but luckily Valjean came to help her. When she was dying, he made a promise to raise Cosette-this gave her peace and comfort for once and a bit of happiness. So you see, you have to understand her love and hope for Cosette to figure this one out.
Second is Eponine’s death. Eponine is another tragic character. She is an unloved, abused, and neglected teenager. She grew up in the criminal world and ended up living in extreme poverty. She was never shown kindness by anyone. She literally only had one good thing in her life-Marius, who also was the only person who showed her kindness. Due to that, she fell in love with him, but unrequitedly. She was more loyal to him then her parents. She would do anything for him no matter the cost, which eventually led her to the barricade. She ended up sacrificing her life for him, which left Marius devastated, but at least he showed her compassion by holding her in his arms and giving her comfort by staying there until her death. The happiness comes from Marius being there. So once again another example.
Jean Valjean’s death is another example. He is our main character and is the father of Cosette. After all, he is the one who promised to raise Cosette after Fantine died. Cosette meant a lot to Valjean. Cosette had a better life once Valjean entered (she used to live with Eponine’s parents). After Cosette and Marius married, they ended up going to Valjean as he was dying. So he was able to see Cosette one last time- that is where the happiness comes from.
So you see, even tough moments can have the positive emotions going on. I never once would have though that even some of the most heartbreaking moments could possibly have happiness in it. It all comes down to understanding who characters are. The tragic musics, you need to be able to pick up on the positive emotions or else the trap of calling the musical TOO DEPRESSING comes up- that is what I originally called Les Mis. In Les Mis, I had to dig deeper to find what why I felt uplifted at the end because it did not make sense. All of the characters have their tragedies and their hopes- even the most tragic characters have some kind of light going on. Even the survivors have something tragic to deal with. You just have to understand characters to understand what I am talking about.
There was a time when the genre of tragedy was 100% foreign to me in all types of storytelling- in literature and in theatre. In 9th grade, when it was time to start studying Shakespare’s Romeo and Juliet, I finally discovered the genre of tragedy- I did make the WRONG assumptions about the genre and thought I would NEVER love one. Literally, I had thought they were pure sad, but little did I know what the future had in store for me. I was kinda of hoping tragedies did not exist in MUSICALS- I knew the emotion of sad existed and thought I knew the full extent of emotions, but did I?
This post is referring directly to Les Mis, the tragic story and musical that would change a lot of things. While it took a 2nd chance on the film to become a fan, it eventually would play a massive role in my role for musicals. While Wicked sparked the love, Les Mis was responsible for the passion. It was kinda of surprising to me that I had actually come across a tragic musical.
Well- one of the most common questions I am being asked it “why do you keep on going back to Les Mis if you keep on going to feel heartbroken like that?” November 3rd, 2019 marked my 6th time seeing the stage show, and I am not done yet. Well, while Les Mis is tragic and heartbreaking, it is so much more. For something to truly be tragic, there needs to be the “catharsis” at the end- it was that word that I failed to understand in the past. Les Mis is not only tragic and heartbreaking, it is also spiritual, inspiring, and uplifting. Why is that? Think about some of the themes- hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption: those can be hard to spot, but they are in there. So, the musical has a beautiful underlying spirituality, and that can keep you going despite the level of heartbreak- the emotions in Les Mis do get intense- as in feeling like you are hit by a pile of bricks (tears) and feeling goosebumps: it is that powerful.
There are characters in there you can easily get strongly attached to that you want to keep on seeing their stories’ unfold. Even if you know that some of their lives are tragic, you have to remember that “ALL” the characters in Les Mis experience something tragic- all of the leads. In addition to that, a lot of them have something hopeful even the most tragic characters. Do musical theatre characters’ truly die once the curtain falls? Do you know how I kept the Les Mis characters’ alive- in my heart and soul because of my emotion connection: that is how it is with emotional connection. People might think I am kinda of crazy because they might be like “didn’t a lot of them die”- well, yes, but you want characters’ stories to continue to live, which keeps them alive.
In addition, this is a STRONG point, which is true for basically every musical. The songs- those powerful, emotional, passionate, hopeful, and epic songs. This is a musical where the songs perfectly complement the characters- not the other way around. While I am it, the STRONG- Les Mis’ stories is so well-crafted that if you get rid of one tiny thing, the entire story starts unraveling itself- that means you need all of the characters and their storylines to happen or else the story is in ruins.
