Sunday, August 16, 2015

The agony & the ecstasy that is Musical Theatre

     Because I really don't talk about musicals enough. Do I?

     I love musicals. Most days, I sing them all day long. (When I'm not singing folk songs or murder ballads, that is. There's rarely a time when I'm not singing anything.) Musical theatre is one of my chief delights. I sing duets from Chess with my sister (and sometimes with myself, if she's not on hand), I re-enact scenes from Little Women while hanging clothes out on the line, I raid the music section at the library for musical songbooks, and I blare the Les Miserables soundtrack while I'm washing dishes. I'm what you might call a fanatic.

     And if you didn't already know this, here's a news flash for you: really emotional musicals are my favorites. I like the fun, lighthearted, dance-y ones, but they're not what really get me. The ones that make you sigh and cry and hurt and laugh through your tears, and go, WOW -- those are the best.

And sometimes they make you jump up and down with glee, like Richard Henry Lee is doing.

     Now, normally I'm a pretty practical person. As in, I try to avoid drama when I can. I don't give in to feelings much. I try to keep a level head. But when it comes to musicals (and movies and books in general, it seems), I'm gone. I want drama. Give me everything you've got. The pain, the sorrow, the high, the low. I want FEELS.

     My top five favorite musicals give tribute to this affinity. Here they are...

#5 Little Women

     Admittedly, I have never been the biggest fan of this story in general. I'm not sure why, it just never really grabbed me in any powerful way. BUT for some reason, the musical really does. I saw this put on by a local high school last spring, and thought it was so-so. Excepting the girl who played Jo (who was Ah-MAZING), I didn't think it was exceptionally great. Then I began to listen to the original recording, and it really grew on me. I love the songs, and I really like the way they've captured the spirit of the story. The musical version focuses a lot on Jo's 'coming-of-age', if you will, and her journey of going from girl to adult, which really resonates with me. Especially as I hope to become a writer as well. "I thought that somehow we would always have forever...." It's the bittersweetness of growing up, of change. It's happy and it's sad.

     Jo really owns this musical. She has sooooooo many good songs, and such a strong character. I never thought I identified with Jo March very much, but the musical gives a fresh take on her that I like much better than any of the movies I've seen. In fact, to play Jo would be my absolute dream role. I would looooove to play Jo. :-)

     And Marmee! Marmee has some really beautiful songs as well. Like this one. Sink me if you don't tear up.

     I just really like the musical's rendition on the story. Which is unusual, because sometimes musicals get the original stories really screwed up. And I appreciate that most all of the songs help in advancing the plot and aren't just fluffy filler.

#4 Shenandoah

     A musical about the Civil War from the 70's? Yes, ma'am!!! :-D I came across this one in a round-about way....I won't bore you with the backstory. (Although if you're really interested, you can read my initial frenzied excitement here.) One of the things I especially love about this story is the down-to-earth wholesomeness. It's about a family, a man who's caught in the middle of a conflict he would rather not be a part of, but who is driven to act on what he believes is right. It also has some really fun songs, and some sad ones. The ending is where the feels really hit. When the church congregation sings the last song, "Pass the Cross to Me", and the music swells in the final chorus....ohhhh!

     And John Cullum is The Man. Just so you all know. Before there was Ramin Karimloo, there was John Cullum.

#3 1776


     Ha. Somehow this one doesn't quite fit with the rest of these super emotional stories. ;-P Well, I admit, it's a little mediocre. It's a bit crude, in parts. But it's also historical! (I think -- I mean, I'm not sure how accurate it is.) It's fun, it's witty, it's rollicking. And it's so stinkin' hilarious.

     It's very emotional, too, at times...

    Gotta love the seventies. :-) And there's a healthy dose of The Feels...

     1776 has it all. The silly ("The Egg") and the serious ("Molasses to Rum"), the lighthearted ("He Plays the Violin") and the weighty ("Is Anybody There?") All in all, it's super fun.

#2 Titanic

     NOW we can start talking about some real feels!!!!

     *catches breath*

     Oh my goodness. Where to start?

