Last Friday, my friends and I lived out a lifelong dream and finally got to see Les Misérables live. For me and my sister, it was the continuation of a tradition that started when I was twelve and she was nine, when we first watched West Side Story and we promised that musical theater would be our thing. Les Mis is our fifth. Aside from that and West Side Story, we’ve seen Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Chicago!
Each musical production I see is a special experience – one that takes a lot of time to get over. As I write this, it’s been two days since my friends and I stumbled out of the theatre, teary-eyed and breathless, and I’m still not over it. I’ve been playing the soundtrack on Spotify over and over again, pausing only when I need to catch up on the various and sundry TV series I’m following. And as I was driving to work (with Red and Black playing in the background, firing up my desire to join the revolution against the bourgeois), I got the idea for this blog entry!
1. Endless variety
There’s a musical for every mood. Sad? Happy? Romantic? Politically charged? In the mood for dirty jokes? Want something that emphasizes the importance of family or friendship? Interested in a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the state of society today? There’s a musical for you, I guarantee!
2. Complex characters
For me, there is no other medium that can match musicals when it comes to developing complex characters and really getting into their minds. Because of soliloquies and monologues, you really get to know a character, their thoughts and motivations, their back story, everything. I think only novels come close because of exposition and such, but they still don’t match how deeply you can get a character by hearing them sing about their troubles.
3. There is a song for every occasion
And I mean every occasion. I remember once wanting to communicate to a friend that a person in the same room as us was a total, blithering idiot. I hummed a few notes from that Wizard of Oz classic, If I Only Had a Brain, and glanced in that person’s direction. My friend understood immediately.
Of course, you may want to use this music in a less judgy and bitchy way, you do you.
(Protip: On My Own is the perfect hugot song.)
4. The events and characters in a musical are relatable
Every musical has some underlying lesson that an average, ordinary person can relate to. I, for example, may not be able to build barricades in the streets of Manila, but I can certainly relate to the Les Amis de l’ABC, a group of students yearning for freedom and equality. I may not be green or have magical powers, but I know what it’s like to be ostracized by your peers, to want to succeed beyond all measure so you can overcome your own insecurities.
5. The sheer emotion
Nothing, ever, will top the sheer, raw emotion you feel when seeing a musical. From those magical first few moments at the beginning when you hear the opening notes, all the way to the music drifting off or crashing to a close at the end, you feel like you can’t breathe, like your life’s been swept up and away by this inescapable tidal wave of music and feelings. You are but a tiny crab, clinging helplessly to a rock, as the current washes you out and casts you adrift on a sea of pain, misery, joy, and a thousand other emotions.
Hold on for the ride.