To try to summarize, what I tend to be drawn to are complex musicals. That would mean complex characters and a complex plot. That would include songs having positive and negative emotions. Les Mis has it all- complex characters, plot, and songs. It might not seem like it really has positive emotions, but they are there- sometimes it might mean looking deeper- the positive emotions get extremely clear when the students get in the picture: that is when hope seems to be the strongest if you did not notice it before. Love looks the strongest with Marius and Cosette- yes, its a love triangle, but I am talking about the positive emotions. There are actually some scenes you probably wouldn’t think would be capable of positive emotions, but they are there (death scenes for instance- its called understanding the characters to figure this one out).
By the end of feeling all of this heartbreak, Jean Valjean (the main character) does die- but with Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side. We feel uplifted due to how strong Valjean’s redemption is at the end- we know how much he has changed-he does have the two candlesticks the bishop; he kept them with him ever since that particular moment. After Valjean dies, the ending song is a reprise of “Do you Hear the People Sing”- there are a number of hopeful lyrics- “Even the Darkest Night Will End and the Sun Will Rise”- the final lyrics are “Tomorrow Comes”. To me, this reprise represents heaven.
So you see, tragedies are not just tragic. They go beyond. Tragedies still have certain requirements they need. They always need to have heartbreak and pain. There still needs to death. There needs be comic relief, which gives you a break). Ultimately what needs to happen is the catharsis. If that is missing- then is not truly a tragedy. I would never see a sad show if it is pure sad-those are not my thing. Honestly, give us at least a break and give us that balance between the positive and negative. Les Mis succeed- there is a reason why it is the sensation that it is. I know why, but even I can’t explain.
Another year has passed. It is now officially 2020. You know what that means- it means time for another year in review.
All Januaries share one thing in common: my birthday. Actually, one of my presents was unique, which was late. It was this purse, which would become my theatre purse. It literally is made out of fabrics and other things made from leftover scarps from costumes, etc…..- this one says “For Good” on it and has the broom and wand on it- a lot of people know the impact of Wicked on my life. I now take that bag to every show I go to.
My first Club Blume event happened in January: The Miss Saigon Informance. While I would be seeing that musical with my mom and dad, I still went to the informance. This time, at Belk Theater, we actually learned some history about the theater and got a backstage tour: this happened a month before Miss Saigon would tour there. So actually seeing backstage made me get a different kind of appreciation for the cast and crew: at Belk, the ensemble dressing rooms are below the stage; so they literally are running up and down steps all night long while the leads are not: crazy. Belk is shaped like a horseshoe, and we learned where the best seats tend to start. There is a reason why Belk has the box seats and why it looks the way it does- Belk is designed for Broadway Tours, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Ballet, and the Charlotte Opera.
I was not expecting to travel to St. Louis at the beginning of this month. I would be going alone with mom to visit my grandma. During the trip, we would be seeing Fiddler on the Roof (I originally thought Miss Saigon would be the first musical).
Well, Miss Saigon happened the same week I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was expecting to be crying due to KNOWING how Les Mis affected me. That was because they both were written by the same team. Yes, I was right: I was in tears. Miss Saigon would be my first of the tragic musicals of this year: I would be seeing a 2nd later in the year.
Charlotte Shout was one of Blumenthal’s events this year. It was a way to celebrate Charlotte’s 250th birthday. This kind of event is something to experience at night due to the illuminated bunnies, wheat field, prisms, and bunnies- they don’t exactly light up if you are there during the day.
June obviously was the month of the Tonys. However, this year the Tonys was different. I actually got fascinated by a new musical, Hadestown, a tragic love story myth, which is between Eurydice and Orpheus. Ever since, I have been dying to see Hadestown.
June is the month of the POPS symphonies- this year, went to a Star Wars and Broadway themed one. It is always something to look forward to every year.
Lake Tahoe was vacation with my extended family. Now, what state were we in exactly? California or Nevada- well, Lake Tahoe is in both states.
I ended up going to the Aladdin Informance this year. This time around, we were trying Middle Eastern food. During the talk, our speaker spoke about the history of Disney movies. Well, whenever it came to talking about the songs, a lot of Club Blume ended up singing along including myself. I would get tickets to Aladdin through Club Blume.
