This might sound nuts, but I always fall into sort of a Wicked trap each time I watch it. I am emotionally connected to Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda- NOT to the other characters. I know there are storylines OTHER than the friendship and the love triangle. I am quite aware of the discrimination, and that the romantic subplot is more of a LOVE PENTAGON. I know there is more in the storyline than the friendship and the love triangle- but I always overlook things.
Each time, I ALWAYS closely examine the love triangle and friendship. I tend to not WANT to explore the other storylines as well. It does sound crazy. After all, the main storyline is the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba, and they are 2/3 of the love triangle. Fiyero completes the love triangle. There is a LOT to be explored in the love triangle- especially in regards to Fiyero. You question things about him: you wonder why the unrequited love jumps from Elphaba to Glinda. You have to closely look at Fiyero to understand that part better- I personally believe he had some kind of crush on Elphaba in Shiz, but wasn’t exactly fully aware of it- that explains part of that puzzle.
I am like if Elphaba is my all-time favorite character- why do I always OVERLOOK her sister? That does sound odd in a way. But then again, Nessa’s song, “The Wicked Witch of the East”, isn’t on the soundtrack, and she is a supporting character. Boq is overlooked too- after all he has no song of his own. I know of their unrequited love storylines- but keep on overlooking them so I basically forget about them each time.
I OVERLOOK the two main antagonists as well: Madame Morrible and the Wizard as well. That’s odd as well. I know what happens to them, and it is part of Elphaba’s storyline, and why she is the way she is. Still.
See how crazy that is: I get so invested in the friendship and the main love triangle that I want to explore both more deeply each time I see the musical. That is why I fall into this Wicked trap each time. It is not like I am unaware of the other characters and storylines- I am aware of what happens to them- just overlook them. I am not just that emotionally connected to the other characters. I am only emotionally connected to Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero especially towards Elphaba.
Has this ever happened to you in a musical? You see a musical again- closely examine the same storylines, but ALWAYS overlook the other ones you know are in there.
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.
I’m Not That Girl/ I’m Not That Girl (Reprise)
On My Own
As Long As He Needs Me
This Nearly Was Mine
If I Can’t Love Her/ If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)
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.
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.
Gardner Webb University was the university I attended for 3 and 1/2 years. I got involved in student activities. They did things such as school dances, Pinterest night, Candy and Critters, The Big E, and Winter/ Spring Formal. Two of their events meant a lot to me: Gardner Webb was about one hour away from Charlotte and about I think one hour and a half or so away from Greenville.
It was January 2016 when Wicked was touring to Charlotte. Student Activities had arranged for a group of 50 students to go. When I found out, I knew I was going to go. After all, like “For Good” says, “I have been changed for the better” because of Wicked. I kept on an eye for the time when students could sign up because I knew all the spots would fill up fast. The moment I found out, I went to Student Activities right after class to sign up. I actually was one of the first ones to sign up for Wicked- it would become my 4th time seeing Wicked. So I was going to be seeing a musical that changed me for good with a school that changed me for good.
I made a smart decision coming into this production- I was going to examine that love triangle more closely. I was determined to figure out that plot twist better. I did not want to leave that theatre confused again asking myself “WHY”. It was my first coming in with the knowledge that “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking: it was sad the other times- “On My Own” made me realize the song was heartbreaking- after all BOTH are unrequited love songs. In this production, I had a standby for Elphaba, which made me a tad nervous. As a matter of fact, this was the production I felt the most vulnerable and got the most emotional. A huge part of that was being with Gardner Webb.
Here was my Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero: Mary Kate Morrissey was Elphaba, Amanda Jane Copper was Glinda, and Ashley Parker Angel was Fiyero. They all were just perfect in their roles. Mary Kate embodied Elphaba perfectly while still bringing new to the role- she actually made me appreciate a song I always HATED: “No Good Deed”- that song was ALWAYS emotionless- this time I actually felt emotion in it. About Fiyero, I finally figured things about the plot twist: the way he played the lion cub scene was brilliant: he played it as if he had a crush on Elphaba, but deep down did not realize he it. My actor already decided to have stronger chemistry with Elphaba, but weaker chemistry with Glinda foreshadowing the plot twist in act II- now everything was starting to make sense- now I was less confused. It got to “For Good”- I was literally crying in that number: that truly showed how brilliant my Elphaba and Glinda were.
