While I get older, the world of musicals gets quite complicated. In this post, I will talk about of the most confusing parts that exist in the world. I will even include the confusing parts that happened to me as the musical journey continued.
First thing is loving a character and having no clue why. That has happened and it would be nice to know why I love them in the first place. Fiyero is a character that has been part of my life since 2006. I have loved him for quite a while, but honestly cannot pinpoint exactly why I love him. When you first meet him, he doesn’t care much for school and he appears to be quite rude. He ends up part of a love triangle in Wicked complete with Elphaba and Glinda. I cannot believe I have loved him for so long, but cannot seem to analyze him so I feel there is still a lot to discover about him since sometimes I feel like I still don’t know him that well.
There have been characters where I used to not be able to pinpoint why I loved them, but eventually discovered why I loved them and one of those characters is Eponine Thenardier. The second time I saw the movie musical of Les Mis, I noticed I loved the character of Eponine and that time I could not pinpoint why I fell in love with her. But over time as I got to know her more and more, I finally understood why I love Eponine. I love her due to her complexity, bravery, loyalty, and loving nature. Too bad I still cannot pinpoint why I love Fiyero because he has been part of my life much longer than Eponine has been part of my life.
The second confusing part about the world of musicals is love triangles or anything around that nature. No matter what happens, you cannot satisfy every single character in a love triangle because one will always end up with unrequited love. Unrequited love probably is the most complicated part about a love triangle and it is complicated that two characters love the exact same person because in a love triangle it can consist of either two boys loving one girl or consisting of two girls and one boy. The ones I am referring to are the ones from “Phantom of the Opera”, “Les Mis”, and “Wicked”.
The love triangle that is the hardest to understand is the “Phantom of the Opera” love triangle even though it isn’t the most complex love triangle. The most complex love triangle belongs to “Wicked”, but I grasp that one better than “The Phantom of the Opera” love triangle due to how well I personally relate and connect to Elphaba.
The “Wicked” love triangle was my first exposure to them. I always knew “I’m Not That Girl” was a sad song. I was only in middle school when I first saw Wicked and in a lot of ways, I still feel like that 12 year old whenever I see the musical. By high school, I already understood the complexity and emotional side of musicals. I knew “Wicked” was home to a love triangle. In high school, I knew that love triangles provide an interesting emotional texture.
However through the “Les Mis” love triangle”, I realized I didn’t fully understand love triangles. Through “On My Own”, I discovered that unrequited love is heartbreaking, which changed my perspective on love triangles. I cannot believe I am confessing this, but it took at least a year until I understood that “On My Own” was heartbreaking. “On My Own” was key to understanding that “I’m Not That Girl” was not just a sad song like I once believed, but heartbreaking. I think a big reason why “On My Own” helped me understand love triangles more is because no one in Wicked’s love triangle has a story that revolves around unrequited love.
But in “Les Mis”, one of the character’s stories revolves around unrequited love. “Les Mis” has Eponine. Eponine has to spend her entire storyline having to struggle with the fact that Marius is not going to love her back. The song, “On My Own”, is much stronger and more powerful than “I’m Not That Girl”. At the moment literally before “I’m Not That Girl”, Elphaba just found out moments before that she loved Fiyero so there isn’t room for the song to be fully heartbreaking. Love triangles are quite difficult to understand and can take quite a long time to understand. Of all love triangles, it is the “Les Mis” one that I have grasped the best, which was key to understanding the “Wicked” one even though the “Les Mis” one is less complex.
But in Eponine’s case, “On My Own” is much stronger because Eponine’s love for Marius is stronger than Elphaba’s love for Fiyero. In Eponine’s situation, Eponine loves Marius so much because he is the only person in her life who shows her kindness. But after Marius fell in love with Cosette, Eponine shows true love towards him. By the time “On My Own” happens, you already know how much Eponine loves Marius. So it took a more serious and stronger form of unrequited love to understand unrequited love from a less extreme form of unrequited love. “Wicked” would be the less extreme example of unrequited love, but the crazy thing is that the “Wicked” love triangle is even more complex thanks to a plot twist that happens.
