Negative Emotions- What is the Point

The musical theatre world is known to be comical and funny, but also emotional. True, there are a LOT of happy musicals, but there are tragic ones (which I learned the hard way). In middle school, through Wicked, I was able to discover sad- as in it came to the forefront meaning it became a core emotion. I defiantly knew it was common by just ONE musical. So I was able to understand WHY we needed sad in musicals- it was for believability and for a character to become complex; there were some things that were missing that I didn’t realize. At least I understood something- the basic point of sad, and that it existed and was core.

Then, Les Mis entered. I had told myself TRAGEDIES did not exist in musicals. I had told myself emotion couldn’t push past sad- meaning I did not know it could NOT get more devastating then it already was. That basically means I was blind to HEARTBREAK. I had told myself DEATH was unmemorable and that there was no way a song could exist in a death scene. Well, you got all of those disproven in just ONE musical. I had to learn this the hard way. The first time I watched the film- I was shocked and confused, and believe it or not called Les Mis TOO DEPRESSING and did not know if I liked it. I had told myself in high school, I would NEVER love a tragedy- that might be part of why I was having a hard time with Les Mis in the beginning. YES, that was the beginning of my Les Mis journey. December 2012.

March 2013 (I think)- I don’t know why, but I told myself to watch that Les Mis film a 2nd time. This time, by knowing Les Mis was tragic, I was able to calm down. I began to notice something- there was something about the musical that makes it more than tragic. I noticed it strongly at the end- I felt uplifted, but I wanted to know why. I went from calling it too depressing to calling it inspiring and uplifting.

So, the core emotions of sad and heartbreak are meant to be in musicals. They actually are in more musicals then non-musical fans think: Wicked, Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, South Pacific, Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, West Side Story, Rent and Les Mis- I intentionally ended with the tragic musicals to show that even happy musicals have sad and tragic moments. Why do you think there has to be sad and heartbreaking moments in musicals?

Well, music is an universal language. Sad and heartbreak are a part of life- those two lead to other emotions. In the musical world- sad and heartbreak are also connected to love. The strongest of musicals have heartbreak in them. Those make the musicals feel more real and complex. If sad and heartbreak did not exist- there would not be conflict in musicals at all. Conflict is the cause of heartbreaking, sad, and tragic events. Think about the love triangles and the tragic love stories- there would have to be heartbreak, loneliness, anger and pain or else they would become dry and wouldn’t be needed. The love triangles I love the most are complex, strong, and add texture to those musicals: Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, and Wicked automatically come to mind.

How would you feel if sad and heartbreak did NOT exist in musicals?

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”

The Core Musical Theatre Emotions

Musical theatre is home to core emotions. There are five of them, but there was not always five. From middle school to the first half of my first year college, there was four core emotions. In elementary school, there was less than four core emotions. 

What are the five core emotions? They are excitement, joy, love, sad, and heartbreak. The other emotions that exist in musicals sprout from those emotions. Some core emotions combine together such as heartbreak and love and sad. Love is part of joy. Love- that is confusing- that can either be joy or heartbreaking- it depends on the scenario. 

The core emotions are extremely important. Those are emotions that exist in a musical theatre song. There are more than five emotions in musical theatre. Without the five core emotions, the rest of the emotions may not exist. Emotions like loneliness and anger sprout from heartbreak, love and sadness.  I never knew I was blind to heartbreak growing up until Les Mis entered my life. There is a difference between songs being sad and songs being heartbreaking. 

The core musical theatre emotions are the main root that a musical theatre song is. The other emotions in a song come from the main emotion. Do you understand what I mean. The core emotions are excitement, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak. Excitement is the emotion that always shows up in dance and spectacle. Joy shows up in happy scenes, bittersweet scenes, and whether or not if you are having a positive experience. 

