Making a Musical Powerful

In existence, there are powerful musicals. But what exactly makes a musical powerful? It is very hard to describe because sometimes you just know a musical is powerful. I will do the best I can to describe what makes musicals powerful.

The Music- that is one of the first steps. Usually powerful musicals have a complex and emotional score, which means it involves the positive and negative emotions. The songs have the capability to reduce you to tears or give you goosebumps. So the music is one key element of making a musical powerful.

The Plot- Just like the music, a powerful musical tends to have a complex plot. It tends to involve characters making a stand. They tend to have characters that have some sort of strong conflict in their lives. Not all of those characters are tragic characters, but still have to face a lot. Inner conflict tends to be a huge factor. A beautiful transformation of characters is an aspect of well.

The Themes- the messages of a musical make them powerful as well. Examples include “living in the moment and in love”, “there is hope in the face of darkness”, and “the power of how friends strongly change you for good due to having such a special bond” and so on.

Powerful musicals include, but not limited to, are Wicked, Les Mis, Newsies, and Rent.

What exactly do you think makes a musical powerful and what are examples of powerful musicals?

Why Do the Best Musicals Tend to Have Negative Emotions in Their Songs?

Why is that almost always the best musicals tend to have negative emotions within their songs? When I was younger, I discovered that I preferred the musicals that have the negative emotions within the songs. It was at a time where all musicals were happy. I understood the negative emotions differently than I do now. Heartbreak was an emotion that I wasn’t even aware of. I don’t have much recollection of the negative emotions so long ago. The best way to trace how far the negative emotions have come is to use the musical, Wicked.

I started to understand the emotional nature of musicals through Wicked. I actually knew that “I’m Not That Girl” was a sad song since middle school. By high school I was definitely knew that the song was a song dealing with a love triangle. That was how I viewed it for most of my Wicked journey. When I first discovered heartbreak through “Les Mis”, the emotions of other musicals changed drastically. Just like “On My Own” from Les Mis, “I’m Not That Girl” is also an unrequited love song. Through that shocking realization, “I’m Not That Girl” started to become a heartbreaking song and I saw the insight of it through memorizing the lyrics.

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Another drastic change of the negative emotions in Wicked happened with the song “No Good Deed”. For the longest time ever, I always hated that song and never got anything out of it. I never could pick up on any of its emotions. But when I actually saw Wicked the fourth time, I finally got something out of the song and was finally able to pick up on its emotions of anger and frustration. Through the changes of “I’m Not That Girl” and “No Good Deed”, I felt the most vulnerable the fourth time around.

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For me, I feel like the negative emotions are in the musicals I prefer are due to the fact that those emotions help make a musical more well-rounded and even more complex. When a show has a good deal of conflict, the negative emotions are usually in the songs themselves. Having the negative emotions makes it easier to emotionally connect to the characters. Those shows feel a lot more real and help make the experience even more worth it. The negative emotions have strengthened a lot since I first encountered them through the happy musicals.

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Having sad musicals in my life actually gave me a bigger appreciation of the negative musical emotions. By seeing musicals through the perspectives of Rent and Les Mis, I was able to understand the negative emotions so much better.

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It is very important to keep an eye on the negative emotions in the happy musicals. I am aware that the negative emotions have a few limitations when it comes to them. Some musicals are not home to them like “Music Man” and you need musicals like those to exist for balance.

The newest musical of my life that happened to have negative emotions in the songs is “Newsies”, which happened during “Santa Fe”.  Sometimes you are conflicted as to whether or not you actually felt the negative emotions the first time you see a new musical. The negative emotions in musicals tend to develop steady over time. The happy musicals are the shows where the mildest layers of sad do exist. The happy musicals can even consist of negative emotions being powerful.

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There is an amazing strength when it comes to the negative emotions. There is an incredible fragility when it comes to them as well. Sometimes it has either an innocence or an incredible vulnerability or an epic quality or a powerful nature. The heartbreaking songs tend to be filled with such beauty. A song can be sad without being heartbreaking. True the negative emotions do hurt when it comes to musicals, but are so worth it especially if you have the emotional connection to the characters, songs, and plot lines.

