What are the Contemporary Musicals I Love?

There are both classic and contemporary musicals. There are mixed feelings on contemporary musicals- do I love the contemporary musicals. I do love contemporary musicals- but I do not love all of them- that’s for sure. Today, I thought I would write a list of those that I know I love. These are based on the years they came out on Broadway. I am specifically talking about stage shows.

1. Wicked (2003)- So, this musical started everything. It started my love for musicals. It was when I realized what an emotional connection was. It was when I started to understand emotions- the core emotions of excitement, joy, love, and sad were all in Wicked. I already understood excitement and joy previously. I don’t know if I previously understood love previously. I do know I didn’t know musical songs could be sad previously. It was the beginning of understanding musicals as a whole. The center core of Elphaba and Glinda’s friendship is what makes it as powerful as it is. Then the texture added by the love triangle found between the girls and Fiyero makes it more delightful. Everything in Wicked feels well OZian- it all works. I fell in love with it in 2006.

2. Mamma Mia (2001)- I fell in love with it a decade ago. So this year was a milestone. It is a fun and delightful musical. It is pure joy and that is what it basically is. It helps balance out other musicals- the ones that combine joyful and sad songs together.

3. Newsies (2012)- This is a fairly new musical in my life. I have loved it since 2016- see what I mean by new? The mind-blowing dance, the inspiring story, the bond found between all the students in particular the intimate bond between Jack and Crutchie, and the fun, energetic and at times emotional score makes it such a delightful musical. Such a wonderful Disney musical to watch. Yes, the movie came out in 1992, but the stage show came out on Broadway in 2012 so it is a contemporary musical.

4. Frozen (2018)- Yes, I am stretching things. I fell in love with the movie 2013- I fell in love with the musical at that time. Yes, not sick and tired of “Let it Go”. I have listened to a couple of the new songs. I already know I am going to love the stage show- if I loved the movie- how can I not love the stage show? If I already had fallen in love with songs like “Monster” and “True Love”, I know I will love the stage show. Sometimes, you have that feeling before seeing the show. I know I have to wait for a tour- hopefully what I heard was true- I heard Fall 2019, Frozen is to embark on a tour across the US.

Most of the musicals I love are not contemporary- they come from the 1990s and before. I have seen some other contemporary musicals, but they were not ones I love. Most of the musicals I have seen are not contemporary: that is a big reason why this list is tiny.  Songs are key to loving musicals- they make me form emotional connection to characters and plot.

What are contemporary musicals you love?

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What Makes Wicked’s Love Triangle my Favorite

I have talked about this topic more times than I should on my blog: love triangle. There is one in particular I love more than the others. It has evolved a lot over the years. My favorite love triangle of musical theatre is found in Wicked. It is found between Elphaba-Fiyero-Glinda. Why is that.

1) It is the first one I emotionally bonded with. This sounds like a crazy reason. It is so true. I first discovered the concept of love triangles in Wicked. I don’t remember if I first was aware of the love triangle during the 1st time I saw Wicked or the 2nd time I saw Wicked. I do know it was connected to one of the two. I don’t know if “I’m Not That Girl” started as emotionless or if it began as just a sad song- did I realize it was a sad song my 1st time or the 2nd- once again know it was connected to those two times.

Spoilers ahead:

2) Complexity- It is more complex than the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera love triangle. In Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera- Marius and Cosette and Raoul and Christine are a couple while Phantom and Eponine are struggling with the heartbreak and pain of unrequited love- it stays that way.

What makes Wicked’s love triangle more complex? It begins like this: Fiyero and Glinda are a couple while Elphaba is dealing with the pain and heartbreak of unrequited love- you think that setup is endgame- you think that Elphaba will have unrequited love for the entire musical. Fast forward to the top of act II- Fiyero realizes something- he is in love with Elphaba- he decides to break up with Glinda leaving her dealing with the pain and heartbreak of unrequited love. So now, Elphaba and Fiyero are a couple and Glinda is dealing with the pain of unrequited love. So you have two girls getting hurt in one love triangle- it is not straight forward due to that. How do the two girls respond to the unrequited love? They decide not to steal Fiyero away- that to me shows their loyalty towards each other- they want to keep friendship alive. Why does this plot twist happen? Based upon the last time I saw Fiyero, I believe Fiyero had a crush on Elphaba without knowing, and did not realize it until act II- my actor, Ashley Parker Angel went ahead and in act I decided to have stronger chemistry with Elphaba and weaker chemistry with Glinda in act I foreshadowing the plot twist. Wicked’s love triangle is much more complex than the Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis group- all because of Fiyero’s role- he was the one who was responsible for the plot twist. Before my 4th time- I always left the theatre with “why”- I never grasped why the plot twist happened.