     First of all, has anyone ever even heard of this musical? It's not very popular, I know. I'd only vaguely heard of it until this spring, when I went and saw a high school production. And OH MY HEAVENS. Wow. It was love at first sight. Um, sound. Well, both. The show is both beautiful to listen to AND to look at. It's got just the right mix of lighthearted and fun with tragic and emotional. (The musical has absolutely nothing to do with the 1997 movie, by the way.) I love musicals that have a wide variety of characters, all with different and unique stories, and I LOVE these characters. (My favorite is Harold Bride. :-)) And the story is chock-full of feels: you're either laughing or crying the whole time. (At least, emotional sixteen-year-old girls like me would be.)

     Here's the worst one (which means the best one):


     I am officially dead for the present. Oh, and speaking of dead....

#1 Les Miserables

     You all knew it was coming.


     Now that we have that important announcement out of the way, I will explain why I love it so much.

     *chews nails*
     *looks around nervously*
     *chatters teeth*

     Well....that could get deep. Maybe I should save that for another post. ;-D BUT let's just say, I believe this is the most beautiful musical phenomenon ever created. It's the most epic, the most tragic (hey, you can't argue with me there!), the most's just the best, people. 

    Also one the reasons it's so special to me is because I was in a production of the show last fall, which was pretty much the most exciting thing that ever happened. 


     That was me. :-)

     *wipes tears*

    Alright, I'd better wrap this up before I start getting too sentimental and ramble too much.

    SO. Do you like emotional musicals too? What are some of your favorites? Would you like me to write a post about why I love Les Miz so much, or would you rather have a tooth pulled? 


  1. This is my Jam! *holds in excitable squeaks*

    Musicals YAY!

    *Looks at clock and it's 7am time to leave for school*
    BLAST! I will be back.. your angel of musiccccccccccccc

    *tries to be phantom ish* mwhahahahahahahahahahahahah haha *coughs*

    *swirls cape around and jumps off stage*
    PS: Back soon!

  2. I love musicals!!! Though I haven't seen Little Women yet... hmm... *goes and finds a copy* :)
    --Rebecca at The Silver Flute

    1. Rebecca Jane, Little Women is SO good! But you will cry. Just warning you. ;-D

  3. Funny thing: I watched Les Miserables (25th anniversary edition) not two days after not having seen any version for a couple of years, and I loved it just as much as I used to. It's definitely my favorite musical. I've seen the 25th, the 10th, the movie, listened to a bunch of soundtracks, and watched TONS of school productions that are on Youtube. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Oh, and I've seen it live, too. (BEST.) All the emotions dripping off pretty much every song...

    I also love A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs, Seussical, State Fair, Newsies, Cinderella, and I know I'm forgetting some musicals, but I think those are the main ones. I want to listen to Little Women, 'cause it's one of my favorite classics, and Shenandoah looks amazing. So does Titanic, for that matter.

    Musicals are my life, basically.


    1. I LOVE LES MIS SO MUCH. It will always be my favorite musical too. :-) I haven't actually seen the entire 25th and 10th anniversary shows, but I saw the movie and I saw it live once (which was ahmazing) and last fall I played Eponine in college production (which was the stinkin' awesomest thing ever). So I know the whole show front to back, pretty much.

      Haha. Musicals are my life too. :-)

  4. Yay! Thou posted. =) And it's a lovely post, too, Emma! :-) (Duh, I love all your posts.)

    I LOVE Musicals. But my favourites aren't the ones you posted here. I REALLY REALLY need to go and see Little Women. (I never liked the story THAT much, or related to Jo much, either, but I think I'd love the musical.)

    And Titanic sounds SOOOO good. But for me the Titanic musical is the one my dad made, which totally HAS THE BEST SONGS EVER. I wish people could hear them. MY DAD'S TITANIC MUSICAL IS THE BEST. :-)

    Hahahahaha. "Speaking of dead." :-)

    I LOVE 'On my Own.' Now that's the Les Mis bit I am really a fan of. (And no, I seriously loved it before you sang it. Although I love it even more after you sang it, gotta say.) No, do write a post on Les Mis. I'll read it. :-)

    ~ Naomi

    1. Why, thank you dear! :-) Yes, I know, you don't really know any of these musicals -- but I think you would REALLY like Little Women. Listen to some of the songs. They're sooooo good.

