Full Circle between Two Musicals

Do you know what it means when a full circle happens? I know that happened, and that was between Wicked and Les Mis. Why do I saw that?

For starters, let’s talk about my first experience with Wicked. That was back in August 2006. I was 12 and my mom went to NYC alone. Part of it included seeing Wicked on Broadway. All I can remember is that I was with mom and that “Popular” was my favorite song. That musical sparked my love for musicals. I was able to understand emotional connection and discover the complex and emotional side to musicals: the core emotions were excitement, love, joy, and sad (which I thought I knew). I had no idea how much one musical would challenge everything I knew about in musical theatre.

Where does Les Mis come into play? While Wicked sparked my love for musicals, Les Mis turned that love into a passion. I believe that if Wicked never entered my life, there is no way Les Mis would have been able to happen.

I think things truly came full circle when I saw Les Mis in the West End. That date was July 30th, 2015. Just like with Wicked, an incredible theater district and once again it was a date with my mom. Those two musicals combined are where my passion truly comes from. By the time I saw Les Mis in the West End, I had already seen the film, the 25h concert, and the stage show three times. It was because of Central Piedmont Community College’s production that made me develop a dream of seeing the show in London.

“I Dreamed a Dream”

There is one other way things came into full circle with Wicked and Les Mis. My university home is Gardner Webb. In January 2016, I ended up seeing Wicked with GWU. The next year, I saw Les Mis on November 5th, 2017. So, I was able to see both with my university, a school that changed me for good.

Respect the Understudies

There is an important thing in musicals that do not get the respect and appreciation. These belong to understudies, and if they did not exist, so many musicals would be cancelled. When the main actor is out for the day, the understudies cover for them, and a swing comes in to play the part that the understudies usually play.

Grace Morgan (Christine), Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba), Lisa Karlin (Leading Player), Sam Lips (Pippin), Adam Bayjou (Valjean), Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine), Eymard Cabling (The Engineer), and Andrew Maughan (Valjean) were all understudies. However, only of them was a standby, which was Mary Kate Morrissey- when you have a standby, a swing is not involved since the standby is not part of the ensemble. One of my actresses I saw had an incredible journey to eventually landing the main part.

It belonged to one of my Fantine actresses. I actually saw her in Les Mis twice- 2017 and 2019. Back in 2017, I only saw her in the ensemble, but for the tour she was also cast as 1st cover Fantine. In 2017, Melissa Mitchell, who I saw as Fantine, was the main actress. After she left, Mary Kate Moore ended up becoming the main Fantine. So when 2019 happened, Mary Kate Moore was still Fantine, and still was the main one when I actually saw the show that year. I was hoping I would get her, and I did.

So you see, in the same show, an understudy has the talent to eventually move up to to a lead role. Mary Kate Moore is one of the important ones to bring up. I saw her start as an ensemble member and later the main role. Whenever I think of that character, she is the one I talk about. After all, actors/actresses like her don’t get the respect and appreciation that they deserve.

Even Nick Cartell and Anthony Festa moved up- the difference was not in the same musical. Nick was in the ensemble of Phantom of the Opera, and was also an understudy as Raoul. He was my Valjean in 2017, and he actually ended up being one of top three Valjean actors. With Anthony, I first saw him in Wicked in the ensemble, and was an understudy for Fiyero as well. In 2019, he was my Chris. Both Nick and Anthony moved up from understudy to securing a main role.

So all three actors started out at only in the ensemble and an understudy, but eventually moved up to a lead role. So it is important to respect them even before they were a lead role. Those three are strong examples of why. They had the talent to become the characters they eventually became.

Main Things that Made me the Fan of Musicals today

As musical fanatics know, your love for musicals needs to start somewhere. It can’t just show up out of nowhere. I have three main things that made me the musical fan I am today. What are they?

Family

Yes, I am referring to my Family. They raised me on musicals. We went to both stage shows and musical movies. I am talking about the classic Disney musicals to Wicked to Oliver (which I don’t remember), among a couple of others. In terms of musical movies, I saw a lot more with my family this way: Annie, Sound of Music, Grease, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, and Wizard of OZ- ones I saw in elementary school. Now, I am still seeing musicals with my family. If it wasn’t for them, there is no way I would have loved musicals.

Wicked

My mom and I went on a trip to NYC alone. Part of being in NYC belonged to seeing a musical on Broadway. That was Wicked, and little did I know that when I stepped foot in Gerswhin Theater that I would be changed “for good”. Wicked sparked my love for musicals. I realized what it meant to have an emotional connection and began to understand the emotional and complex side to musicals. It has now been 14 years since I first saw Wicked in August 2006. Wicked in so many ways was the beginning of my musical theatre journey.