3) Elphaba- The fact that Elphaba is part of this love triangle is a HUGE reason why Wicked is home to my favorite love triangle. Elphaba is my all-time favorite musical theatre character. I see a lot of myself in her, and there are parts of her I don’t see myself in. So there is a bonus. That might be takes almost a bit far, but that is true.

4) Elphaba X Fiyero x Glinda- This is connected to #3. I made it known that in Wicked I am emotionally connected to only three characters. They happen to be Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero: I only am fully focused on the friendship and the love triangle each time I see Wicked. Characters play a huge part in my love of a romantic sub-plot. The entire storyline is on Elphaba and Glinda- their friendship. All three characters are complex- yes, you might think only Elphaba and Glinda are complex. But there is more to Fiyero than you think.  The complexity of this love triangle is not just because the unrequited love shifts- it is also because all three characters are complex. In high school, I remember knowing that the love triangle was fascinating and adding an incredible texture to Wicked, but I did not understand why.

The 4th time I saw Wicked- the love triangle went through some drastic changes- after my 3rd time- before my 4th time- I came to a realization- “I’m Not That Girl” is a heartbreaking song- figured that out due to “On My Own” and memorizing the lyrics. Due to paying even closer attention to Fiyero, I was able to have a clearer idea why the plot twist happened. Due to knowing “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking coming in, I had to look at that song fresh as if I never heard that song before- I knew I wanted to think more about what I was thinking- I had to pay even closer attention to the Lion Cub Scene- 1) to look for clues pointing to the plot twist and 2) to understand how heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl” is.

Musical Songs I Love Singing To

Even though I can’t sing well, I do love singing to musical theatre songs. They are fun to sing. I even try to sing to songs I don’t any words to, and I feel like a dying moose or something to those songs. It doesn’t matter what emotion the song is: the song can exciting, sad, heartbreaking or romantic: it doesn’t matter. What are some of the musical songs I love singing to.

1. “Popular”- I sang this song for an acting class in school. For a general ed requirement either take public speaking or acting I. No way did I want to be stuck in public speaking so acting it was. The assignment was to do something that showed a different side to ourselves. I choose “Popular” because it was my favorite song from Wicked when I was 12, which is why it is still my favorite song from Wicked.

2. “I’m Not That Girl” – I remember it being Fall 2015, and I was like I now know all of the words to one of Glinda’s songs. I want to memorize one of Elphaba’s songs- “I’m Not That Girl” had the simplest melody and the fewest lyrics. I was thinking “does the first song I have to memorize that belongs to Elphaba have to be a sad song?”. Memorizing the song proved to be a big moment for the song- I did not know how much insight the song had- lyrics like “I wasn’t born for the and pearl” go beyond the unrequited love so there is more to the song. I had already connected “On My Own” to “I’m Not That Girl”. So memorizing the lyrics and “On My Own” made me realize “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking. I love singing this song and feeling the emotion that goes with it- it is tricky when I know Elphaba is going to end up with him in the end.

3. “Do You Hear the People Sing”- this is the first Les Mis song I memorized. I choose to memorize this song. This song was stuck in my head leaving the movie theatre- after my 1st time- when I didn’t know if I liked Les Mis or not. It is such a passionate and hopeful song that you can’t help but love singing it

4. “On My Own”- I did not memorize the lyrics by choosing to. I memorized them by listening to it so many times. I love singing this song in my room. I formed a beautiful bond to Eponine- a huge reason why I love singing this song. If it wasn’t for this song, “I’m Not That Girl” would still be just be a sad song.

5. “Finale/Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)”- Once again another Les Mis song I did not memorize choosing to.

6. “One Day More”- A lot of Les Mis songs I have memorized the lyrics just by listening to them so many times. When it gets to the huge overlapping part- I tend to sing Eponine’s part- I know when she comes in and what lyrics she sings at that section.

7. Other Les Mis songs- yes, I love singing other Les Mis songs. Some I want to be able to sing to, but when I try, I can’t- get too emotional trying to.

8. “Do Re Mi”- This is the first musical theatre song I ever memorized. Once you know do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do, you literally know the entire song. It is so easy to learn. It is a very very fun song to sing along to.