      I wish I could hear your Dad's Titanic! I still find it mind-blowingly awesome that he actually wrote a musical about it. ;-)

      Haha. If I write a post about Les Mis you will be MADE to read it. ;-D

  5. Oh, I never realized there was a musical on Little Women (well, there's a musical on EVERYTHING, but I meant a respectable one :-P). I'll have to look into that. :-D
    I only know one of these and that's the one and only Les Miserables which is (coincidentally?) my favourite musical ever!! :-D AH, Samantha Barks! Me likes her muchly. :-D I do so wish we could hear you singing it. *sniff* :-( I wish we had somewhere that we could participate in musicals around here but the only way I know of is being part of a collage thing that occasionally put them on. On My Own is probably the song I've song the most out of everything, which is *cough* saying a lot. :-P Someday I REALLY want to watch it live, (in fact it's coming near here in November, but I don't think I've anyone to go with, and I'm not sure if I'm old enough, as some of the parts I always have to fast forward :-/) but someday I will. :-D My brother saw it live in West End (I told him to :-P) and now I'm super jealous. But he gave me all the little brochures and things so I like to flip through them. :-D And of course, there is your lovely bookmark. (Oh, I'm sorry, did I ever mention I received it? Well, I did! It's wonderful! I've been using it frequently. Particularly when I read True Grit. Oh yes, about that....I'll speak of that later.) I like emotional musicals too. :-D As long as there is some hope, so to speak. If EVERYBODY died and it was dark and awful I wouldn't like it, but I like Les Mis. :-) (Excuse me, did I say like? Boy is that an understatement.) YES YES YES DO SPEAK ABOUT LES MISERABLES. I could speak about that allll day. ;-) Some of my favourites other than the previously mentioned are Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Calamity Jane, Annie Get Your Gun, Oliver!, My Fair Lady, and I really enjoyed Meet Me in St. Louis and State Fair. I have plenty others but those are off the top of my head. :-D (And of course I like animated musicals like Tangled and Beauty and the Beast and so forth. Except Brave. Ugh. Nope.)
    Anyhow, about True Grit. Emma, guess what? I READ IT IN ONE DAY. :-P I think that basically explains it all. (Well, I was sick too.) I loved it and would definitely re-read it several more times!! It was splendid and perfect timing, as I was hungering for something new and exciting. Especially since the heroine is my age. ;-) There were only 2 minor things that slightly bothered me, but they weren't the actual story itself. As I'm one of those (annoying?) kind of people who like the grammar straight and the spelling right, I found it a leetle annoying where there was an abundant lack of commas in some places, haha. It could have been American grammar compared to English, but the first few parts felt rather comma-less. The other thing was, I noticed over the second half, he rarely used a replacement of the word 'said.' (Did you notice that? Or maybe it's just weird me. :-P) I was hankering for a 'replied', 'answered' or 'exclaimed' but he seemed to like 'said.' Hehe. Anyway, besides all that, I greatly enjoyed it and am glad you recommended it to me. :-)
    ~Miss Meg March

    1. Miss Meg, what a delightfully long comment! Thanks so much! :-)

      I didn't expect much of the Little Women musical, but as I said it's actually really good. I know, if you look hard enough you can pretty much find a musical version of anything. That theory was confirmed when I made the discovery that there's a musical of Secondhand Lions. Just...what?!

      Your brother went to see Les Mis in the West End?!? So jealous it's not even funny!!! ;-P Oh oh oh, you should go see it! The stage play is not as graphic as the movie (obviously) and there are very few indecent parts. (At least, in the version I was in, and I'm pretty sure the usual stage version.) And all the content is in the context of the story, which in my opinion makes it less inappropriate, if you're of age to understand such things. I'd say, go see it. :-)

      I love Meet Me In St. Louis! And Calamity Jane! And State Fair! You've got good taste. ;-)

      AND NOW WE MUST TALK ABOUT TRUE GRIT. I was so excited to learn that you'd read it!!! (You must excuse me -- I always have to freak out a little when someone tells me they've read one of my favorite books.) I read it in one day too (that was the third time around) -- you simply CANNOT put it down once you're sucked in! As for the things that bothered you: I can't really remember noticing a lack of commas, but I do know that the style it's written in is very simple, narrative-like, almost what some people would call dry. I personally love that style, but I can see how some would find it bothersome. The same about the use of 'said' -- it's all in the context of the way the story is being told.

