What exactly Makes me Love a Song in a Musical?

For any musical, the first step to loving it belongs to the songs. What exactly do I mean by that? The songs do not necessarily need to be singable. They need to be memorable. The songs do need to sound like they all belong in the same musical. It is very very very very very very difficult to explain what makes me love a song period. You do need to remember a song leaving the theatre- yes, but not necessarily singable. I used to think there ALWAYS needed to be a showtune song- a song like “Seize the Day” or “Do Re Mi”- but I learned that is not always the case. The song has to be a song you know you will keep on going back to- as in a song you want to listen to again and again and again without getting sick and tired of it- that is what I mean by memorable. Not all of the musical theatre songs I love are singable.

Examples of songs I love:

  1. Seize the Day
  2. On My Own
  3. Beauty and the Beast
  4. Phantom of the Opera
  5. Seventy Six Trombones
  6. Corner of the Sky
  7. Some Enchanted Evening
  8. Tomorrow
  9. Endless Night
  10. The Impossible Dream
  11. Seasons of Love
  12. Edelweiss
  13. Somewhere
  14. Popular

As you can tell, this is a wide variety of songs. From the exciting songs to the heartbreaking songs to the love songs. Not all of these songs are showtunes. I picked one song from different musicals I either like or love or happen to be musicals that are in between like and love. You can just tell whether or not you love a musical song. In order to love a musical, you have to love the songs- then there is no way to get into the characters and plot that well.

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Act I Closers

The ending of the first act in a musical is important. By that point, you usually know whether or not you love a musical. The emotion of the first act I closer does vary- some are heartbreaking, some are sad (but not heartbreaking), some are exciting, and some are empowering- it varies. Here are examples of act I closers:

Defying Gravity

One Day More

Hankua Matata

Climb Every Mountain

Santa Fe

If I Can’t Love Her

Wells Fargo Wagon

La Vie Bohéme

Let it Go

Morning Glow

I’d Give My Life For You

Crashing of the Chandelier

  • As you can tell, these act I closers do vary. You have songs that are either sad or heartbreaking like “Santa Fe”, “If I Can’t Love Her”, and “I’d Give My Life For You”. The empowering act I closers are songs such as “Let it Go”, “One Day More”, and “Defying Gravity”- those can also fit under exciting songs- which is where “Wells Fargo Wagon” and “La Vie Bohéme” fit under. So act I closers vary from musical to musical. Some musicals don’t have a song at all- such as Phantom of the Opera, which ends at the crashing of the chandelier. By the end of act I, you already know which characters and storylines you are are emotionally connected to. The act I ending is important- it is just as important as the finale of the musical.

Musicals I do Cry during

Musicals are assumed to be happy and comic. Non-musical fans don’t seem to know about the emotional side of musicals. There are emotional songs in musicals. There are heartbreaking, sad, bittersweet, and love songs in musicals. In addition, there are tragic musicals- tragic musicals are something that I didn’t know about until Les Mis entered my life. Emotional songs can lead you to cry- to even be an emotional wreck (as in multiple songs in the musicals). What are the musicals I have cried during? I decided to make a list of those here- it has changed since the last time I made a post about the same thing.

Sound of Music

  • In November 2015, I had never cried during a song in the musical. I was assuming there was no way Sound of Music could cause me to have the reaction. Enter Edelweiss- it is my favorite song from the musical; the moment Ben Davis, who played the Captain, stopped singing and before the children joined in, I picked up on a nonverbal that made sadness enter that picture. Sad was NEVER a part of Sound of Music in the songs- I was raised on Sound of Music- the movie. I started crying right when the children joined in. Ben Davis’ nonverbal was enough for me to get that reaction. I think it was a combo of the nostalgia, the bittersweetness of the song (which was new that day), and his nonverbal (a pause does hold a lot of power). Sound of Music was my 4th and final musical I saw in 2015, which was still the best year of musical.
"Edelweiss"
Edelweiss

Oliver

  • It was the first time I saw the movie. I didn’t cry for most of the movie. Then came “As Long As He Needs Me”- knowing how heartbreaking that song was- I was in tears listening to that song. Any song that has the words sad and love attached to it are always heartbreaking.
"As Long as He Needs Me" from the movie
As Long As He Needs Me