Heartbreaking Songs

To continue on yesterday’s heartbreaking love songs, today I thought I would talk about ALL heartbreaking songs. I was 100% blind to heartbreak before my first year of college, but I did know about the emotion of sad. So at least I knew about sad- one of the emotions part of heartbreak. Heartbreak is basically a more devastating form of sad. What are the other emotions associated with heartbreak? The ones I have found are anger, guilt, and loneliness among others. Heartbreak can hit you like a pile of breaks and can reduce you to tears. So now here is a list of the heartbreaking musical theatre songs.

  1. I’m Not That Girl 
  2. On My Own 
  3. I Dreamed a Dream 
  4. Come to Me 
  5. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables 
  6. Drink With Me 
  7. A Little Fall of Rain 
  8. Bring Him Home
  9. All I Ask Of You (Reprise)
  10. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again 
  11. If I Can’t Love Her 
  12. If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise) 
  13. Evermore 
  14. Endless Night 
  15. Letter From the Refuge
  16. This Nearly Was Mine 
  17. Somewhere
  18. Will I
  19. Your Eyes 
  20. Without You 
  21. Memory
  22. As Long As He Needs Me

These heartbreaking songs come from a number of musicals- Wicked, Newsies, Les Mis, Lion King, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Rent, and Cats. Some of these songs are more devastating than others. Some of them hit me harder than others. Some hit me like a pile of bricks, and some don’t. Some of them make me tear up while others don’t.  Heartbreak is one of the most beautiful emotions in musical theatre and one of the strongest. 

Heartbreaking Love Songs

If a musical theatre song is both a love and sad song, it will ALWAYS be heartbreaking. That is always the truth- that’s for sure. These songs can be ironic or non-ironic. Those songs fall under unrequited love songs, breakup songs, or if the plot is a tragic love story. What are examples of these songs? Below I will list some of those songs. 

  1. I’m Not That Girl/ I’m Not That Girl (Reprise)
  2. On My Own 
  3. Somewhere 
  4. As Long As He Needs Me 
  5. This Nearly Was Mine 
  6. If I Can’t Love Her/ If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise) 
  7. Evermore
  8. All I Ask Of You (Reprise) 

I’m Not That Girl was the FIRST heartbreaking love song I was emotionally connected to, but was sad in the beginning. I never called I’m Not That Girl a sad love song- I never combined emotions together- I called it sad. On My Own, just like I’m Not That Girl, began as a sad song, but after a year I realized it was heartbreaking- On My Own was key to realizing I’m Not That Girl was heartbreaking. As a matter of fact, On My Own made me realize all sad love songs were heartbreaking. The heartbreaking love songs have a combination of emotions- they can be home to sad, anger, and loneliness: it depends on the song and the actor and actress who is playing the character. Some of those heartbreaking love songs are much more heartbreaking than others: for instance, On My Own is more heartbreaking than I’m Not That Girl. 

Spoilers: 

It sounds crazy how some of them are ironic- that means the love situation improves in the end or you don’t expect the character to sing it. I’m Not That Girl is the best example- after all the unrequited love shifts from Elphaba to Glinda, which is why the song is sung twice. In addition, the spell gets broken in Beauty and the Beast, which makes If I Can’t Love Her/ If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise), and Evermore ironic. The same situation happens with This Nearly Was Mine because Nellie goes back to Emelie in the end. 

Non ironic- that means the situation NEVER improves in the end. That would mean that character might have unrequited love the entire time. In Les Mis, Eponine has unrequited love for Marius till the end of her journey in Les Mis- she does have a tragic ending, but at the same time, her fate is touching and moving and is home to joy. Eponine’s fate is death, but she gets to die in the arms of Marius after getting shot- that is where the joy comes from. So On My Own is not ironic at all. So the heartbreaking love songs are both ironic and non-ironic. 

The heartbreaking love songs are some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. They are fragile, vulnerable, and some of them are home to innocence. It just depends on the character and how much they love the person they are in love with at that point in the story.