My Special Love of Wicked and Les Mis

My top two favorite musicals are Wicked and Les Mis. Each of them are two very special musicals in my life. I even cannot pick which one is better considering how severely different they are from each other. Wicked is the powerful and emotional story of friendship between Glinda and Elphaba and is filled with spectacle/dance and also a musical comedy. On the other hand, Les Mis is the powerful, heartbreaking, epic, inspirational musical tragedy.

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Favorite songs: Popular (was my favorite song from the show when I was 12), For Good, Dancing Through Life, What is This Feeling, Wizard and I, As Long as Your’e Mine, I’m Not That Girl 

Favorite character: Elphaba (due to how much I relate to her)

Favorite costume: Elphaba’s act 2 black dress

Favorite cast: January 2016 Touring US Production with Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba

Why it’s my favorite: The magic, the fantasy, the dance/spectacle, the vulnerable and special and emotional connection to Elphaba-relate to this character so much, the powerful story of friendship and acceptance

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Les Mis

Favorite songs: On My Own, I Dreamed a Dream, A Little Fall of Rain, Bring Him Home, Look Down (Prologue), Look Down (Paris), Drink With Me, Stars, One Day More, What Have I Done

Favorite characters: Eponine, Jean Valjean, Enjolras, Young Cosette, Gavroche, Barricade Boys, Fantine

Favorite costume: No idea

Favorite cast: Summer 2015 West End Cast with Adam Bayjou as Valjean

Why it’s my favorite: the sheer power and brilliance of the songs, the incredible depth of the storyline and characters, the emotional and strong emotional roller coaster, the way the heartbreaking and inspirational natures interlock together 

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My Passion for Les Mis

“To love another person is to see the face of God”

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will raise”

-Les Mis: Finale

As many may know by now, when it comes to musicals, I am the most passionate about Les Mis. I still don’t know why that is, but do know why I love it is much. Les Mis is quite an unique musical that is so powerful, epic, and inspirational. You see people thriving in some of the most unfortunate situations ever and there is an uprising that students are passionate about and will fight to the end no matter what. That is what makes it such a passionate musical. Les Mis does not make me feel miserable ever even when I am feeling heartbroken or lonely or sad. You are feeling the character’s emotions at those moments and you also have joy experiencing those emotions due to a love you have for the show. Sometimes in heartbreaking situations, you do find happiness in one of the characters.

There is just something about Les Mis that is so captivating,  insightful, honest, soulful, and transforming. It is such a complex musical filled with so many wonderful layers and they make you truly get to know the different characters. This show is covered with several layers of emotions at such a deep level. The songs are brilliant and wonderfully reveal the depths of these characters. The plot, characters, and songs brilliantly work together.

This show represents the survival of the human spirit and despite the heartbreak, it is filled with hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity and redemption. That shows the storyline is more then tragedy. I see it more inspirational then heartbreaking in my opinion. Yes, I know it is heartbreaking, but in fact understanding the inspirational world of the musical actually makes the heartbreaking nature stronger. Compassion is shown at heartbreaking moments such as death. Forgiveness and compassion is given to Valjean through the bishop who helps lead Valjean on a better path.

It seems like I am way too obsessed about this musical. But in reality, this musical truly has changed what I know about musical theatre. It made me look at the emotions differently. I can’t even describe how much the emotional nature of musicals changed after falling in love with this musical. If I have to pick a favorite character or song from this musical, I wouldn’t be able to.

What is it about the characters that makes so memorable? The reason why I love them so much is because they are so complex and strong. You see characters like Jean Valjean and Eponine raising above from their backgrounds. You get to see characters like Enjolras and the students who stand up for what they believe and stay passionate no matter what. There even is Fantine who lives for the sake of her daughter no matter what obstacles she faces. There is misery in all of the characters. The miserable are the wretched, the outcasts, and the fugitives. Some of them are tragic due to society and not their flaws. Fantine falls victim to how society treats women, Valjean falls victim to injustice due to his status of an ex-convict, and Eponine falls victim to how her parents raised her. But that doesn’t stop the characters from thriving or trying to become a better person.