      But anyway! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I'm glad I recommended it to you too. :-)

    2. Haha, yes, I still can hardly believe he saw it at West End, I mean, how much better can you get?! I actually asked him if the indecent parts were less so on stage but he said that the production at West End brought it out even more than the movie. (I mean, it can't be as graphic, but I suppose the whole 'topic' and such could be brought out more...) I checked it up and it said it's suitable for eight year olds to see (the one near us) but what their standards are I don't know. It's pretty expensive, and the only family member that I think would be willing to go is my brother who already saw it this year at West End, and you can't really beat that. ;-) But anyway, I may just have to exercise my persuasive skills. ;-D
      Hehe, it does suck you in rather drastically, yes. Oh, I get what you're meaning, about the whole context of how it was told. I did suppose that was the reason for all the "saids" hehe, but as it is a simple narrative, it's not that annoying. I really did enjoy it. :-) (And after seeing both movies and reading the book, I think the newer movie is closer to the book, in general, although the older one had a couple of little things that the newer didn't include. I found the older one revolved around Rooster almost more than Mattie, because when ever John Wayne plays in a movie, he ALWAYS has to be center of attention. :-P)
      Anyway, I'll end my spiel. I just got super excited from such a long reply. :-D
      ~Miss Meg March

  6. Of those, I only knew of 1776 and Les Mis.

    1776 was hysterical, I really had no idea what to do with it when my in-laws showed it to me. I should find a CD of it.

    My favorite musical is actually the Scarlet Pimpernel. An obscure Broadway play, that apparently didn't do all that great and hasn't been brought back. There are only a handful of youtube videos. But I love it. It's a fantastic and sweeping score with some really great songs.

    1. Isn't it though? My sister and I like to listen to the 1776 soundtrack on Youtube, and it always makes us crack up. ;-D The actors in that movie are brilliant, even though they're not very good singers (excepting John Cullum. You already know my feelings on him. :-))

      The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favorites as well!!!! I LOVE it!!! In fact, it'd probably be #6 on my list. SO good. My favorite song from the show is "She Was There". :-)

  7. We want a Les Miserables post! We want a Les Miserables post! Pretty please?! And I need to check out all of these musicals, they sound epic! Especially the Titanic one. I love sad emotional, dramatic musicals. They're the BEST.

    1. Yay! The people want a Les Mis post! Well, I shall try to deliver. :-)

      YES WATCH TITANIC. I wish there was a movie of it, but there isn't. The best way to see it is just watch it live, if you ever get the chance!

  8. I love Les Mis too . . . do write a post on it :)
    Are you a "Guys and Dolls" fan, by any chance?

    1. Jessica, I haven't seen Guys and Dolls yet, but I'd really like to because I've heard it's really fun. :-)

    2. I haven't seen it, but my parents have and they really loved it . . . so they gave me the original Broadway soundtrack for a birthday present a few years ago. I LOVE it. It's so much fun. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to either buy the soundtrack or see the musical, DO IT.

  9. Yes, please write a Les Mis post!! It's my all-time favorite as well :D (And Eponine is just the best. Who am I kidding? I love almost all those characters. But still, 'Ponine is awesome.)

    Wicked's the only one I've seen live, and I'll always love that one-- it's the one that first got me into musicals. I watched Little Women over the summer, and it was so much better than I'd expected!! Sutton Foster was an amazing Jo, and I'm with you-- I found I could relate to this version of her so well, being a growing-up writer and all. The music is just lovely; "Some Things Are Meant to Be" made me cry, and my little brother can attest that I go around singing "Astonishing" all the time now xD

    So yeah... I *do* love a good emotional musical. Though now that I think about it, I really ought to find and watch more-- my list of "amazing musicals" is way too short. :)

    This post was lovely; can't wait for the Les Mis one!

    1. Emily, I saw Wicked live too! It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life to date. :-) That's also one of my favorites. (I have a ton.) ;-P

      Oh, isn't Sutton Foster AMAZING?!? "Some Things Are Meant To Be" made me cry too when I saw it live, and so did "Days of Plenty". Haha, yes, I go around singing "Astonishing" quite a lot too. :-D

      Thank you! And I hope to deliver with the Les Mis post soon!