By seeing Wicked with Gardner Webb- Wicked has so much more meaning in my life. I think that was why I felt as vulnerable as I did, and why the emotions hit me the way they did. Those three turned into my favorite Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero- as a matter of fact, they were the only portrayals I remember out of four. Funny story: after the Matinee, we discovered the bus that we took to get up there was broken down; so we had to wait a while to get back.
Gardner Webb Student Activities decided to take a group of students to see Les Mis November 2017. That summer, it was in my mind to see the tour in Charlotte. Then my final year of Gardner Webb started up- I discovered Student Activities was taking students to see Les Mis in Grenville. I was puzzled- I didn’t know what to do. “See Les Mis in Charlotte, my hometown, or see it in Greenville with my school?” I easily wanted to do both- I am a Les Mis obsessive fan. I had seen musicals at both Ovens and the Peace Center. I did want to make the most of my last year of Gardner Webb- so I finally settled on seeing the show in Greenville.
Just like Wicked- meaning was added due to seeing it with Gardner Webb. Made an extremely smart decision coming in- after all, this was my cast after the West End- to NOT COMPARE THIS CAST TO WHO I SAW IN THE WEST END. That was especially important on Eponine because in Greenville, I had an understudy, and it is very important to truly respect them, and they deserve more credit then they are given. It also was important because it was the 25th anniversary production, not the original production so the staging was different, which I believe affects portrayal.
This was my US Tour Cast: Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean), Josh Davis (Javert), Melissa Mitchell (Fantine), Jillian Butler (Cosette), Joshua Grosso (Marius), Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine), Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras), J. Anthony Crane (Monsieur Thenardier), and Allison Guinn (Madame Thenardier).
So glad I did not compare this cast to my West End cast: I was able to see this cast for what they are. Nick Cartell was a very talented Valjean: His “Bring Him Home” was quiet enough, but strong enough for what the scene required and truly sounded like a prayer. Fun fact: I had previously seen Nick in Phantom of the Opera in the ensemble, so it was nice seeing him as a lead. Josh Davis mastered Javert’s voice and delivered a fine rendition of “Stars”, but I felt like he was lacking somewhere. Melissa Mitchell’s Fantine focused on the more naive side of her.
The love triangle surprised me in a way. Basically “what happens when your favorite character is Eponine, but your strongest actor is Marius?”- that is exactly what happened. Joshua Grosso was stronger then both Jillian Butler and Talia Simone Robinson. His Marius was both charming and awkward: he treated falling in love with Cosette like “I’m in love, but what on earth do I do with it”. He did bring out the heartbreaking nature of the character in act II. Jillian matched with Joshua make a perfect Marius and Cosette pairing. What about Eponine? She did struggle at first, but eventually grew into the role- I saw moments I strongly loved about her- such as at “A Heart Full of Love” and “A Little Fall of Rain”.
As for the students, Matt Shingledecker was such a passionate and confident Enjolras. This dynamic is always strong no matter what. Allison Guinn and J. Anthony Crane were hilarious as the Thenardiers. As for the ensemble- brought out the passionate, epic, and powerful nature of the show. Loved the staging- the addition of color, using the candles in “Empty Chairs”, and how they showed the vast scope of Paris.
By seeing Wicked and Les Mis with Gardner Webb, those two have so much more meaning in my life.
What are Musicals people should see their lifetimes. That depends on what they are looking for. I am a musical theatre fanatic, who does have an idea on what a musical is, which is mainly based on what I grew up with. However, I do not mind if musicals do not match those. So this is my list of must-see musicals.
