Student Blog: Reflections on Selected Musicals
Back in my sophomore year in college, one of my assignments for music class other than studying site-reading was to write short reflections on musicals my professor wanted me to learn about or write about if I knew the show already. I enjoyed this so much because being the musical theater lover that I am, I had so much to express whether it is my feelings for a character or my interpretation on a song’s lyrics. I was instructed to write my reflection in this format: favorite character, song, actor/actress, and production. While many of the shows my teacher told me to listen to were ones I was familiar with, it brought me great joy to explore musicals I have yet to discover then. Here I will share selected parts of the reflections I wrote of different musicals, both new and old to me:
In all honesty, I like the role of the Emcee the most. I find him to be the most exquisite among all the characters in the show and even among all the other musicals that I know. His character is quite ambiguous in a sense that one cannot be sure of his true sexuality: whether he is gay or a straight man with a flamboyant personality or he is just a very good actor. I like the fact that he has the power to keep his audience on their toes and that he is not one to disappoint. He is lively and he gives off that vibe without much effort. From the moment he walks on stage, he captures your attention simply because he can. It is with the help of his great charisma and presence that makes the cabaret such a success. I fell in love with his enthusiasm and that is why I aspire to follow after his footsteps.
The King and I
My favorite song would be “Hello, Young Lovers”. I fell in love with this particular song because the lyrics are full of hope and happiness. Even though I have never been in love before, this song made me feel what it is to be in love. As Anna reminisces about her love story with Tom in the song, she does not have any sadness in her voice but rather she looks back at those memories with great affection and joy. Whenever I have the song on repeat, I can not help but feel blissful and it is such a wonderful thing to experience.
In all honesty, the 1956 movie starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr is my ultimate favorite version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. I have a great fondness for this film because it is one of my first movie musicals I was exposed to as a child. The songs and the actors became a part of me at a very young age; it simply was a timeless classic and there could never be any other version that could replace this award-winning movie.
The Sound of Music
I am torn between these two songs: I Have Confidence and Something Good. I find The Confidence Song to be a very relatable song for everyone despite age, race, etc. In the beginning, you can hear Maria sing her thoughts out loud as she struggles with her doubts and fears; this part alone is a moment many people have to face in life. Eventually, she finds it in her to set aside her personal worries and just find her confidence in both sunshine and in the rain. I like the fact that in the song she says, “Strength doesn’t lie in numbers, strength doesn’t lie in wealth” because she is making it a point that you don’t need wealth or power to be confident but rather belief in one’s capabilities is all that matters. Overall, the song is a very uplifting song and I love going through the lyrics in my head during times of trouble, etc. just to remind myself that I can be as confident as Maria. Moving on, I also love Something Good because I find the lyrics to be very deep compared to the other songs of this musical. It makes me realize that despite my past mistakes and regrets, life will reward me one way or another for my good actions, however small they may be. This song wants people to know that there is hope for the hopeless for it is said that “what goes around comes around”.
This musical has a very special place in my heart as well as The Phantom of the Opera and my other favorites. Les Misérables is a show which depicts the true essence of human suffering in a subtle way. There are those who may say that the show is very depressing but I believe that it is a play that sparks a sense of hope within the viewers and it is very evident as the story progresses. Yes, it takes place before and during the June Rebellion in France which depicts the evils of injustice, innocent blood being spilt, war and poverty but it does not necessarily mean that it is a story meant to stir sadness and sorrow in the hearts of the audience. I consider this musical to be one of the greatest of all time not just because it is one of the longest running productions of all time besides Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Phantom, but rather because it celebrates the gift of the human spirit and its true power. Such a performance has moved millions of people around the globe therefore determining how impactful this show is to many. It merely reinforces the idea that through perseverance and faith, anything is possible.
I would have to say that Philip Quest is my favorite actor for this musical. He is by far the most convincing actor to play the role of Javert. Just by watching his performance of “Stars” from the 10th Anniversary Concert on YouTube takes my breath away everytime, I am not even exaggerating. Whenever I hear his voice, I can picture him standing before me and I feel all the emotions rush in me all at once which therefore shows how wonderful an actor and singer he is. He is acclaimed to be a winner of three Laurence Olivier Awards which is the most to date for any actor.
I have had the privilege of watching Les Misérables live twice: one in London and one here in Manila. I would have to say that my favorite would be the recent staging of the show which was the one that took place in Manila a few years ago. I have to mention that the London staging of the show was following after the original production of the entire musical. Overall, it was still very impressive how they had a huge prop/machine which turned into the streets of Paris in one scene and then into the barricade and back into what was supposed to be the streets/ square in Paris. However, when I saw the production of the musical held here, I did not expect much based on what I viewed in the London production. Oh, how I was so wrong. They added literal buildings on stage right and left during the scene when Valjean was searching for work after being released from prison and even in the scene of “On My Own“, etc. It was as though the movie came to life on stage. They obviously upped their game after the 25th anniversary of the show and I must say they did a fantastic job at it. I was thoroughly impressed by the huge improvement from the original set design to the newest one.