Wicked

  • Last time I saw Wicked, “For Good” hit me hard. That song is supposed to be more emotional than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”. I saw an excellent Elphaba (standby Mary Kate Morrissey) and an excellent Glinda (Amanda Jane Copper). Their “For Good” left be in tears- their Elphaba and Glinda mixed with how meaningful Wicked is to me mixed with seeing it with Gardner Webb are huge reasons why “For Good” affected me the way it did. “For Good” represents the center core of Wicked- it is after all about the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda.
"For Good"

Miss Saigon

  • I did a fresh list of this because of Miss Saigon. It is the newest musical to make me cry. Coming in, I knew it would because of Les Mis. The music was written by the same people. If Les Mis affected me so strongly- Miss Saigon would hit me too. When a musical is a tragic love story-you automatically know two of the emotions: love and heartbreak; you can’t escape and you can’t escape the ending either. In a tragic love story, things aren’t going to end well- you don’t want that to happen if you become attached to the two lovers. As for Miss Saigon, I almost cried in “Movie in the Mind”, but the real tears started in “Sun and Moon”, which is when I became attached to Kim and Chris. “Sun and Moon” is when they have fallen in love- Emily Bautista and Anthony Festa made me want those two to stay together, and as a result, did not want it to end tragically. There were other moments I did cry- “Sun and Moon” was the one I remembered the most. They are still a very very new couple I fell in love with- I only saw Miss Saigon in Feb.
"Last Night of the World" during the Miss Saigon North American Tour
“Last Night of the World”

Rent

  • Talk about emotional wreck- Rent is one of those musicals. In 2017, I saw Rent in person for the first time. I knew there were songs, like “Will I?”, and “Your Eyes” that will emotionally affect me, but there were songs that never emotionally affected until I saw Rent. I was a bigger emotional wreck in person than I am with the final Broadway cast film. The power of live theatre- songs like “Rent”, for instance, had an emotional impact on me. I was crying in songs I always cry during- “One Song Glory” was more emotional than it typically is- and so on. I was an emotional wreck watching Rent. I would be an emotional wreck more than once in 2017.

Les Mis

  • Do I have to say more? A lot of Les Mis fans are emotional wrecks watching it. Before Les Mis, I knew about the emotional side of musicals. I knew about the complex side of musicals as well. There were four core emotions I discovered: excitement, love, joy, and sad. I thought I knew musicals- I thought the knew the entire emotional nature, but boy was I so wrong. Les Mis went “are you sure you know musicals, are you sure you know how intense emotions can get in them.” A new core emotion entered the picture: heartbreak. I have been a fan of Les Mis of six years-a love that began with the film (which I had to give a 2nd chance). I never knew emotions get affect me like that-Les Mis sure taught me a lot. It disproved a lot. I still am an emotional wreck- it can be songs alone, can be the stage show, can be the film, and can be the 25th anniversary concert- all cause me to an emotional wreck. Les Mis is the musical I am the biggest emotional wreck during.
"One Day More" during the US Tour of Les Mis
“One Day More”

Favorite Musicals and Favorite Songs

All musical theatre fans have their favorite musicals. In each musical, there is usually a song that becomes their favorite. I decided to write a list of some of my favorite musicals and what my favorite song is.

  1. Wicked- Popular
  2. Les Mis- (Do I have to say more); this is an exception where I can’t pick
  3. Sound of Music- Edelweiss
  4. Phantom of the Opera- either Music of the Night or All I Ask of You
  5. Annie- Tomorrow
  6. Newsies- Seize the Day
  7. Beauty and the Beast- Beauty and the Beast
  8. Lion King- Can You Feel the Love Tonight
  9. Rent- Seasons of Love
  10. Music Man- Seventy Six Trombones
  11. South Pacific- Some Enchanted Evening
  12. Pippin- Corner of the Sky
  13. Mamma Mia- Dancing Queen
  14. Man of La Mancha- Impossible Dream
  15. Godspell- We Beseech Thee


Non-Survivors I love in Musicals

What do I mean by the non-survivors? These are the characters who die in musicals. So this will be SPOILER HEAVY. I used to think a character death would not be memorable, but I learned my lesson.