Lion King – If you loved the movie, check out the stage show. Even if you never saw the movie, check out the stage show. It is a family friendly musical. The way they create the animals is spectacular. You will get hooked into the musical from the opening number. That scene is breathtaking. It everything you think of when it comes to a musical- it has the spectacle, the dance, the comedy, the romance, positive and negative emotions in the score, and a strong emotion connection. It has characters you easily fall in love with. There are a number of characters to fall in love with: Rafiki, Mufasa, Zazu, Nala, and Simba.
2. Les Mis- This is the longest-running musical in the West End. If it lasts that long, then there has to be something special in it. If you want a musical with a ton of emotion, Les Mis is the musical to see. It is filled with emotion- from love to hope to compassion to heartbreak to guilt to hopeless to etc. If you want a truly “human” story, Les Mis is the one to visit. The story is epic, powerful, and passionate. It is tragic and inspirational in so many ways. All the characters all feel like they belong in Les Mis because they directly and indirectly impact each others lives. All I am saying is that if you want a filled with emotion, Les Mis is the way to go. In this musical, it is so difficult to choose your favorite song or character- that is how amazing the characters and songs are.
3. Wicked- This is another popular musical. If you want another spectacle and dance filled musical like Lion King, Wicked is another musical like that. If you want a story with a strong female protagonist, Wicked is perfect- after all it is not filled with one female protagonist, but two. It is another powerful musicals- it is about a beautiful friendship formed between Elphaba and Glinda.
4. Phantom of the Opera- If you want a musical filled with mystery and darkness, Phantom would be a good option. It is overall a love triangle. It has this haunting feeling to it, but at the time, it has this incredible beauty to it.
5. Beauty and the Beast- while it hasn’t been touring for a while, it is still an incredible musical to check out. It is home to this independent, brave, and unique, and caring protagonist. It teaches you that beauty comes from within. It is a very magical musical in so many ways. It is very magical in the fact that the castle that Belle becomes prisoner in is enchanted- she meets enchanted objects like Lumeire, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip.
6. Newsies-while home to basically all males, it is based of a true story, the 1899 Newsboy Strike. It is home to mind-blowing dance, which is worth watching. It is incredible watching their bond- they are basically one big family. Yes, I said, basically all males, but love that the reporter is female. Like a number of Disney musicals, there is romance: Jack, the leader and main character of Newsies, falls in love with Katherine, the reporter of the strike. It is so worth it in many ways.
7. Sound of Music- I mean, who would not love this musical when they see it? Songs that are easy to sing along to and so on. See what I mean? It is worth seeing.
What are must-sees? I know some some of these haven’t been on tour or exist on the West End of Broadway as of now, but still worth seeing at some point.
I have talked about this a couple of times on my blog. I have talked about the importance of the understudies and mentioned who mine were. I thought I would dedicate this one to just those understudies I have seen who were outstanding. That means some of my understudies will be left off.
Lisa Karlin: Leading Player
I saw her in May 2015 when I saw Pippin as a date with mom. The unique thing about her is that when I saw her is that I was exploring the Leading Player for the first time. Everything I know about the Leading Player comes from only one portrayal. In “Magic to Do”, she was very playful, but I still could detect a small hint of evil so it was very obvious she was the antagonist of the piece. Then “Glory” hit and she decided to change up her voice to be much darker. However, each time she was around Pippin, she was very playful to hide the fact that she was leading him on the wrong path. She was quite manipulative, playful, crafty, and dark. I was so intrigued by her that she ended up being the true standout of the evening.
Adam Bayjou: Jean Valjean
I could not believe I had an understudy for Valjean in the West End. I was kind of nervous, but the moment he opened his mouth, I could not detect he was an understudy. The entire time he was on stage, I never knew he was an understudy. He felt like he was the main Valjean. I truly saw his transforming on stage. I am so glad he was my West End Valjean. To get an understudy and not realize they are an understudy: that is true talent right there.
