Dates With my Mom to Musicals

Four very special theatre dates are the ones I went on with my mom. They are Wicked on Broadway, Phantom of the Opera in Greenville, Pippin in Charlotte, and Les Mis in London. On this post I decided to talk about each of these theatre dates.

The earliest date I been to a theatre with my mom was Wicked. My mom and I went on a trip to NYC together. It was just us two and that is what made that trip so special. During the trip, we saw a show on Broadway, and it was Wicked. That was back in 2006, and I was 12 at the time. Little did I know the impact Wicked would have. All I remember was being with my mom, and that “Popular” was my favorite song. However, the impact clearly shows throughout the years. I just cannot believe Wicked has been part of my life for 12 years.

Wicked changed me “for good” and really was the beginning of the journey with musicals.  I wish I remember more about seeing Wicked on Broadway. I was lucky that at the age of 12 I was able to see a show in NYC. Wicked was the earliest theatre date I remember.

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In 2013, Santa gave my mom and I tickets to see Phantom of the Opera in May of 2014. I wanted to see the musical live since falling in love with the songs early 2013. The Peace Center is a gorgeous theatre, and we sat in the orchestra nineteen rows back. I was spellbound once the show began, and I remember during the overture not taking my eyes off the chandelier. I got choked up watching the production. In the first act, I did not move until the chandelier fell, and during that scene I jumped back a bit. That scene was just so thrilling.

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When I first heard “Corner of the Sky”, I wanted to eventually watch Pippin. When it first toured to Charlotte, I did not see it. Pippin was very unexpected. It was 2015, and my mom got tickets the week before. When she bought tickets, there was only one day left with two seats together so I almost didn’t get to go. The tickets had seats with five rows back from the stage. I felt like I was watching a circus during the show, and I loved the moment when they let us sing along to one of the songs. It was filled with illusions and several circus elements. Right after act I, I wanted the soundtrack even though I still had not heard the 2nd act.

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I saw Les Mis in the West End the same summer I saw Pippin. Ever since 2013, it was a dream to see Les Mis in London. I knew my church was going to go to England to be in residence at Bristol Cathedral, and I knew a pilgrimage was planned around that. It just didn’t occur to me my family was going to go up two days early to get more of London. It was 2014 in December I think when I found out my family was going up two days early. That is when I started nagging my mom to take me to see Les Mis. They eventually told me that I was going to see a show in the West End, but I wanted to know which one it was. It just had to be Les Mis and nothing else.

All Spring semester 2015, I was getting impatient about which show it was going to be. June 2015 comes along, and my mom texted me french flags and musical note emojis, but it did not make sense to me at all. My mom then told me to check my email. When I saw the words, Les Misérables, I ran to my mom and started crying. My dream of seeing Les Mis in the West End was coming true. I feel like seeing Les Mis in London with my mom was full circle after seeing Wicked on Broadway. After all, Wicked and Les Mis are neck and neck tied for my favorite musical. To see both of them at a large theatre district is very special.

We saw the musical July 30th, 2015. My mom wanted to make sure I got the best seats possible and they were. We were nine rows back from the stage. When I saw the theatre all the way to seeing the sets, it did not feel like reality at all. I knew I was going to see an understudy (Adam Bayjou) as Jean Valjean. The moment I heard the first couple of notes, I knew this was reality, and that it was going to be more than expected. The cast was epic, passionate and powerful. While Adam was an understudy, he made me forget I was watching an understudy, and that shows just how good he was.

Going to the theatre with my mom is quite special. Part of why I love each of these musicals were the dates I had with my mom. The dates added a meaningful part to each musical. I saw Wicked when I was 12, Phantom of the Opera when I was 20 and I saw Pippin and Les Mis when I was 21. My mom and I both love musicals. I hope I get to go to NYC and experience Broadway again, but this time want it to be a theatre-themed trip. Cannot believe that all four musicals were seen in different cities. Glad I experienced both Broadway and the West End.

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Making a Decision before Seeing a Musical

What do I mean by making a decision before seeing a musical? That basically means you choose to focus on one thing or you choose not to look up a certain element ahead of time and so on. Below I will give some example.

Wicked and my 4th time- before seeing it a 4th time, I decided to pay extremely close attention to Fiyero. By doing that, I was able to better understand the character and get a better understanding of the love triangle. He throws a gigantic curveball into it. By paying extra close attention to him especially in act I helped me understand why the plot twist even happened. By spending more time exploring the Lion Cub Scene, I came to a realization and that was realizing that he does have a crush on Elphaba but at the same time is not quite aware of it. My actor decided to already have stronger chemistry with Elphaba than Glinda. By spending more time with Fiyero, I was able to get a better grasp.