I did not know where to place Kanuga. Either it would be in August or in September. The Parish Weekend was over Labor Day Weekend. Kanuga is ALWAYS a weekend of fellowship and community. There was some art done, singing, hiking (which I was one of the leaders of), and the Lakeside Chapel Service, etc…..
Aladdin was seen on September 11th. Even though that date was the same day tragedy struck our country in 2001, seeing Aladdin that day this year was worth it. This come as a surprise: I did get a little emotional during “Proud of Your Boy”- that would be the 2nd time this year I would be affected in that way this year. After all, Miss Saigon drove me to tears, but “Proud of Your Boy” made me a little emotional. I saw this as a date with my mom. After this, I knew that I eventually wanted to own the Original Broadway Soundtrack.
October did not have huge highlights, but had things I enjoyed. I did enjoy a day trip at Blowing Rock: part did include actually seeing the actual Blowing Rock. One particular highlight of October was finding out if I would be seeing Les Mis or not: that had been something I wanted to know from October 2018 to when I found out. You know what- my mom somehow managed to keep secret from me that she had bought tickets in January 2019 all the way to the day she told me.
Les Mis would be my 4th musical this year. Well, before Les Mis, I had already seen one tragedy in 2019 (Miss Saigon), but now I would be seeing my 2nd. It was a date with my mom. What was interesting about Les Mis this time around was that I got five repeat actors/actresses in the same role: Josh Davis (Javert), Jillian Butler (Cosette), Joshua Grosso (Marius), Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras), and Allison Guinn (Madame Thenardier) were part of the US Tour of 2017. I did end up with an understudy as Valjean (Andrew Maughan)- I was hoping for Nick Cartell, but got an understudy instead. Here is what I can say- Joshua and Matt were standouts from 2017 so at least I got them.
Well, I am still not immune to Les Mis. I actually started having some tears before expected. Usually, it is “I Dreamed a Dream” where I start crying during, but this time, the reaction started before Fantine’s story began. Actually seeing those five actors again and getting four new actors was quite interesting.
Club Blume Come From Away Informance happened this month. The video meant for informance was cut short. However, it was just enough to get me interested in someday wanting to see the musical.
Well, during this staged concert, I had some of the exact some actors/actresses I had when I saw Les Mis back in the West End in 2015. Look- what is in common between Les Mis is that I am ALWAYS an emotional wreck. That always happens. If I start tearing up before “I Dreamed a Dream”- that is usually saying something, which happened during the US Tour 2019 and this staged concert. It doesn’t seem to matter who is in the cast for me to cry in Les Mis- that is the truth.
A Christmas Carol was the last show of this year. While being the last show, it was the first straight play. The story of A Christmas Carol means a lot to me. I have loved the story since I was a child- I was raised on the George C. Scott movie.
Advents Lessons and Carols/ Christmas Lessons and Carols- these are filled with more hymns and lessons than others throughout the year. I love how there is more hymns. Those two services are some of my favorites throughout the year.
Candlelight Christmas Eve Service was one of the Christmas services I love over the Holiday season. This one takes place at 10:45 p.m, but the prelude starts at 10:15. The prelude for this particular service is always worth it- at this one, there is the regular organ and on top of that, a trumpet and a string quartet is added. This particular year, a new piece was written specifically for the adult choir at my family church- so no other church but ours got to listen to it. I actually cried during part of the prelude- so it wasn’t just two musicals that made me cry. At the beginning of the service, we are given a candle for “Silent Night” where the lights go off and our candles are lit. A beautiful beautiful service.
Of course, I loved Christmas. Examples of presents include the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, tickets to Come From Away and Frozen, Original Broadway Aladdin Soundtrack, etc…. Christmas is my favorite holiday.
What exactly do I mean when I say parallels in musicals? Parallels exist when you see this sort of similarity between more than one musical- as in character or song. It can explain why we love some characters and the musical itself. What are some of examples?
Newsies/Friends of the ABC- well, both groups have a brotherly love for each other that feel like family and have a cause they strongly believe in
Jack Kelly and Enjolras- these two are the leaders of the Newsies and Friends of the ABC. They are good leaders, but the main difference comes from what they care about the most.
