Complex Musicals- What makes them complex

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:

  1. Wicked
  2. Les Mis
  3. Rent
  4. Phantom of the Opera
  5. Newsies
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Aladdin
  8. Lion King

There are others, but those are the ones I can think of for now.

Things in Common between all Favorite Musicals

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.

Favorite Major Characters (that are not the main character)

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.

  1. Genie
  2. Jasmine
  3. Katherine
  4. Nala
  5. Fiyero
  6. Raoul
  7. Eponine
  8. Enjolras
  9. Fantine
  10. Marius
  11. Cosette
  12. Beast
  13. Lumiere
  14. Chip
  15. Mrs. Potts
  16. Cogsworth
  17. Crutchie
  18. Davey
  19. Rafiki

I wish I could think of more major characters. I know I love more than this list.

Seize the Day

There are a couple of musicals set in New York City. I love more than one of them. I decided to highlight one of them today. Newsies is one of those rare musicals that is successful- but wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for those fans created by the 1992 movie. It won Best Choreography, but only has played in the US, but it needs to transfer to the West End. The stage show is better than that 1992 movie. This musical in some ways was expected by some followers and not by others. In my opinion, it is an underrated musical.

Story

Let’s start at this story. The Newsboy Strike of 1899 did happen. Due to Newsies, you learn about a piece of history that was forgotten. Their story is inspiring. The fact that these Newsboys, who literally don’t have much, would stand up against people like Pulitzer is inspiring.

Characters

Jack Kelly- while the story focuses on ALL the Newsies, Jack is our main protagonist. He is a dreamer, romantic, and artist. He truly cares about his brothers especially for Crutchie, who is the most vulnerable. Jack is the leader of the Manhattan Newsies. He would rather protect his brothers than see them getting hurt- you notice this after that fight happens in act I. He wants to call off the strike to protect his Newsies and seeing his best friend being arrested hurts him a great deal- all of this gives him some inner conflict. He does fall in love (like you would expect) to Katherine Plumber, the reporter of the strike.

Crutchie- He is a wonderful spirit and is optimistic no matter the situation. He may have a bum leg, but has so much courage like the other Newsies during the strike. Even when at the Refuge, he still believes in the strike.

Newsies- Well, I love all the Newsies. They are like a tight knit band of brothers that they feel like family. Some of them are homeless, some are runaways, and some are them have no family—–so they have to stand by each other. Yes, we might have our favorite Newsies, but it is hard not to fall in love with them as a whole. My favorite Newsies in the group are Jack and Crutchie due to their intimate and special bond.

Davey- He is the only one of the Newsies who has a family. He had to start selling papers to provide for his family. He basically throughout the strike is second in command since Jack is their leader.

Katherine- She is one of the MAIN reasons why the stage show is better than that 1992 movie. The stage show gives a strong female voice- you have a strong reporter and love her and Jack as a couple. She gets her own solo: “Watch What Happens” and has that love duet with Jack: “Something to Believe In”. You have that female voice the 1992 movie is lacking.

Songs:

They have ALL five core emotions. Hope, exciting, determination, joy, love, sad, and heartbreak are in the songs. Who can not love these songs- “Seize the Day”, “Something to Believe In”, “The World Will Know”, “Santa Fe”, etc. The song, “Letter From the Refuge” was added when the first tour opened- while “Santa Fe” is a sad song, “Letter from the Refuge” hits that heartbreaking side.

Courage Cannot Erase Our Fear

Courage is When We Face Our Fear

Seize the Day, Newsies

Dance

This is the first time I brought this up. Some of these songs you fall in love with even more once you see the dance. After seeing it, you can understand why it won that Tony Award for Choreography. I could not believe what I was seeing- those guys are quite talented. The dancing drives a lot of the show.

Conclusion

This is my first time with a conclusion. I still can’t quite understand why Newsies has only played in the US. It played on Broadway two years and toured two years. Now I am noticing that it is playing at local, regional, and community theaters and at schools- I saw Newsies at my hometown’s community college and on tour. So, if Newsies is able to be that successful, wouldn’t a place like London consider doing the show? Even though I only been to the West End once, I know the talent is there- it requires a lot of actors who are extremely talented in dance and just a few actresses (considering that the show is male-based). To your surprise, Newsies is a Disney musical.

Favorite Song: Seize the Day

Characters I Find Impossible to Dislike

Yes, there are characters that some people do not like and some that others love. However, haven’t you come across some characters that you find impossible to dislike- that no matter what ALL people will love. I will make mention of those characters.

  1. Enjolras and the Friends of the ABC
  2. Jack Kelly and the Newsies
    • Both of these groups- how can you dislike a band of brothers filled with so much courage and who stand up for what they believe in. That is why BOTH groups are impossible to dislike.
  3. The Genie

Wish I could think of more. It is just ALL I can think of for now.