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Les Mis and my 5th- I decided ahead of time to treat this like it was a new show. That was because I had never seen the 25th anniversary before. Prior, I had already seen the West End show and loved the staging. But the 5th time, I was seeing the 25th so I had to treat it like it was new instead of comparing it to the West End production and saying that the West End staging is better. By doing that, I was able to look at the new production with fresh eyes. What the 25th production does is add a new level of complexity. I love both the 25th and the Original in different ways. Despite missing the revolve in the 25th, the production does make up for it in its own unique way. I love how the new production has a bit more color and love “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” more in the 25th.

Newsies- once I heard it was Tony Award winning choreography. I choose ahead of time not to look up the dance in order to get more out of it. I was mind-blown when I saw the dance. No wonder it won a Tony Award. These boys were flipping, jumping over each other, dancing on newspapers, sliding underneath each other, and so on. The talent I saw in these boys was incredible. I just couldn’t believe they could dance that well. The fact that they danced so well together actually helped show the relationship the Newsies have. All of those tricks were incredible. It just worked and I am glad I did not look up the dance ahead of time.

Choosing some of these things before seeing the show can have a huge impact on your experience.

How Context helps with Musical Song Emotion

It is important to pay attention to the context surrounding a musical song to understand and pick up on the emotion. Context can refer to the scene that happened right before the song because that scene can help set up the song.

Santa Fe- Newsies

At first glance, this song does not seem like it is sad, but it actually is. The context at the beginning of the show and the scene before helps in understanding the emotion of the scene. Right before Santa Fe, there is this big fight that breaks out. Jack witnesses all of this and he sees his brothers getting hurt and Crutchie being arrested. If you remember Santa Fe (Prologue), it tells you that he has such a personal bond to Crutchie.

So due to all that Jack has just witnessed, he is quite upset and that leads to Santa Fe. It is a sad song. Jack is upset that his brothers got hurt all because of the strike. He wants to give up and he does not want them to get hurt. He dreams of going to Santa Fe, but now he wants to go there more than ever due to what he just witnessed. He cares so much about his brothers that he cares more about them than the cause.

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I’m Not That Girl- Wicked

Obviously this is an unrequited love song. But the scene before helps you understand the level of heartbreak the song is. Previously, Fiyero and Elphaba are in the woods freeing a lion cub. In this scene, the two characters argue in a playful way. In my opinion, I think this is the moment where Elphaba realizes that she is falling in love with Fiyero. By that, it tells you that her love for Fiyero isn’t quite that deep or strong. She literally singing “I’m Not That Girl” after the Lion Cub scene. So that shows that the song is only moderately heartbreaking.

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Do you think context outside of the song helps with musical emotion?

How Costumes Play a Role In Creating Character

One aspect that helps you get to know the character is through their costumes. What exactly do I mean by this? To explain, I will give some examples below.

Below is Enjolras’ vest. During “One Day More” and during act II, he wears this vest. It helps us realize he is the leader of the students and the most passionate. It makes him stand out among everyone at the barricade.

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Below you will see Elphaba in her act II dress. In act I, her outfits show she is more innocent and not as mature. But in act II, her outfit looks much more mature and show how she has matured from act I to act II. I love how it looks so good with her skin. It just complements the green so wear.

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Another example is from the outfits Eponine wears. She wears a lot of browns in her outfit. That is the color of the skirt in act I and the same color she wears in her act II costumes and in her act II costume, her pants, hat and coat are brown. The fact that she wears the same color shows that she is poor. Her outfits also are dirty, and this helps signify that she is living in poverty, and that is an important part of her character.

For Valjean, his costumes help show his character arc. From this dirty costume in the opening to what he is wearing at the barricade shows his transformation. In his first costume, he looks like a convict. Than when time passes, his costume changes. He no longer looks like a convict and you can start to see his costumes representing his journey to redemption.

Glinda’s outfits during her time at Shiz show that she is girlie girl. The outfit below shows her outfit during the dance that Fiyero arranges. It is very pretty and is pink. She wears more than one dress in the show. This outfit below helps show that Glinda is young and makes you know she is a girly girl during her time at Shiz.

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I don’t know what it is, but something about Jack’s outfit that makes you know he is the leader of the Newsies. I feel like it is a bit different than the other Newsies. But something about his outfit also makes you know he is a dreamer and a romantic.

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Do you think costumes help a role in developing character?

Placement of Songs in Musicals

I think the placement of songs can affect the emotion of a musical song. It also can help explain the sound of the song. I will use some examples to explain what I mean by this this.

“I Dreamed a Dream”

  • By having this song before “Lovely Ladies” in the stage show gives the song a small amount of hope.
  • However, by having the song after “Lovely Ladies” in the movie makes the song even more heartbreaking and you lose that sense of hope.

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“One Day More”

  • This song has to be the act I closer due to the sound of the song and what is being sung. It happens the day before the uprising. It is talking about that Javert plans to spy on the students during the uprising. It is talking about what the Thenardiers plan to due to those who died. It talks about Marius and Cosette will miss each other when they will be parted. So it has to happen before the uprising.