Below: Picture of me at Stage Door with Adam Bayjou
Mary Kate Morrissey: Elphaba
She was not a understudy, but a standby. Standby are basically similar to understudies, but the difference is they are not in the ensemble every night. Having someone cover Elphaba makes me almost a bit more nervous than having someone Valjean. That is only because Elphaba is my all-time favorite musical character. She embodied Elphaba perfectly- in act I her voice was innocent and young, but starting at “Defying Gravity”, she changed Elphaba’s voice to be more mature. She brought out all the emotions I previously saw in Elphaba, and brought out some new ones as well. I had to approach “I’m Not That Girl” fresh- the past times I had seen Wicked, it was a sad song, but this time, I came in knowing it was heartbreaking, so my actress had to make me feel more than sadness in that song. She made me find some kind of appreciation in a song I don’t like- “No Good Deed”- I felt the energy, and she made me feel emotions in the songs for the first time ever. Basically she embodied perfectly- what made her outstanding performance even better is that she was paired with an outstanding Glinda and an excellent Fiyero.
She is my favorite Elphaba.
I thought it was a good idea to just talk about outstanding understudies. It shows the TALENT that understudies are capable. Look at the talent all three of these actors and actresses showed me. No way was I able to tell they were understudies, and that one was a standby. For two of them, I was exploring the character again, and the other I was exploring for the very first time. Each time you hear you have a standby or understudy, realized they have the same talent as everyone else.
These sort of things exist in the musical world. They are called parallels. What are some examples?
Wicked/ Les Mis
– Elphaba/ Eponine- both have broken family lives, taken advantage of, part of a love triangle and deal with unrequited love (however the result is different)
-“On My Own”/ “I’m Not That Girl”- while on the topic of Eponine and Elphaba, I want to say the parallel between these two songs. Both are unrequited love songs. “On My Own” helped me understand “I’m Not That Girl” was a heartbreaking song.
– Fiyero/ Enjolras- this is weird. I don’t get it- for some reason, I think there might be a parallel between these two characters. Three of my Enjolras’ have played Fiyero either before or after they played Enjolras.
Les Mis/ Newsies
Newsies/ Friends of the ABC- they both share a similar brotherly love, and have a passion and hope for a cause they truly believe in
Jack Kelly/ Enjolras- they both are leaders of they group they are part of, but what they care about the most is different.
Elphaba/ Elsa- both girls are misunderstood, believed to be monsters, and have powers they don’t know how to control
Glinda/ Anna- they both are outgoing and funny
Friendship/ Sisterhood- I see the center core of each storyline being quite similar
“Let it Go”/ “Defying Gravity”- I feel like these songs are very similar in many ways
I wonder if these parallels are why I was drawn to Frozen as much as I was. After all Wicked sparked my love for musicals
Les Mis/ Cats
“I Dreamed a Dream”/ “Memory”- both songs reflect on the past and how worse Fantine’s and Grizzabella’s life has gotten. Just like how “On My Own” helped “I’m Not That Girl”, “I Dreamed a Dream” made me realize “Memory” was a heartbreaking song.
What are other parallels? I think musicals do help you understand parts of other musicals at times.
musicaltheatrelivesinmesite recently did a challenge on wordpress that seemed interesting and quite challenging so I decided to give it a try. I don’t know how accurate this will show up, but will be my best- I know it will be mostly accurate.
Here were the rules:
“You must select your seven top shows, then explain why you chose them in 100 – 200 words for each show”.
I mean selecting my top seven shows is difficult. I know what my top two musicals were, but those two musicals share that top spot, but everyone is convinced I know what my favorite musical is, but too afraid to admit it. I decided to go up for the challenge. I had to really think about it.
Les Mis- I had a rocky start with Les Mis. Now, I can’t imagine a time where I did not love the musical. I am obsessed with the musical. It is the West End’s longest running musical. It is a musical about hope, love, forgiveness, compassion, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption in the midst of tragedy and heartbreak. These characters feel so “human” and touch your heart and soul in such a way that you are emotionally moved by their stories. The storyline has this beautiful underlying spirituality. It has the spirituality journey Valjean goes on, it has the tragic story of Fantine, the love triangle of Eponine, Marius, and Cosette, and the rebellion- all of them move me. The score is epic, passionate, powerful, and highly emotionally moving. It is so powerful- I mean it is a show that gives you goosebumps and reduces you to tears. I mean- it is hard to describe the power of the show- you have to see it to understand what I mean. It challenged everything I once knew about musicals- it showed me tragic musicals exist and that heartbreak is a musical emotion. It turned a love of musicals into a passion.