9. “My Favorite Things”- I love singing along to this song as well. Sound of Music’s score is one of the easiest scores to memorize some of its songs. I love singing along to its song.

10. “Edelweiss”- The nostalgia behind this song- it not only is my favorite song in Sound of Music, but my first piano recital song. It is a sweet-sounding song. It has a bittersweet feel to it- I didn’t know that when I was young. I discovered the sadness behind the song when I saw the show live 2015.

11. “Tomorrow”- Such an incredible song to sing to. It has the same nostalgia all the Sound of Music songs have. Annie has been in my life since elementary school- to love a musical that song.

12. etc- others can fit here

What are musical songs you love singing to?

Going Back in Time- PreWicked

It is hard to imagine a time where Les Mis wasn’t part of my life.

What is weirder is visualizing a time when Wicked wasn’t part of my life. That is all because Wicked was the beginning of understanding emotions and what it meant to have an emotional connection. Without Wicked, Les Mis most likely wouldn’t have entered my life.

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In the time period before Wicked, I didn’t quite love musicals. I mean I watched them, and I enjoyed them. I did not understand what it meant to have an emotional connection at the time. I mean I could love characters. I understood the emotion of excitement the most. I did not grasp the fact that characters could be complex. I only understood musicals at a simple level. The negative emotions were basically non-existent in my mind pre-Wicked. I had seen (film/stage), Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Cats, Sound of Music, Annie, Grease and Seussical the Musical, but I did not understand emotions that well. I grasped excitement very well. In Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, the songs that stuck with me the most were “A Whole New World”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, and “Beauty and the Beast”- I do not know if I understood love or not. I know I picked up on excitement. So pre-Wicked, I had a very limited knowledge of musicals.

 

Importance of Combining Actors and Actresses to Form One Character

We have those musicals. They are the musicals we have seen more than once. That means we have more one actor and actress portraying the character. We end up combining the actors and actresses for our full interpretation. They might show the same personality trait in a different way. The same applies with the emotions: one actor might bring out a different collection of emotions: yes, some emotions always have to be there, but certain emotions will vary. Why is it so important to combine actors and actresses

There are complex characters. They have many layers. It is hard for one actor and actress to show everything. I have seen Wicked four times and I have seen Les Mis five times. The thing with Les Mis is that I have 5 casts: the 3 stage casts and the film and the 25th concert film. With those two shows, I have combined actors to create one character. I only remember one Elphaba, Fiyero, and Glinda, who are Mary Kate Morrissey, Ashley Parker Angel, and Amanda Jane Copper, but what I do know is that from the beginning, each time I see the show, I discover something new about Elphaba- see what I mean, when you discover something new, it makes the character more complex. Mary Kate Morrissey embodied everything about Elphaba while still bringing something new: she made me appreciate a song I always hated: I felt emotions in “No Good Deed” for once- they finally stuck, and because I came in finally realizing “I’m Not That Girl” was a heartbreaking song, I paid closer attention to the song.

Who are all my Les Mis actors and actresses? I had to go into one playbill to figure one of my casts out- my Central Piedmont Community College Cast. These are casts from the film, Central Piedmont Community College, 25th concert film, West End, and US Tour. My interpretations of these characters is a combination. I am the one who has seen five actors and actresses play all of these parts: the only exception is Eponine: I have seen four actresses plays her. My latest cast, the US Tour, I did not compare to the West End. Below are all my Les Mis principal actors/actresses. I want to say that my 2nd group of actor/actresses (my CPCC batch), I saw live 3 times- I saw it once with family and twice as an usher.

Jean Valjean: Hugh Jackman, Ryan Deal, Alfie Boe, Adam Bayjou (understudy), Nick Cartell

Javert: Russell Crowe, Brian McCarthy, Norm Lewis, Jeremy Secomb, Josh Davis

Fantine: Anne Hathaway, Lucia Stetson, Lea Salonga, Rachelle Ann Go, Melissa Mitchell

Cosette: Amanda Seyfried, Caroline Kasay, Katie Hall, Zoe Doano, Jillian Butler

Marius: Eddie Redmayne, Erik D’Esterre, Nick Jonas, Rob Houchen, Joshua Grosso

Eponine: Samantha Barks, Kayla Ferguson, Samantha Barks, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Talia Simone Robinson (understudy)

Monsieur Thenardier: Sacha Baron Cohen, Kevin Roberge, Matt Lucas, Phil Daniels, J. Anthony Crane

