Full Circle- Wicked and Les Mis

Of all musicals that entered my life, Wicked and Les Mis are the most meaningful. These two musicals are most responsible for the love I have for musicals today. I talked about how they came full circle before, but this post will be kinda of different.

Broadway

It was August 2006 when I first saw Wicked. I was in NYC with my mom. One of the best things we did was seeing Wicked on Broadway. While I don’t have vivid memories, I do remember that “Popular” was my favorite song. At the time, I was only 12. Wicked was the musical where I began to understand emotional connection, and the emotional and complex side to musicals.

Due to Wicked, four core emotions were at the forefront. Those belonged to excitement, joy, love, and sad. Wicked was the musical where I first began to understand love triangles.

West End

This is connected to Les Mis. Les Mis entered my life by the film. Before falling in love with the musical, I had to give the film a 2nd chance. March 2013 was when I fell in love with Les Mis. Les Mis challenged what I already knew about musicals. Tragic musicals started to enter, a new core emotion was introduced (heartbreak), love triangles started to be understood even stronger, and the concept of death. How did Les Mis change death? Prior, I literally thought that death couldn’t be memorable or happen during song- Les Mis proved me wrong. I finally could understand that unrequited love was heartbreaking.

By summer 2013, I was obsessed with Les Mis. It truly was Central Piedmont Community College’s production of Les Mis that ended up being the motor for wanting to see the musical in London. I thought it would take a number of years before that happened. I already knew about The Bristol Pilgrimage- I already was aware that it would happen summer of 2015. At the time, did even think that Les Mis would happen just because there was no talk about going up early. Then November 2014 comes around, and that was when I told that my family was going up early- that was literally when I started nagging my parents to take me to Les Mis. December 2014- finally I was told that I would see a show in The West End.

When June 2015 came around, I finally figured out which musical. I was texted French Flags and Musical note emojis. I did not quite understand the text, and then was told to check my email. I found out I was seeing Les Mis- that moment I saw that, I ran up to my mom crying. It would happen on July 30th. It was interesting how I saw Les Mis this year- that was due to taking Acting I in Spring 2015 at GWU. It just connected so well into the Bristol Pilgrimage.

“I Dreamed a Dream”

Just like Wicked, it was a date with my mom. It literally worked for the Bristol Pilgrimage- Les Mis is Valjean’s spiritual journey. So I saw Les Mis the day before going on my own. Not only was I living my mom, but my dad and sister got their own date. Nothing felt like reality- from seeing the Queen’s Theater to buying souvenirs to seeing the set to nothing how close I was- nothing once felt real. Then, the first notes were heard, and I knew I was living the dream. Do you know what those notes told me? They told me it was going to be more than expected- I actually see the orchestra as a character. I came in knowing I would be an emotional wreck and that I would get a laugh every once in a while. Those notes weren’t lying- it was more than expected. It was my 4th time seeing the stage show.

At least with Les Mis in London, I knew my cast. I did not keep the playbill for Wicked on Broadway. I had a culture shock in The West End- buying my playbill. I did have an understudy as Valjean (Adam Bayjou) and actually got to meet him at stage door- I literally have a signed playbill and picture with the Valjean.

Gardner Webb University

As a number of readers know, Gardner Webb was the university I went to. Broadway and The West End aren’t the only way Wicked and Les Mis came full circle. GWU is close enough to Charlotte and Greenville that it is possible to see touring productions.

Wicked

Wicked was the very first tour GWU took students to. I was one of the first to sign up. I knew the slots would fill up quickly. This actually marked the 4th time I saw Wicked. Seeing a musical with a school that changed me for good and seeing a musical that changed me for good. I had a standby (Mary Kate Morrissey). I knew I would be more vulnerable this time around. For the first time, “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking- thanks to the help of “On My Own” and memorizing the lyrics. I really was able to explore Fiyero a bit deeper to help figure out the plot twist in the love triangle.

was really surprised at “No Good Deed”: that song was always emotionless, but this around I could feel the energy and emotions that came with that song. “For Good” did make me tear up= it was a combo of the actresses and being with GWU.

Les Mis

GWU decided to take students to Les Mis. This time, we would be in Greenville at the gorgeous Peace Center. I had a tough decision to make in 2017- see the tour with my university or see it in my hometown of Charlotte. I choose Greenville- I really wanted to make the most of my final year of university, and I actually was able to help those who didn’t fully know the musical.