“I Dreamed a Dream”
2. Wicked- Tied with Les Mis. Wicked sparked my love for musicals. It was the only show I saw on Broadway since I live in NC. What makes Les Mis hard to push past it? It has its bonuses. Everything about Wicked feels OZian- its score, the name of characters, and costumes all feel like they are OZian- you feel transported. Wicked is all about friendship- that is the center core. Elphaba and Glinda’s story is powerful and beautiful. The love triangle between the girls and Fiyero adds a fascinating texture. Those three characters are the only characters I am emotionally connected to. Those two storylines are the main ones I focus on. Elphaba is the character that matter most because I relate to her so strongly. That is a bonus- relating to a character. Wicked has incredible dance and spectacle to watch. Wicked was when I finally understood what it meant to have an emotional connection in a musical and what it mean for a musical character and plot to be complex. In addition, I began to understand the emotional side of musicals as well. I have been changed for good because of Wicked.
3. Annie- Before the green girl entered my life, Annie was my favorite musical. I actually did have an emotional connection to the character of Annie, but I did not know. I was optimistic as a child. There is something special about loving a musical as a child and continuing that love to your 20s. In 2014, I finally saw the stage show. I felt like a child again watching it live. It is at the 3rd spot because at one point Annie was my favorite musical. So it has been with me for so long. I love it more than ever. It is a very special musical. After all, it has that childhood nostalgia attached to it.
4. Sound of Music- Just like Annie, Sound of Music is a childhood musical. I remember “Edelweiss” being my first piano recital song. It is such a family friendly musical. There is something about it. It is so fun to sing to, and once again it has that childhood nostalgia attached to it. 2015 was my first time seeing the stage show. I felt like a kid, and began to love it more. “Edelweiss” gained an emotional nature it never had before. It was fun being able to see it unfold on stage. From seeing the movie as a child to seeing the stage show as a 21 year old is quite wonderful. I did feel like a child watching the stage show. It was different on stage- additional songs for instance. I am a bigger fan of Sound of Music now than I was as a child.
5. Phantom of the Opera- I fell in love with it by music alone. It is a hauntingly beautiful musical. The story is basically a mysterious and dark and angelic and beautiful love triangle. There is so much suspense found in there. You easily can get caught up in the Phantom’s spell. When I saw it, I was spellbound from start to finish and got choked up. I love Christine and Raoul as a couple. Phantom is a character you feel for even if you may not like his actions. It is a gorgeous musical to look at- it is a purely beautiful musicals. The songs are both haunting and beautiful.
6. Rent- It is hard to confess I love Rent. People do not understand why I love since it is so controversial in subject matter. However, that doesn’t stop me from loving it. It is the message of Rent that makes me love it so much. I love the community that Rent has. The community that the 7 friends have is wonderful. The message of living in the moment and measuring your life in love is why it is meaningful. I love that message so much. It has one of the best closings to a musical. I understand people might be put off by a musical dealing with HIV/AIDS, the LGBT community, and a drug addict- I get that, but you just can’t ignore the message it is selling. I love those songs it has. It is an emotional musical, and I do connect to the community.
7. Newsies- This is a very new musical in my life. I loved it since I saw the tour two years ago. I loved this inspiring story of how this Newsies stood up for what they believed in. The Newsies share this brotherly love for each other. I especially am in awe of the bond between Jack and Crutchie. An energetic, fun, and at times emotional score. The dancing in this musical is mind-blowing- it is amazing to watch- the tricks are incredible. I love the lines in “Seize the Day” that go “Courage cannot erase our fear. Courage is when we face our fear”. Two weeks after I saw the tour, the moment I heard those lyrics, I knew Newsies was a meaningful musical. I love the fact that this is actually based of a true story.
I now challenge you do to do this challenge. Use only 7 musicals- it is crazy after all since two musicals are tied for the top spot.