The Lion King
From the moment Rafiki sings the first note and as the brilliant African sun begins to ascend in the background, all of my emotions from excitement to wonder starts to overflow inside of me and I find myself in tears (my mom thought that I had sipon but I told her that I was just happily crying my feelings out). I remember very clearly how I felt when the opening scene started to take place before my eyes. I couldn’t help but hold back the sudden surge to cry tears of joy as I witnessed something so wonderful and magical at that very moment. I definitely did not expect that to be my initial reaction but I am glad that I can look back knowing that I was automatically touched and emotionally involved from the very beginning of this phenomenal musical.
It is explicitly an unforgettable musical for many reasons that I will not be able to enumerate for there are a great number of them. The entire show highlighted the culture and beauty of Africa and therefore successfully stirred the desire of someone such as myself to want to visit the great continent. In short, it is a celebration of Africa. One would have to say that the entire show’s score defined what the show is all about. They put emphasis on the use of instruments originating from Africa as well as the use of a number of dialects of its people which fascinated me immediately. Moving on, the costumes and set design were just phenomenal. Having an eye for detail, I closely observed how the contraptions were designed for the tails of the lions, the prancing gazelles, the bodies of the hyenas, etc. By far, this production is one of the greatest that there ever can be in the history of musical theater. How everything was conceptualized continues to boggle my brain and it has been almost a year since I have seen the show for the first time
My favorite song would have to be They Live in You. I did not know this song ever existed until I watched the show live. I thought that the songs in the musical would just be the ones from the cartoon but it turned out that additions were made which resulted in making the musical even more wonderful. They have done the same thing with Disney Broadway shows such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin wherein they included more songs such as “Home” and “A Million Miles Away“, respectively.
I remember the scene when Mufasa sang this song to Simba as they were surrounded with endless beauty under the light of the stars. I find it to be a very meaningful song as it tells us that even if we have family members who are gone, they shall serve as our guardians and it is through them that we may be able to hold on to faith and hope. What touched me the most from this part was that it was a beautiful son and father moment. I couldn’t help but feel emotional at that very moment because I related to it as daughter for I am blessed with a loving father like Mufasa who has the wisdom and patience to help me learn to have hope and to keep true to myself.
I have to add that Endless Night is another favorite of mine. It is a beautiful song and I couldn’t help but mention it. This is a song in which any lost soul can relate to for there are times when we feel alone and confused. Simba cries out to his father as he tries to hold on to faith in his father and in himself making this song a tear-jerking kind.
Another song that I love would be the Grasslands Chant. Whenever I listen to this song, I feel as though I am being transported to the fields of Africa and I could imagine hearing the animals in the distance as the wind breezes through the tall grass. It is an enchanting song and I see it as a lullaby from the African wilderness.
A Chorus Line
I quite enjoy “Nothing” a lot. It appeals to someone like me because it describes the struggle of learning how to become a good actor. There are times when it becomes difficult to get certain skills such as improvisation mastered. In the case of Morales, she could not find it in her to use her imagination to picture herself on a snow sled or melt like an ice cream. She is an example of many who see a lesson such as improvisation to be challenging and seemingly not even necessary or in her own opinion, stupid. I appreciate the idea that the song is giving listeners an insight to the world of acting from a beginner’s perspective. It is definitely a fun song and I love how it makes me smile whenever I listen to it. This is a song that I would love to sing because I feel a connection with the lyrics and the music. I am so glad that it is through listening to this musical that I now know a new song that I have grown to like a lot.
Another song that I would like to take note of is “Dance: 10, Looks: 3″. I feel the need to mention this song because of its message coming from the lyrics. Initially, I did not like the song because I felt as though it was openly objectifying female performers. However, I eventually came to realize the value of the song after watching a clip from the movie version of the show online and by re-listening the song a number of times over. This song gives the idea that life as a performer is not at all blissful and easy for it is very demanding work to be in as it is the industry of the performing arts. This field is perceived to be heavily based on cut-throat competition because everyone wants to make it into the limelight, but not just anyone can accomplish that with a snap of the finger. In this song, Val explains how physical assets play an important role in the overall package of any performer such as a dancer and actress in her case. She not only needs to know how to dance flawlessly but also that she has to have good physical attributes. In a sense, it is through this song that shows how shallow things are in terms of judging a person not just in the arts but also in life in general. People are easily viewed based on looks rather than everything else which is very disquieting to many. The message of this song reaffirms the concept of how people automatically base their opinions off of appearance rather than delving in deeper because it is the first thing people notice about one another; many do not want to make the effort to discover more about a person because it is may be a waste of time for them.
While I have many other reflections, I hope that this may inspire you to take a look into the musicals I have mentioned in this article. You never know, maybe you will get hooked with a new musical or perhaps just a song or two! The ultimate goal of this blog was for me to simply share my appreciation and love for the beauty and hope that these songs, actors, stories, and shows have and give to me and countless others.