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Becoming Open-Minded

What does it mean to be open-minded? In my opinion, it is giving something a chance. It means exploring something from a different perspective. Being open-minded always is worth it. I am aware it can be hard to be open-minded at times and end up with the wrong perspective. Sometimes I have been extremely close-minded to certain subjects and genres.

One of the biggest things I was so close-minded to was the genre of tragedy. In ninth grade, I discovered the genre for the very first time through Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Not only was I close-minded to tragedy, but also close-minded to Shakespeare. I automatically associated tragedies with sad and thought they were nothing more. All through high school, each time I had to read a tragedy, I ignored it and pushed it far back like it didn’t belong in theatre. I didn’t realize I was soon to learn that tragedies were way more then I thought they would be. Well, that happened in the most unexpected of ways, but glad I finally learned to love some of them.

When I went to see the movie of the musical, Les Mis, I came in not knowing what that title meant and already knew “I Dreamed a Dream”. I wasn’t even told that Les Mis was a tragedy, but glad I didn’t know or I wouldn’t have gone at all. I mainly decided to see the movie to listen to “I Dreamed a Dream”. I was quite unsure coming into the movie whether or not I would like it or not. The moment I realized Les Mis was a tragedy was after the first character died and I was so in shock. The rest of the movie I watched in shock not knowing how to respond. I was quite surprised that musicals are home to tragedies because I grew up believing that all musicals were comedies. It is true that most musicals are happy, but I learned how to call all musicals joyful.

But well if you think about it, it was so worth it not realizing Les Mis was a tragedy until I saw the movie. I decided to give the movie a second chance a couple of months after the first viewing, and this time I got way more out of it. The tragic moments were easier to handle because I already knew they were coming. That time around I started to realize there was something special about the emotional impact in Les Mis. I did want to know why this heartbreaking musical always ended in an uplifting way and decided to learn more. I realized that at its core is a story of love, hope, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption. From Les Mis, I learned the real value of tragedy and why the genre matters. So through Les Mis, I learned not to judge a book by its cover in terms of genre. The genre is not quite as important as the actual plot and characters.

So, try to be more open-minded. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Try to find value in things you just don’t want to give a chance. All because of Les Mis, I realized that I never should of been close-minded to tragedy in the first place. I try to see beyond the genre and figure out what it is at the very core of novels or anything else in literature. Besides Les Mis, there are other sad shows I learned to love. The others are Rent and La Bohème, but I do like West Side Story, but don’t love it.

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“I Dreamed a Dream”

(Major/Minor Spoilers)

This summer was a year like no other. I got the opportunity to see Les Mis in the West End. I had a dream of seeing it in London ever since I became obsessed with the musical. It changed my perspective on musical theatre. It changed how I viewed the different emotions because I felt emotions that I had never felt before and it also strengthened previous emotions. Before Les Mis, I believed I would hate tragedies and that was a big mistake. Because Les Mis is a tragedy, I learned from the past.

Even though Les Mis is a tragedy, it is so much more than that. Some people do not seem to understand why I love it because the title means “the miserable”. The show has an experience that is very different from other musicals because the musical is an extremely powerful emotionally moving musical.

When I saw the show in the West End, it was the best experience I ever had with the musical. The moment the lights went out and the music began, I knew it was more than I originally excepted. The first couple of notes were just so powerful. Because the show is sung-through, the orchestra has to be incredible. The current Les Mis cast is absolutely brilliant and when I saw it, I had an understudy for Valjean. His name was Adam Bayjou.

Adam played a wonderful Valjean. During the prologue, I could hear the anger of Valjean and I could see his transformation through the kindness of the bishop. After Valjean was released, my tears started and I excepted them to start later, but glad they started when they did. I could see Valjean’s compassion toward the poor especially towards Fantine and his adopted daughter.

Jeremy Secomb played Javert, the antagonist of the storyline. For the longest time, I did not feel for this character at all. I did not even care that he died. But I finally saw Javert when Jeremy played him. He was the most effective during the suicide scene. Before he started singing, I could already sense the suffering of Javert. Even though I do not like Javert, I am glad that I finally cared.