Les Mis

I honestly thought I knew musicals, but then one musical truly changed the way I view them. My love does start with the film-which I had to give a second chance. I still do not why I did that due to not really appreciating it when I first saw it. I must have formed some emotional connection that first round without knowing.

Les Mis tested and challenged a lot of things. I thought sad was not that capable when it first came to the forefront through Wicked. Les Mis literally brought out heartbreak. Its’ emotional capabilities is something I had not found in musicals before: they are epic, powerful, passionate, and highly emotional. I believed that death would not be memorable or happen during a song: Les Mis sure proved that wrong. I still can’t believe that in high school, I said I would never love a tragedy. Les Mis went against everything I truly believed existed in musical theatre.

Now, I am more open to musicals. That means I wouldn’t be as surprised when something new enters the musical theatre world. I don’t mind seeing other tragedies. I always hope that each year, I would see at least one musical, which usually ends up being two-four musicals a year.

Conclusion

If it wasn’t for my family, Wicked, or Les Mis-that love for musicals wouldn’t have existed.

Complex Musicals- What makes them complex

As several musical theatre fans know, musicals have an extremely wide range of plot, songs, and the characters. There are both simple and complex musicals. What exactly makes complex musicals.

For starters, let’s go into the songs. Those songs tend to have BOTH happy and sad songs- as in sad songs being strong enough to remember. These songs, especially at heartbreaking songs, can easily make us feel like we are hit by a pile of bricks: meaning having the ability to give us goosebumps and tears.

Second- let’s venture into the characters. These characters are complex due to having flaws, strengths, and can be portrayed in several ways. These characters are the ones who have an emotional journey. They tend to have a strong backstory to make them complex in the first place. Each time you see the same show, and something is added to the character, that would make them complex.

Third, the plot itself- They have the main story along with subplots. Their stories are powerful and come with incredible messages. The subplots do show that a musical is complex. After all, it means that other characters’ stories are important just like the main characters’ are.

I tend to lean towards complex musicals because those feel the most relatable, feel real and believable, and are truly “human”. After all, life is messy and complicated. We tend to have some of the strongest emotional connections in them because we truly can see themselves as actual humans. It is because of their flaws, strengths, backstory, and their emotional nature that we can see ourselves in them so easily.

What are examples of complex musicals:

  1. Wicked
  2. Les Mis
  3. Rent
  4. Phantom of the Opera
  5. Newsies
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Aladdin
  8. Lion King

There are others, but those are the ones I can think of for now.

Things in Common between all Favorite Musicals

As all musical fanatics know, there are musicals we don’t like and at the same time there are musicals we love. While I tend to lean towards complex musicals, there are still simple musicals I love. While I tend to want spectacle or dance, not all musicals I love share that. So, what exactly is in common towards all of them?

Well, to make a musical, we need songs, plot, and character. It is extremely difficult to love the plot and characters if the songs are not good. That is one thing in common between all my favorite characters-as in amazing songs. That is usually my first step for a musical to become amazing.

Now that song is taken care of, it is time to look at the characters. That’s right, I look at the characters before the plot. After all, the characters create the plot in the first- no matter how small or big they are to the show. I have to love characters in the show. The characters are a huge reason why the songs become the songs we tend to love. We want the songs to complement the characters.

Finally- what about the plot? All three together create one. I have to love the plot. If the plot is boring, it will lead to boring songs and even not so amazing characters.

Now, what is especially important is the emotional connection to song, character, and plot. That emotional connection is where the WANT, DESIRE, and REASON comes from. It makes you want to listen the songs, go on the characters’ journey, which connects to the plot. All of the musicals I love I formed a strong emotion with: Wicked, Les Mis, Annie, Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, etc…….ALL have an emotional connection. Because of our emotional connection, it makes us love feeling the emotions in the first place. Positive emotions are the easiest to love feeling, but when it comes to negative emotions, that emotional connection is really important. After all, it truly matters what the characters’ lives and story are.

Yes, it will hurt at times in a musical. But, it isn’t our emotions we are feeling; instead it is the characters’. While we still feel the negative emotions, those have created some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. We end up loving listening to those sad/heartbreaking songs. “I’m Not Girl”, “Santa Fe”, “On My Own”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “If I Can’t Love Her” are examples of songs I love despite the sadness that they have. I love dealing with these emotions due to the emotional connection I have with these characters.

So, what I am saying about all favorite musicals, they all share an emotional connection. That is exactly why I love each of them. The range of musicals is quite gigantic: “Music Man” to “Les Mis”. That really does show a lot.

Below are pictures from favorite musicals of mine: not all of them, but some.