  1. Enjolras and the students
  2. Gavroche
  3. Eponine
  4. Fantine
  5. Jean Valjean
  6. Don Quixote
  7. Angel
  8. Mufasa
  9. Kim

It was Les Mis that taught me that I can love a character death. I love more characters who survive than characters who don’t survive. A lot of that it because I can’t think of more. Death in musicals are not EASY to watch, but you have to understand WHY they had to happen- all of these deaths had to happen. Yes, character death is sad, and you are heartbroken because you loved the character. The only way they will continue to live is in you.

How do you feel about character death?

Examples of Emotional Musicals

I have known musicals are emotional since middle school. Wicked was the reasoning behind this. Wicked told me about four core emotions, which were excitement, love, joy, and sad. The emotional musicals are the ones that I tend to be drawn to the most. What exactly makes an emotional musical?

The emotional musicals tend to have a score that has BOTH positive and negative emotions. When I say negative emotions, I mean strong enough to create a response- not mild. Not all sad songs are heartbreaking, but all heartbreaking songs are sad. Now I will talk about some of the examples of the musicals I call emotional.

Major and Minor Spoilers:

Newsies

For a lot of act I, Newsies does not seem to fit under emotional musicals. The songs already are catchy and exciting. The only kind of emotional song that comes to mind already are “Santa Fe (Prologue)”, but that song is hopeful- however I believe that song and “Something to Believe In” does play their part in Newsies being emotional. So why is Newsies emotional? Look right after “Seize the Day?”

"Something to Believe In" in Newsies

This big fight breaks out. Jack, the leader of the strike, witnesses all of this. This upsets him a great deal, but hurts him the most when he sees Crutchie being arrested. All of this shows that Jack cares a lot about the strike. If you remember Jack and Crutchie share quite an intimate bond- that is shown in the first song. All of this leads into “Santa Fe”, which is a sad song. So that song does make Newsies an emotional song.

"Santa Fe" in Newsies

There is a 2nd moment in Newsies that makes it an emotional musical. Crutchie has a solo that was added when the musical was launched as a tour. Crutchie is one of the principal actors. The song, “Letter From the Refuge”, was added, and that song is heartbreaking. So those two songs make Newsies an emotional musical.

"Letter from the Refuge" in Newsies

Beauty and the Beast

This musical, like Newsies, is a Disney musical. This musical is a romance- so ALL the romantic songs are emotional. From “Something There” to “Beauty and the Beast”- those help make the musical emotional. Beauty and the Beast still has their heartbreaking songs- in the stage show, “home” is one of the more emotional songs and so is the heartbreaking “If I Can’t Love Her” and “If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)”. All of those songs combined are why Beauty and the Beast is emotional.

Lion King

This is yet another Disney musical that is emotional. After all, the emotional nature of the show starts after Scar kills his brother. That was when the storyline kicked off. Seeing the effect it has on Young Simba is heartbreaking (before he runs away). Mufasa’s death almost made me cry last year when I saw Lion King. Lion King is home to songs such as “Shadowland” and “Endless Night”. Even the romantic “Can You Fell the Love Tonight” plays a part in the emotional nature of Lion King. So Disney does do a good job on making a musical emotional at times.

Wicked

Wicked is for sure a musical with a lot of comic moments. It still has a serious side to it. Its’ center core is the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. At the same time, it has a love triangle between Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero. There are songs such as the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl” and bittersweet “For Good”. “For Good” is the most emotional song of the musical. “No Good Deed” shows negative emotions as well- which took 9 and 1/2 years for me to notice any sort of emotions in it. One of its more major topics is discrimination- but each time I keep on focusing much more on the friendship and the love triangle that I keep on not exploring the more serious side of Wicked.

South Pacific

South Pacific is a romance that is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. That would mean one couple is more light-hearted than the other. Romance musicals have multiple emotional moments. Emelie does sing the heartbreaking “This Nearly Was Mine”. Once you see South Pacific, “Younger Than Springtime” does become almost more emotional- that is the song that focuses on List and Joe Cable- that couple is actually tragic. One of South Pacific’s major topics it focuses on is racism.

Rent

Rent is a sad musical, so it obviously is an emotional musical. It takes place during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It talks about how to live life in the time you have. Rent is one of those musicals that can make me an emotional wreck- songs like “Will I”, “Your Eyes”, and “Without You” are moments that usually get to me.