  10. How wretched of me -- I've only seen one of these (Les MIs, of course, both the anniversary concert and the movie). I almost saw 1776 -- a friend loaned it to me, and I had it for like 2 months, and then I felt really bad for keeping it so long and gave it back. I suppose I could borrow it again some time when I actually had time to watch it, but they loaned it to me unasked (one of those, "Here, you love musicals, you should watch this" and then hands it to you) and I was super busy and... I just Didn't Have Time for it right then.

    However, I do love good, feelsy musicals. (And light, happy ones.) My favorite of the more serious variety (besides Les Mis) are Beyond the Sea (biopic of Bobby Darin), Evita, Moulin Rouge, The Phantom of the Opera, South Pacific, and West Side Story. Like any of those?

    1. Oh, 1776 is a classic. It's witty, fun, very sarcastic, and it has such good characters. Do watch it if you get the chance!

      I know The Phantom of the Opera, of course -- I used to be rather obsessed with that one, then I got really sick of it for a year or so, and now I just like it. It's not one of my favorites because I'm not a huge fan of the story, though the music is phenomenal. I've heard Evita is SUPER good, but I haven't seen it yet. Same with West Side Story. And oh my goodness, I was delighted to see South Pacific on your list because our local community college (the folks I did Les Mis with last year) is putting it on this fall! I deliberated for a looooong time about whether to audition -- I don't love the musical -- but I finally decided to because I just want to be in a show SO BAD. And South Pacific does have some great music.

    2. I will try to borrow 1776 again some time, then :-)

      West Side Story is uh-may-zeeng. I infinitely prefer it to Romeo and Juliet. I hope you get a chance to see it! I memorized all the songs when I was in high school, and even learned some of them on the piano.

      But yes, South Pacific is not one of my Absolute Favorite musicals, but I do like it a lot. It's too sad to watch all the time, though. Coincidentally, we were just listening to the soundtrack while I was making breakfast this morning, and now I have "There is Nothing Like a Dame" stuck in my head :-D Have you auditioned already, or is that coming up yet? Very exciting!

    3. I have the West Side Story piano book (passed down from a relative), and I know how to play some of the songs. My favorite is 'Somewhere' -- naturally. :-)

      Ahhh, South Pacific is SO sad! Haha, I get that song stuck in my head allllll the time. ;-P That, and 'Honey Bun'. No, I haven't auditioned yet -- the auditions are Sept. 1st and 2nd. I'm getting excited. :-)

    4. "Somewhere" is pretty unbeatable.

      Sept 1 and 2 are so close! Break a leg :-)

    5. Oooh If I could interject and say Good Luck Emma!! and West Side Story! That was my first musical I saw and played in! :D It's amazing but the MAMBO is insane!??!?

    6. And South Pacific is beautiful! =D I had to sing "Some Enchanted Evening" for Music as I'm an Alto

  11. *clutches at heart*

    You did a post about musical theatre. MUSICAL THEATRE!!!!! I'm happy. (Oh, and by the by, I'm going to do a post relating to musical theatre too!)

    Anyway, YES. Now, I have to admit with shame that the only one out of these that I've watched is Les Mis, but I've heard of some of the others, and THERE'S A MUSICAL OF LITTLE WOMEN?!?!?! Why did I not know this?! I must look it up. Forthwith.

    Well, hehe, I think you know most of my favorite musicals...I really love some of the silly dance-y ones (because Howard Keel, dontcha know), and just some of the ones made in the 50s/60s in general, that aren't super silly, but aren't super tragic either. Like The Sound of Music and The King and I. And then for the really tragic ones I prefer Evita and The Phantom of the Opera (and SOME of Love Never Dies). But like I said, you probably knew all that;)

    Wonderful, spendiferous post! It made me happy with all the musical theatre feels:D

    1. Hooray for musical theatre feels!! :-D

      YES there's a musical version of Little Women!! I was as surprised as you! And it's super good. If you see the right cast, that is. As far as I know it's only been on Broadway once, and that was the cast with Sutton Foster who is SO. GOOD.

      I love many of the old 50's and 60's ones The Music Man, Hello, Dolly! and pretty much anything with Howard Keel. :-) Something about those good ol' ones makes you want to get up and dance.

      Thank ye! It made me happy to write it. Sometimes you just gotta get the feels out. :-)

    2. ....And I can't wait for your post!!!!! :-D


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