As several musical theatre fans know, musicals have an extremely wide range of plot, songs, and the characters. There are both simple and complex musicals. What exactly makes complex musicals.
For starters, let’s go into the songs. Those songs tend to have BOTH happy and sad songs- as in sad songs being strong enough to remember. These songs, especially at heartbreaking songs, can easily make us feel like we are hit by a pile of bricks: meaning having the ability to give us goosebumps and tears.
Second- let’s venture into the characters. These characters are complex due to having flaws, strengths, and can be portrayed in several ways. These characters are the ones who have an emotional journey. They tend to have a strong backstory to make them complex in the first place. Each time you see the same show, and something is added to the character, that would make them complex.
Third, the plot itself- They have the main story along with subplots. Their stories are powerful and come with incredible messages. The subplots do show that a musical is complex. After all, it means that other characters’ stories are important just like the main characters’ are.
I tend to lean towards complex musicals because those feel the most relatable, feel real and believable, and are truly “human”. After all, life is messy and complicated. We tend to have some of the strongest emotional connections in them because we truly can see themselves as actual humans. It is because of their flaws, strengths, backstory, and their emotional nature that we can see ourselves in them so easily.
What are examples of complex musicals:
Phantom of the Opera
Beauty and the Beast
There are others, but those are the ones I can think of for now.
As all musical fanatics know, there are musicals we don’t like and at the same time there are musicals we love. While I tend to lean towards complex musicals, there are still simple musicals I love. While I tend to want spectacle or dance, not all musicals I love share that. So, what exactly is in common towards all of them?
Well, to make a musical, we need songs, plot, and character. It is extremely difficult to love the plot and characters if the songs are not good. That is one thing in common between all my favorite characters-as in amazing songs. That is usually my first step for a musical to become amazing.
Now that song is taken care of, it is time to look at the characters. That’s right, I look at the characters before the plot. After all, the characters create the plot in the first- no matter how small or big they are to the show. I have to love characters in the show. The characters are a huge reason why the songs become the songs we tend to love. We want the songs to complement the characters.
Finally- what about the plot? All three together create one. I have to love the plot. If the plot is boring, it will lead to boring songs and even not so amazing characters.
Now, what is especially important is the emotional connection to song, character, and plot. That emotional connection is where the WANT, DESIRE, and REASON comes from. It makes you want to listen the songs, go on the characters’ journey, which connects to the plot. All of the musicals I love I formed a strong emotion with: Wicked, Les Mis, Annie, Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, etc…….ALL have an emotional connection. Because of our emotional connection, it makes us love feeling the emotions in the first place. Positive emotions are the easiest to love feeling, but when it comes to negative emotions, that emotional connection is really important. After all, it truly matters what the characters’ lives and story are.
Yes, it will hurt at times in a musical. But, it isn’t our emotions we are feeling; instead it is the characters’. While we still feel the negative emotions, those have created some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. We end up loving listening to those sad/heartbreaking songs. “I’m Not Girl”, “Santa Fe”, “On My Own”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “If I Can’t Love Her” are examples of songs I love despite the sadness that they have. I love dealing with these emotions due to the emotional connection I have with these characters.
So, what I am saying about all favorite musicals, they all share an emotional connection. That is exactly why I love each of them. The range of musicals is quite gigantic: “Music Man” to “Les Mis”. That really does show a lot.
Below are pictures from favorite musicals of mine: not all of them, but some.
There are different phases when it comes to musicals, which it was for me. So far, it was the childhood musicals, middle school/ high school musicals, and the college musicals. Those combined are way I am the musical fan I am today.
Yes, the childhood musicals are the beginning of what I know them to be. After all, it is very hard to not to be exposed musicals after childhood. After all, several of children are exposed to Disney, which makes an amazing chance they will come across a musical at least once in my life time.
While Wicked truly was the beginning of my musical theatre journey, those childhood musicals still made a part in my love for musicals. Due to being born in 1994, I was around the classic Disney musicals: Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, and Aladdin were the ones I remember the most. It was their main love song that stuck with me the most- I fell in love with “Beauty and the Beast”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, and “A Whole New World” are a huge reason why I know I saw those musical movies. It was the childhood musicals that made me want to see Dance/Spectacle in musicals, and they started one of the core emotions: the one of excitement.
It wasn’t just Disney musicals I fell in love with in childhood. The ones I remember the most outside of Disney were Annie and Sound of Music. “Tomorrow” and “Edelweiss” are my favorite songs from those musicals. Now that I know of emotional connection in musicals, I now have realized why I loved them and why both of them are meaningful. I was connected to Annie’s optimism- I am also an optimistic person. So without knowing, I already formed an emotional connection with Annie. Just like Annie, I couldn’t figure what the meaning of Sound of Music, but after picking up on emotional connection, I know exactly why it is one of the meaningful musicals- it belonged to family and music. They also formed a role in the foundation of musicals.