Peace Center

I came into this production smart. I would not compare this cast to the brilliant West End cast I already had. Just like London, I had an understudy, but this time for Eponine. I love both productions- I think the 25th has a bit more color and more Victor Hugo. There are moments I loved more in this production- “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” for instance. Yes, I was take off guard in London, but quite as much as this production. In the love triangle, my favorite character is Eponine. However what happens when your favorite character in the love triangle isn’t the strongest- that happened to me. My standouts were Nick Cartell (Valjean), Joshua Grosso (Marius), and Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras).

With Joshua, I saw a side I never saw to Marius. It was a personality shift: I saw an unique awkwardness that made the character more charming. Due to Joshua, Marius is almost a core favorite character. Still don’t know how Jillian Butler (Cosette) was able to connect to Joshua. I loved how he treated falling in love with Cosette (It felt like I don’t what to say). Even how he portrayed “A Little Fall of Rain”- he did focus more on comforting Eponine than showing the heartbreak he was feeling- yes, the heartbreak showed, but not until the end when he finished the song alone. There is just something special about his Marius- he ended up becoming my favorite actor in that role.

Conclusion:

So I saw both Wicked and Les Mis on two major touring districts and both were dates with my mom. The other way they came full circle was seeing the tours with my university. I truly believe that if Wicked didn’t enter my life, Les Mis wouldn’t have. I didn’t fully describe the casts because this post would have been too long.

Musicals- Taken Off Guard

Well, there are many many incredible things about the musical theatre world. One of the best things to do are exploring the characters. When I have seen a show more than once, there is a chance you might be taken off guard. Taken off guard means you find something in a character you are not expecting. I will give two examples below.

Les Mis

US Tour

Before the US Tour, I saw productions at community college and in the West End. Yes, I was taken off guard in the West End production, but not quite as much as what happened during the US Tour. Coming into the US Tour, I was smart by making the decision to not compare my US Cast with My West End cast.

It existed in the love triangle found between Marius, Cosette, and Eponine. I usually expect Eponine to be the strongest actress or a Marius just as good, but something happened that made me really view the love triangle from a different perspective. Pretty much, what happens when your favorite character in the love triangle, but someone else was the strongest- that was the case. The actor, who played Marius, was the strongest in the love triangle.

Joshua Grosso

For starters, I did get to see him in person twice- as well as his Cosette (Jillian Butler). Both times, Joshua Grosso was a standout and even better than the two Eponine actresses I saw. With Joshua Grosso, I found this unique awkwardness found in Marius that made the character more charming. He literally treated falling in love with Cosette like “I don’t even know what to say”- that did feel like this was his first time in love. For whatever reason, Jillian Butler was able to strongly connect to his Marius. Due to that, I was able to explore Marius and Cosette a deep further while at the same time not ignoring Eponine.

Another incredible example of being taken off guard did happen at “A Little Fall of Rain”. There are several ways to portray that particular scene- with Joshua, he focused more on comforting Eponine than the heartbreak he was feeling: he decided to show the heartbreak after she died- both times were effective. People might say he wasn’t showing enough emotion, but don’t forget he also is showing compassion during this scene. His chemistry with Jillian as well as the little things he did with his character almost made him a core favorite character.

Due to all of that, he became my favorite Marius.

Wicked

Mary Kate Morrissey

She was a standby when I saw her as Elphaba. I knew coming into Wicked, I would be more vulnerable and emotional. That was because I was coming in knowing “I’m Not That Girl” was a heartbreaking love song. I thought that was when things would change. Turns out I was wrong. She was able to express the entire first act in a more innocent voice, and at “Defying Gravity”, she changed her voice to more mature. This is what really surprised me with emotions: “No Good Deed”. I really am not the biggest fan of that song, but she was able to find a way for me to find some appreciation of the song. For years, this particular song was emotionless, but this time around I finally felt emotion. I was feeling anger and frustration during that song. I always thought “No Good Deed” will always stay emotionless, but this time around it actually stuck.