Les Mis

Les Mis is even more tragic than Rent. Les Mis feels like you are hit with tragedy after tragedy after tragedy- it is like the tragic events never stop. At the same time, there is this beautiful underlying spirituality. Compassion is shown at death scenes, hope is shown when something tragic does happen, and so on. I am truly an emotional wreck at Les Mis.



What are some of the emotional musicals you love?


Favorite Musical Theatre Couples and Why

Major or Minor Spoilers:

Elphaba and Fiyero

They are what I would call the “unexpected couple”. You never expect them to get together. When Elphaba first meets him, she can’t stand him. He doesn’t make a good impression at first. Then the Lion Cub Scene happens, and he softens up a bit. You discover that she is starting to fall in love with him, but unrequitedly- you feel like he will always be with Glinda. Then he hears all of these rumors spread about Elphaba and knows they are not true. He realizes that he loves Elphaba instead of Glinda- so now the unrequited love shifts to Glinda.

Elphaba and Fiyero may be a young couple, but they are a mature couple. It clearly shows during “As Long as Your’e Mine”. They do protect each other- after all he protects Elphaba from being arrested, which leads him to possibly being tortured, which leads Elphaba to do spell after spell after spell to protect Fiyero.

Elphaba and Fiyero during "As Long as Your'e Mine"

Belle and Beast

This musical is actually a romance. The Beast is actually a human transformed into a Beast after an enchantress discovered there is no love in his heart. So she transformed him into a beast. The spell would be broken if he will fall in love and will be loved by another. The love also affected those who lived in the castle.

Belle became prisoner in Beast’s castle after taking her father’s place. First Belle despised the Beast. She saw how unkind and how selfish he was. After she ran away after Beast scared her for being in the West Wing, Beast began to soften up. He ended up saving her life, but he still had a hard time controlling his temper. Slowly over time, they began to have feelings for each other (“Something There”). Then at “Beauty and the Beast”, you knew they were in love. The whole “Beauty and the Beast” scene is so magical to look at. I don’t know what it is about Disney love songs- there is something magical about them. Beast was willing to let her go- Belle and Beast protected each other. After all, when Belle realized Gaston was going to hurt the Beast, she wanted to hurt him and when Belle came back, Beast fought Gaston in order to protect Belle. Their love for each other caused the spell to be broken.

Dan Stevens as Beast and Emma Watson as Belle during the 2017 live film of Beauty and the Beast during the song, Beauty and the Beast

Cosette and Marius

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius in the musical film, Les Misérables

One of the things I love about these two is how they bring hope to this tragedy. Cosette represents love and hope- so it makes sense why she and Marius ends up together. These two are some of the only survivors in Les Mis. While they have lost so many important people in their lives in the end, at least they still have each other. They are such an adorable couple in so many ways.

Katherine and Jack

This is another Disney couple that I love. They are my favorite contemporary Disney couple. Even the song, “Something to Believe In” carries the same magic that the classic Disney songs have. Katherine is the reporter of the strike and Jack is the Newsies’ leader. She does help him with the inner conflict he is going through in act II. Their love clearly shows during “Something to Believe In”

Katherine and Jack during "Something to Believe In" during Newsies

Christine and Raoul

Before the events in the story begin, they once upon a time were childhood sweethearts. When Raoul first recognized Christine, he wanted to be in relationship with her. Raoul is the one who would protect Christine no matter what. After hearing from her about the Phantom, he would do anything to protect her. I have always loved them- “All I Ask Of You” is one of the biggest reasons that explains it.

Christine and Raoul during "All I Ask of You"

Mimi and Roger

They are one of the hardest couples to explain why I love them. There are three couples in Rent, and Mimi and Roger are the main couple. They do connect in “Light in my Candle”, but do not become a couple until “I Should Tell You”. It takes about a lot of act I to become a couple. Roger is the one who is unwilling to get in a relationship while Mimi wants to. Both of them have HIV. These two struggle in their relationship at times and do fight at times- they still love each other despite the problems. I wish I knew further why I love them; I think a lot of it comes from them being realistic and their songs.

Mimi and Roger during "Light my Candle" in Rent

Conclusion

These are just a few of my favorite couples. All of them share a few things in common. They all are young couples, and they all have a main song that I am attached to. The main song is a key element to loving a musical theatre couple. A couple’s main song does show you that those characters have fallen in love. Usually it can be hard to tell if they have fallen in love or not- which is definitely true if the musical is not a romance.