Madame Thenardier: Helena Bonham Carter, Karen Erbe, Jenny Galloway, Katy Secombe, Allison Guinn

Enjolras: Aaron Tveit, Harrison Bumgardner, Ramin Kairmloo, Bradley Jaden, Matt Shingledecker

What was interesting about my Les Mis actors and actresses is that I saw them in a limited amount of time. They literally came from the years 2013-2017. I saw the stage show at CPCC and the 25th anniversary concert film in 2013, saw the West End production in 2015, and saw the US Tour in 2017: so limited amount of time. I remember thinking “I don’t relate to Eponine, why do I love her”- it took an entire year to figure that out. The film actors were my first impression of the characters. My second cast, I barely remember, but do remember they felt professional: you never would expect a community college cast to feel that way. They still played a part in my interpretation of the characters. I ended up watching the 25th concert film all because Samantha Barks played Eponine.

The West End production. It was interesting that I had read the unabridged book the same summer. My excitement level was pretty high. The fact I was living my dream added something incredible to their portrayals. I was expecting a lot from those actors and actresses considering the fact it was the West End. One note told me- “this was going to be more than expected”- and I was right. The ensemble exceeded- I never knew an ensemble could exceed expectations- I thought only principal actors and actresses could do that. I did have an understudy (Adam Bayjou), and there was no way of knowing. For the first time, I felt sympathy for Javert- that says something because I do not like Javert. I could  continue talking about those actors, but it could take forever. The dynamics were extremely strong: the love triangle dynamic, the Valjean/Javert dynamic and the dynamic found between the students were stronger than I thought they could be.

I thought it was a coincidence that I had an understudy for the West End and the US Tour. I made a smart decision coming into the tour: DON’T COMPARE THE CAST TO THE WEST END CAST- smart decision. I wanted to make the most of the US cast, and considering the fact I had an understudy for Eponine, I knew how to treat her. Talia’s Eponine was stronger than Kayla’s Eponine’s: don’t know how I knew that when my community college cast is a blur. The most interesting thing about my love triangle on tour is that Joshua Grosso (Marius) was the strongest actor: he added awkwardness to Marius- that made him more charming- he embraced everything I previously knew about the character, which I figured out through the four other actors. So literally, my favorite character in the love triangle is Eponine, but the strongest actor in the love triangle was Marius. In this version of Fantine, she showed the more naive side instead of the very desperate side I saw in the West End. They dynamic that was equally as strong as on the West End was the one found between the students. I wasn’t going to say everything or else that would take too long.

So literally, my interpretation of the Les Mis characters is a combination of these actors and actresses- some of them have played a huge impact in how I view the character, and some have played a small impact. I don’t have a clear memory of all of those actors and actresses- in particular my CPCC actors..

See what I mean- different actors and actresses show you something different about the same character. You combine actors- they might show the same emotion, but in a different way. They can bring different personality traits. That is why combining portrayals are very important.

What is Fascinating About the Actors and Actresses We get in Musicals

I think one of the most powerful things about musicals belong to the actors and actresses. They shape our views of the characters and our views of the musical itself. If we are seeing a show a second or third or even fourth time, we find something new. Our first actor or actress in a role gives us our first impression of a character. Every audience member sees the same actor very differently. I might absolutely love a particular actor or actress, but the audience member next to me might not. There is nothing wrong with that: we just are interpreting it differently.

The actors and actresses we end up with is based on many factors: when we see the musical, where we are seeing it, the country we live in, the musicals we want to see and the time plus whether or not we get an understudy. Must If you get an understudy, RESPECT them no matter what. Our first impression of a character is usually important. If we see a musical more than once, we end up combining actor’s portrayals: that is the case for Les Mis and Wicked characters. I have seen those musicals more than once. Wicked was seen four times on stage. Les Mis, I watched the film, the 25th concert, and three stage casts. So my first impression of the characters of Les Mis belonged to the film. There is usually a certain actor or actress that makes us fall in love with a character.

Here are some actors and actresses that have made a lasting impact on me: movies and stage

Lisa Karlin- She was my Leading Player. She was the standout when I saw Pippin. I loved the way she presented herself. Like in “Magic to Do”, she was very playful, but I could detect a small amount hint of “evil”, Then in songs like “Glory”, she got rid of the playfulness and showed her craftiness and darkness more. She was playful around Pippin to make it seem that he could trust her. She played her as very crafty, manipulative, dark, sneaky, and playful. She even can trick the audience into believing that she was leading Pippin on the right path.