This is a third confusing part about musicals, which happened to me in 2012. Growing up, I was the person who believed all musicals were happy because it was all I had known. I didn’t realize that what I believed was not true. In 2012, my parents took my sister and I to see the movie of Les Mis in December of 2012. After the first death, it hit me that Les Mis is a tragedy and I didn’t even know how to respond and I was so shocked and confused. I was thinking “wait a second, Les Mis is a tragedy” and “musicals are not supposed to be tragic”. By the end, I had no idea if I liked it or not, but must have been moved by it due to just researching it over time.
So over time, I learned to see beyond the heartbreak in Les Mis. I decided to research why the ending makes me feel uplifted. I realized that the story is about hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, humanity, sacrifice and redemption. I soon learned that even though Les Mis is a tragedy, it fits nicely into the world of musicals because musicals are known to be emotional. Les Mis taught me that heartbreak is a musical emotions so it was helpful that I learned that sad was a common emotion through the happy musicals. Tragedies no longer are confusing to me in the world of musicals and seeing musical through the eyes of them made it easier to spot negative emotions in new musicals.
The fourth confusing bit about musicals belong to the emotions. The musical emotions are so complicated because there are so many layers and each musical has a different emotional nature. Even your love for a musical shapes what the emotional nature is. If you don’t love a musical, it is a bit difficult to feel the emotional nature that naturally beings to a musical. There are five main musical emotions, which are excitement, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak.
The negative emotions have been going through drastic changes lately. The negative emotions are the ones that do not grow as quickly as the positive emotions and they are weaker than the positive emotions. That is due to the fact that the negative emotions are not in every single musical and there also has to be appreciation of the songs that are home to the negative emotions where they are strong enough to create an impact. It is a bit hard to fully appreciate and even invest in them if you do not like either the show you saw them in or if you have a hard time falling in love with characters or the same thing in the plot as well. Due to heartbreak being in the mix, it makes the negative emotions really hard to describe.
From musicals like “Music Man” and “Singing in the Rain” to musicals like “Les Mis”, that is a wide range of emotions. “Music Man” and “Singing in the Rain” are mainly home to positive emotions because those two shows don’t have enough complexity or conflict to be home to the negative emotions in the score.
But when would you say the negative emotions truly begin in musicals? I would say maybe a show like “Sound of Music”. Not everyone can strongly feel its complexity or even its negative emotions either. But two years ago when I saw “Sound of Music” live, I remember during “Edelweiss” feeling sad at one point, which happened at a very odd point in the song. It happened in between the time when the Captain stopped signing and when the children began. I teared up for the rest of it. So in a way, a show like “Sound of Music” is where I would say the negative emotions begin.
So far, the strongest point of sad has been “Les Mis” and I don’t think that is ever going to change. “Les Mis” is quite a powerful musical and has taught me that I didn’t fully grasp the negative emotions up. All I realized growing up was that I was just beginning to understand musical emotions. At one point in my “Les Mis” journey, I was surprised that some musical songs happen while a character is dying like “A Little Fall of Rain” or “Come to Me”. Of all musicals, “Les Mis” seems like it is home to the most musical emotions.
So understanding musical emotions is very complicated. Each musical has a different emotional nature. The negative emotions are home to a wonderful blend of complexity, vulnerability, and fragility. The sad and heartbreaking songs tend to be some of the most beautiful musical songs in existence like “On My Own”, “This Nearly Was Mine”, “I Dreamed a Dram”, “Your Eyes”, “Somewhere”, etc are all beautiful songs and it is very easy to appreciate loving feeling the negative emotions if you fall in love with the sad songs.
So far, of all the musicals I love, “Wicked”, “South Pacific”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Man of La Mancha”, “Sound of Music”, “Newsies”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Rent”, and “Les Mis” are all home to positive and negative emotions when it comes to the score. What is crazy about this list is that only one of those is not home to heartbreak, but only sad it seems. In a lot of ways, the negative emotions are more complicated than the positive emotions. The positive emotions are very easy to fall in love with, but the negative emotions are much harder to fall in love with because the negative emotions hurt and there are so many levels of the negative emotions in existence.
“Les Mis” showed me that the negative emotions have a lot of potential in them. Growing up, I have never been able to notice the tiny details of negative emotions and I never spent my time analyzing them. I feel like musical emotions will keep on getting more and more complex over the years due the fact that I will continue getting older with new life experiences and new shows will continue entering my life. But I love the complexity that show up in musicals because it shows I have a bigger understanding of what a musical is capable of. I know I talked a lot about musical emotions, but in a way, musical emotions are the most confusing part about a musical.