Enjolras and Fiyero- out of all parallels, I do not quite understand this. I honestly love both characters. But it never made since why I parallel them to each other. The only thing I know that they share in common is that they are courageous young men.
Elphaba and Eponine- Well, two girls with not good family lives; unrequited love happens to both (will something change for one of them?); taken advantage of. In terms of personality- complex, strong, and brave. I think my love of Elphaba is where my beautiful bond to Eponine came from- Elphaba is my favorite musical theatre character just to let you know
Elphaba and Elsa- well, two young adults who have powers they don’t know how to control and are literally labeled to be “monsters”. They are similar in that way.
Glinda and Anna- these two are actually funny and outgoing.
Sisterhood/Friendship of Frozen and Wicked- The friendship in Wicked is almost identical to the sisterhood found in Frozen. That most be where a lot of my love for Frozen comes from- Wicked itself. The true love in both musicals is not romance, but sisterhood and friendship
Let it Go/ Defying Gravity- these two songs are literally about the same thing and they do sound very similar to each other
Just like Fiyero from Wicked, Marius is more complex than he seems. In addition, the two of them are the romantic male leads of Wicked and Les Mis. Marius is a revolutionary, who is part of a love triangle- Eponine and Cosette take up the other two thirds. Now I will talk a lot more in detail about him. Marius gets a lot of hate from Les Mis fans for the most absurd of reasons- I do not agree with what a number of others say about him.
Marius, in general, is a kind, sweet, romantic, compassionate, awkward, and brave revolutionary- not the jerk everyone claims that he is (the real jerks of musical theatre are the villains). He is close friends to both Enjolras and Eponine. He is a member of the Friends of the ABC, which Enjolras is leader of. Well- I have heard people say he did not treat Eponine fairly- well, I disagree once again. I believe he was a good friend to her: he was kind, and he was someone that she needed in her life- his kindness moved her to fall in love with him: she was never shown kindness growing up. While other people in Eponine’s life were cruel towards her, at least she had Marius even though he only loved her as a friend. He was in love with Cosette- their love brought a lot of hope into Les Mis- they were meant for each other. Yes, he asked Eponine to find Cosette for him, but he never treated her unfairly: even Eponine would say that. He might have been oblivious to Eponine’s love for him- but that does not mean he should have fallen in love with her. The love he had for Eponine was as a friend more than anything.
Marius was struggling between his love for Cosette and his passion for the uprising. At the same time, he had a political conflict going on with his grandfather. All of this combined does make him more complex than he seems on the surface.
You strongly saw Marius’ bravery and compassion in act II. At the beginning of the uprising, he saw Eponine there. He actually was worried about her and for her safety. That is why he sent her away with that letter to Cosette. He was trying to protect her from getting hurt or worse killed from the uprising. Right when Marius saw that Eponine did actually come back to the barricade- he did ask why she came back- that was because he was worried. It was a few moments later when Eponine collapsed in his arms (a few scenes back, she sacrificed herself for him). This totally devastated him once he saw she was shot and noticing how severe it was- he knew he was going to lose her. You realized that she did mean something to him. In this scene- Marius could have left her to die alone- but he didn’t. He stayed there to hold her and comfort her- that is compassion (how can some people not see that). Marius knew she lived a tough life- after she died, he said “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”. Marius was Eponine’s light in her life.
Even after losing Eponine, he still had to fight- so his bravery comes from being a revolutionary. What happens to Marius at the barricades is quite traumatic for him- first he lost Eponine and later Enjolras and the rest of his friends. He is the only survivor- he was only able to come out alive due to Eponine and Jean Valjean- it was Jean Valjean, who ultimately saved his life after being severely injured. Survivor’s guilt happened to him while still being happy with Cosette- those two do not deserve to be hated at all. Cosette took care of Marius while he was recovering from his wounds at the barricades-that does show her love for him. It might seem as if Marius and Cosette have their happily ever after, but they still have their tragedies. Marius only has Cosette at the end- Cosette suffered as a child and lost her adopted father. These two have to be together especially because Cosette represents hope and light- Les Mis is so carefully planned out that if you get rid of one tiny thing, the entire story falls apart.
Of all the survivors in Les Mis, Marius is my favorite character.