Joey Barreiro- He was my first Jack. I have seen two fantastic Jacks after him. But still to this day, Joey is still my favorite Jack. I fell in love with Jack all because of Joey. He had this incredible dreamy, romantic, and innocent nature. He showed Jack’s inner conflict perfectly and was able to act as a leader.

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Samantha Barks- she was my first Eponine. She was the reason why I developed a beautiful bond with Eponine in the first place. She is such a very talented Eponine. She perfectly showed how alone Eponine is. She was very believable as that girl. If it was not for her, I do not know if I would have fallen in love with Eponine. To this day, still is my favorite Eponine.

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Mary Kate Morrissey- True, I fell in love with Elphaba before her, but she is the Elphaba I remember the most. I saw her as standby on tour in 2016. She embodied Elphaba perfectly. She was able to bring something new to the role. She understood the role perfectly. She made me appreciate a song I always hated, and for once felt emotions in “No Good Deed”. She even altered her voice: in act I, her voice sounded innocent, but in act II, her voice was mature.

Amanda Jane Copper- She was in the same cast as Mary Kate Morrissey. you NEVER can have a brilliant Elphaba without an excellent Glinda and vice versa. Amanda was an excellent Glinda, which meant “For Good” was perfectly. Her Glinda kept on making me laugh in all of Glinda’s funny lines and she perfectly expressed Glinda’s pain in act II.

Ashley Parker Angel- I loved what he did to the role. He acted the lion cub scene as if he had a crush on Elphaba, but deep down does not seem to know it. So act I had some foreshadowing going on. I wanted to get to the bottom of this love triangle plot twist. He already decided to make his chemistry weaker with Glinda then with Elphaba.

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Jeremy Secomb- I saw him in the West End. I struggle with Javert so much. Jeremy is the only Javert I have seen that I have felt sympathy for, and that is why he had a lasting impact on me.

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Joshua Grosso- I already made this clear. He became my favorite Marius. What happens when your favorite character in the Les Mis love triangle is Eponine, but your strongest actor is Marius? That is what happened in November of last year. He was charming and awkward. He treated falling in love with Cosette like “I’m in love, but what to do with it”. At the barricades, people might think he isn’t showing enough emotion during “A Little Fall of Rain”, but it works. He focused more on comforting Eponine. Wait till the end- he almost acted a bit stunned- he did not say a word until about 5-10 seconds- then said “grow” and the way he said it hurt. So he still was able to show his hurt. His “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was very heartbreaking. So he embodied Marius perfectly and changed my perception of him.

He made Marius nearly a core favorite Les Mis character. I saw something in his Marius that made him shine.

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I could have talked about all actors and actresses that have had a lasting impact on me, but the list could have taken too long.

My Excitement About Frozen

Out of all musicals that have been coming out this year on Broadway, the one that excited me the most was Frozen. Yes, I am 24, but I love Disney musical. What is it about Frozen that appeal to me?

Well, I love songs from the move like “For the First Time in Forever”, “Let it Go” (yes not sick and tired of it)), “Love is an Open Door”, and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”. I have been listening to some of the new songs, and even those sound amazing. “Monster”, “What Do You Know About Love”, and “True Love” all sound amazing including all the other new songs I heard. What is fascinating about “Love is an Open Door” is that it is a love song, which has a hint of darkness found underneath it. I think the stage show of Frozen has a more emotional nature than the movie based on the new songs.

I have always loved the plot of Frozen. After all the fact that true love focuses on two sisters instead of two lovers makes it quite different. Disney in the past usually makes true love focus on two lovers. I always loved how it it is about Elsa and Anna’s relationship. I relate to Anna a lot: I have her outgoing personality, I am the youngest sibling and like Anna I do act before I think. I always loved how her relationship with Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf grows throughout the story.

I think it would be interesting to see how the musical could handle Elsa’s powers. If musicals know to handle spectacle, I know they can figure out her powers. I have seen magical powers on stage before. After all, I have seen Wicked and Elphaba has magical power. In so many ways, Frozen reminds me of Wicked. Glinda and Anna are both funny and outgoing. Both Elsa and Elphaba have powers they do not know how to control. The friendship Elphaba and Glinda have is similar to the sisterhood Anna and Elsa have. In so many ways, “Let it Go” reminds me directly of “Defying Gravity”. I think my love of Wicked is what drove me to Frozen so much.