Rachelle Ann Go played the tragic heroine, Fantine. I truly saw Fantine from beginning to end. My heart was breaking for this character. From the moment the character sang, I was truly feeling the desperation of the character. “I Dreamed a Dream” was heart-renching and so was her death. She had just gotten the part only a month before I saw the show in London. Out of all of the characters, I feel the worst for Fantine.”I Dreamed a Dream” had a little bit of hope in it. Once it got to “Lovely Ladies”, Fantine sounded much more desperate and that is the hardest scene to watch. I am not a big fan of the scene because it makes me feel uncomfortable, but I tolerate it because I understand why it is there. My heart continued to break during Fantine’s death scene. I could feel how broken Fantine was and I could feel Valjean’s compassion by saying he will care for her daughter.

The two actors who played the Thenardiers’ were hilarious. I laughed during “Master of the House” and by this point, the audience deserves a good laugh. Besides being funny, I could also sense their greedy, abusive, cruel side. I first saw their evil nature in how they treated Cosette. But after Cosette was rescued by Valjean, they started being abusive towards their own daughter.

Carrie Hope Fletcher played the heartbroken Eponine. Eponine is the daughter of the Thenardier’. After Cosette was rescued by Valjean, her family fell into extreme poverty and they started to use their abuse on Eponine. I could feel Eponine’s unrequited love towards Marius. Every time I heard her sing, the words were very heartbreaking to me. During “On my Own”, I felt a new emotion in Eponine, which was anger. It is fun discovering new emotions of characters you already have gotten to know. I find it sad that Eponine did not get happiness until “A Little Fall of Rain”, which is her death scene. At the beginning of that song, I believed that Eponine was dying from being shot and I knew something was wrong after I heard the gunshot because I looked up and the nonverbal I saw made me know something was wrong. The thing I love the most about this scene is that Marius stayed with her and that she got to die in the arms of the man she loves. Rob Houchen played Marius and in this scene, he truly was compassionate towards her and offered her comfort. I truly saw how devastated he was after she died and how much Eponine meant to him.

Enjorlas and the students truly were brilliant. Each time they sang, I felt their passion towards the uprising. Every song that they sang had an epic and uplifting quality. But I felt hopeless during “Drink With Me”. They knew the uprising will fail after Eponine died. They realized they were outnumbered. Even though they felt hopeless, they still stayed passionate even in the final battle.

The set truly made the show come to life. It was very 3d, which made it feel like you are part of the action. The set was very gray and bleak, which represented the time period. The revolving stage helped with time change. You would be watching one scene and all of a sudden the stage turned and another scene was going on. I loved this technique during the uprising. When Gavroche climbed over the barricades, they turned the stage and seeing Gavroche getting shot saddened me. There is something special about live theatre that makes emotions more real. After the uprising ended, they turned the stage and shown a light on Enjorlas, which saddened me as well. The fog helped scenes come to life as well. This production had a lot of fog starting with the opening scene.

When the show ended, I was completely speechless. Usually when I see a show, I do not stand up right away, but for this I did. It was more than I thought. Some emotions I always knew were in the show were stronger. Those emotions that became stronger were compassion, hope, and forgiveness. Sadness was also stronger because I felt it more than I used to. I felt the emotions of uplifting, exciting, joy, love, funny, compassion, passion, hope, anger, guilt, hopeless, sad, desperation, devastation, depressing, heartbreak, loneliness, uncomfortable and I know I felt more than that.

After the show ended, I went to the stage door and met the actor who played Valjean. He signed my playbill and I had my picture taken with him. I truly “dreamed a dream” that night. I was lucky that I was only nine rows back from the stage. It added to the experience and it made me feel closer to the action. I have no words to describe how much Les Mis means to me. Once again it may be depressing, but is also uplifting. Because “Do You Hear the People Sing” is the anthem of the show, it shows that Les Mis is uplifting.

“To Love Another Person is To See the Face of God”