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Actually all of the Les Mis songs are carefully placed. That is part of how brilliant the musical is.

“As Long As Your’e Mine”

  • This song has a very mature melody. It has to be because at that point in the story, both Fiyero and Elphaba have matured so the song has to sound the way it does. It also has to be in act II due to the plot twist.

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“I’m Not That Girl”

  • The innocent feeling of the song is in there due to who Elphaba is when it is sung. By this point, Elphaba has not yet matured and is a bit innocent, which explains why the melody has that feeling in it. It has to be in act I or else the plot twist really wouldn’t be in the story.

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What you think about this? Do you think placement of the song is important?

Layers of Heartbreak in Musicals

Musicals are known for being emotional. One of my favorite emotions is heartbreak, which is an emotion I once was blind to. Les Mis was the musical that brought heartbreak to life. I love the several layers that come to it. That basically means that some heartbreaking songs hurt more than others. On this post, I will describe the layers and the best way I can do that is through two songs.

“I’m Not That Girl” and “On My Own” both share the same root, which is unrequited love. However, both have different levels of insight.

“I’m Not That Girl” is dealing with Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero. This song is only moderately heartbreaking. The song has innocence, vulnerability and fragility. Literally moments before, it is the first time the audience realizes that Elphaba is falling in love with Fiyero. Elphaba’s love for him isn’t that strong at this point, which why the melody is very consistent and the melody also shows Elphaba’s innocence at this point in the story. This song once was a sad song for a couple of years, but it was “On My Own” that helped me realize this song was heartbreaking. About the insight, Elphaba admits in the song that she doesn’t think she is good enough for Fiyero because she is green and she does reflect on her best friend realizing that she is in a relationship with him and that is part of why Elphaba accepts the fact that Fiyero does not love her.

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“On My Own” is the more heartbreaking of the two. For starter’s, Eponine’s story revolves around unrequited love. By the time “On My Own” happens, the audience already knows that Eponine is in love with Marius. There are these little sung bits of dialogue that show that she loves him and in “In My Life” and “A Heart Full Of Love”, there are parts of the song that show she loves Marius. By observing her actions, it is already made clear that she loves Marius. Marius cannot seem to pick up on the fact that she loves him.

In this song, you realize just how strong and deep her love for Marius is. This song helps you understand her life outside of Marius. It shows that she is so alone in the world. She is unloved and lonely due to being so alone in life. Her only source of happiness is Marius and he is the only person who shows her kindness. “On My Own” helps highlight this. Throughout lyrics like “Without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to” and “a world that’s full of happiness that I have never known” reflects her life. She finally is able to accept the situation she finds herself in and this song shows that she can never stop loving him because he is the light of her life. It actually took about a year to realize “On My Own” was heartbreaking but not sad.

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Just by knowing that one of these songs is more heartbreaking than other shows how layered heartbreak can be.

Musical Characters Who do not Seem Complex, but Are

Possible Spoilers:

Fiyero is an example of a musical theatre character who does not seem complex, but he actually is. A lot of his complexity comes from his role in the love triangle. The other part comes from his transformation as the story continues. He arrives to Shiz as a bit of a jerk, but does soften up in the Lion Cub scene and in act II, he becomes a courageous and mature young man.

About the love triangle, his  role in the love triangle is really complicated. He does start out as being in a relationship with Glinda so it seems like they are endgame, but you will find that is not true. Here’s the thing, in act II, he realizes he does not love Glinda, but instead Elphaba so that you leaves you with a question why  does this plot twist happen? So if you look at act I, there were hints that show he has a crush on Elphaba. Back to the Lion Cub Scene, it appears as if he has a crush on Elphaba, but he does not seem aware of it or neither does Elphaba. He can’t stop thinking of the Lion Cub scene. Than look at the chemistry: his chemistry is much weaker with Glinda and stronger with Elphaba.

He just is this character that is very hard to get to know. The curveball he throws into the love triangle makes you question and think about thing.

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Marius also is one of those characters. I know he seems simple on the surface, but there is so much more going on especially if you combine who he is from the book and who he is in the musical. You discover in the book that he has a political conflict with his grandfather and that political conflict makes him complex. Then in the musical, he is sweet, kind, compassionate, awkward, and brave. He cares about Eponine and is quite upset when she dies and since he stays with her when she is dying, that shows just how much compassion he is capable of. He eventually has to deal with survivor’s guilt after being the only survivor from the uprising.

So Marius has a lot going on: the political conflict, being a revolutionary, dealing with survivor’s guilt, falling in love for the first time and looking after Eponine. If you combine the book and the musical, you see a much more developed and complex character. My interpretation of Marius uses his relationship with the students and Eponine from the musical not the book.

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What are other characters you feel are much more complex than they seem to be?