Importance of Ovens Auditorium

Blumenthal Performing Arts is home to about seven theaters. Their main theater is Belk Theater. At Belk, you can see operas, musicals, symphonies, and ballet. I saw Sound of Music, Miss Saigon, Aladdin, Lion King, Newsies, Pippin, Rent, Come From Away, Mamma Mia, Porgy and Bess, and La Cage at Belk. As for operas and ballet, saw La Bohème and Nutcracker there.

Despite Belk being the main theater, it isn’t even the largest. That really surprised me when I learned that Ovens is actually bigger- Belk may have more levels, but Ovens is wider and deeper. If Ovens didn’t exist, there is a good chance many musicals never would have made it to Charlotte. Ovens is able to host musicals when something is happening at Belk. So Ovens allows for a lot more availability.

While I did not see many musicals at Ovens—–I am glad that Ovens does exist or else none of them might have made it to Blumenthal. I saw Addams Family, A Christmas Story-The Musical, Les Mis, and Wicked at Ovens. Whenever I think of Ovens, I think of Wicked: I was able to catch that musical three times on tour. The latest time I saw Wicked, I was watching it with my school. When I saw Les Mis at Ovens, it was a date with my mom: that was our 2nd date to Les Mis: the 1st was in London.

I did not like ALL the Blumenthal shows I saw, but defiantly liked most. Addams Family, Porgy and Bess, and La Cage were musicals I did not even like.

Unique Musical Theatre Tag

I have seen various musical theatre tags on wordpress. I decided to create a brand new one. I will even answer the questions.

  1. Favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical- Phantom of the Opera

2) Favorite Stephen Schwartz Musical-Wicked

3) Favorite Golden Age Musical-Sound of Music

4) Favorite Contemporary Musical (starting in the 1980s)- tie between Wicked and Les Mis

5) The Musical that Sparked your Love- Wicked

6) Musical that made you Passionate about musicals-Les Mis

7) A Musical that Never should have Been made- Love Never Dies

8) First Musical you Remember seeing Live- Wicked

9) Favorite Musical Movie-Les Mis

10) A Musical you didn’t like at First, but eventually you did- Les Mis

11) First musical you saw in a Major Musical district (West End or Broadway)- will use both. Wicked for Broadway and Les Mis for The West End

12) Example of actor that eally took you off Guard- I have two. Joshua Grosso as Marius and Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba

Conclusion

Yes, this has a lot of Wicked and Les Mis, but that does show how meaningful both musicals are to me. I will tag anyone to do this new tag.

Favorite Actors/Actresses in Roles

Well, now I will write a list of my favorite actors in various roles. I know some people have seen these actors before. You don’t have to agree with everything-these are only opinions. Yes, there were be some casts where I might leave a character off- that happens to be the case if I don’t remember the others or have a hard time deciding. In addition, will be missing some shows I love.

  1. Elphaba- Mary Kate Morrissey
  2. Glinda- Amanda Jane Copper
  3. Fiyero- Ashley Parker Angel
  4. Jack Kelly- Joey Barreiro
  5. Javert- Jeremy Secomb
  6. Cosette- Jillian Butler
  7. Eponine- Samantha Barks
  8. Marius- Joshua Grosso
  9. Thenardiers- Phil Daniels and Katy Secombe
  10. Kim- Emily Bautista
  11. Chris- Anthony Festa
  12. Ellen-Stacie Bono
  13. John- J. Daughtry
  14. The Engineer- Eymard Cabling
  15. Sophie- Amanda Seyfried
  16. Maria- Julie Andrews
  17. Aladdin- Mena Massoud
  18. Jasmine- Naomi Scott
  19. Babkak, Omar, and Kassim- Zach Bencal, Ben Chavez Colt Prattez
  20. Beast- Dan Stevens
  21. Belle- Emma Watson
  22. Simba- Jared Nixon
  23. Nala- Nia Halloway
  24. Joseph- Donny Osmond
  25. Leading Player- Lisa Karlin
  26. Pippin- Sam Lips

This list is all I have for now.

Some of these actors have no choice, but to be my favorite. That ends up being the case if I only have one cast or if they are the only ones I remember. A few of these are understudies: Mary Kate Morrissey, Lisa Karlin, and Eymard Cabling. A few of them were the first in a role- so that sometimes gives them a huge advantage.

What about you, what are some of your favorite actors in a role?