I really don’t remember if love was also was an emotion I discovered in elementary school or middle school. While three love songs stuck with me in elementary school, I honestly don’t know if I picked up on them in love. So, that was a huge reason why I usually say excitement and joy began the first core emotions, and at the time had no idea there were five of them. Some of my childhood musicals had sad or heartbreaking songs, but I honestly had no idea.
There is something about childhood musicals that can’t be expressed in other musicals. After all, when I seem them I feel like a child again, and then of course there is the nostalgia. I love all of them more than ever now- now that I am aware of the five core emotions. Those musicals really started the foundation of what I want in a musicals. So, they played a huge part in my journey before the love was sparked.
What do you think makes childhood musicals so special?
You know how we have protagonists in musicals, who serve as the main characters. There are still characters who are quite important- these are called major characters. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out who are the secondary characters and who belong in the major characters——-the secondary characters are the next level down. So here some of my favorite major characters.
I wish I could think of more major characters. I know I love more than this list.
It is time to talk about another Disney musical. This time we are headed to the African Savannah. We are now talking about Lion King, one of the classic Disney musicals. What makes me love Lion King?
For one thing, its opening song, “Circle of Life” is one of the best opening numbers.This score holds a collection of various emotions: it actually has all five core emotions- from excitement to joy to love to sad to heartbreaking. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is one of the best love songs found in musical theatre. I love the additional songs from “Shadowland” to “Endless Night”-they help develop Simba and Nala further. I love “They Live in You” as well.
Simba- I love our protagonist. It does help that we get to start knowing him as a cub and eventually see him age up to a Young Adult. I love the relationship he has with his father and with Nala. Nala and Simba were best friends as cubs and eventually fell in love. Simba was born to be King and was excited about it until tragedy struck- he was struggling ever since and had to remember.
Nala- As I said, we meet her as a cub. She is a strong and brave character- characteristics I love seeing. She had to eventually leave her only home to get help-after all, the Pride Lands were in trouble after Scar took over. She ran into Simba after running into Simba.
Mufasa- He was a great king and father, but it was short-lived.
Scar- He is one of the worst villains in Disney. He was planning to kill both his brother and nephew to become king. Seriously- they are your family.
There are other characters I love such as Zazu and Rafiki.
Plot: Major Spoilers
You meet a lot of characters in the beginning. You get to know important characters like Rafaki, Mufasa, Simba (our protagonist), Scar, and Nala. Rafaki is the one who starts Lion King. Simba was next in line to become king after Mufasa, which doesn’t suit well with Scar, Mufasa’s younger brother. Scar has evil intentions of killing both his brother and nephew.
Mufasa is an incredible king and father. He taught Simba how to be a good king and life lessons on how to be a good person overall. Well, guess what happened- Scar actually killed Mufasa and made Simba (who was still a cub) believe he killed his father and told him to leave the Pride Lands and never return. Simba ran as far as he could until he basically had not much energy left- that is when thankfully Timon and Pumbba showed up and raised him. You can tell as a Young Adult he was still struggling with what happened earlier- he did forget who he truly was.
As king, Scar ended up destroying the Pride Lands. Nala had to run away to get help and ran into Simba. Now, you are seeing the romance. From the stars, Simba finally got a message from his father saying “remember”- Simba knows what he must do- go back to the Pride Lands and face his Uncle and take his place as King.
Obviously since it takes place in the African Savannah, there has to be a way to create that. Plus, since all the characters are animals, there has to be some way to represent that. The costumes in Lion King are spectacular to look at. The way they move from the Pride Lands to Jungle is amazing. “Circle of Life” not only is one of the best songs from the musical, but the staging of it is amazing: if you literally are in the orchestra near the aisle it is like you are truly experiencing that number (in 2018, I was in the orchestra at the aisle).
This is one of those musicals that you need to see. Its staging, songs, characters, and plot are why. I am saying that mostly because of the dance and spectacle-I saw the stage show twice mainly because I do not remember the first time so I wanted to see it the second time so I do have a memory. It is the longest running Disney musical on Broadway.
One of the most crucial elements of a musical is the protagonist (the main character). It is their story that we want to follow along with the various subplots. Who are some of my favorite protagonists?
Maria- the Sound of Music one
Why do two have two protagonists listed. Frozen and Wicked just happen to have two main characters in them, and I wouldn’t choose one over the other to be the primary protagonist.
There are several couples that exist in musicals. Sometimes, the same musical has multiple romances. What exactly makes me fall in love with a couple? It mainly deals with their main song? Sometimes, other things are taken into consideration. What are some of my favorite couples?
Elphaba and Fiyero
Cosette and Marius
Christine and Raoul
Jasmine and Aladdin
Nala and Simba
Belle and Beast
Katherine and Jack Kelly
Mimi and Roger
You might notice something- these are young couples. That’s right- most couples in musical theatre are young.