Thinking Out Loud: Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story–Part 1

Excessive Tragedy

Comedy and Tragedy

Back in high school, my musical theater friends and I have practiced medleys and songs from many different musicals, including plenty that I have never heard about before aside from brief tellings of them by our choir director. I remember she was hesitant about telling us about some of the dark themes such as the one for Miss Saigon—it was about poverty and prostitution, but she loved the song “Sun and Moon”—this is, in fact, a beautifully written song, but I know that I could never watch this musical. It seems to be all about hopelessness, and looking for dignity in a world and era that didn’t believe that dignity existed. Sometimes darkness is needed to empathise with the audience, but too much of it can make it hard to find the way towards the light, or it can keep the personality of the main characters from being known. So besides the fact that it was a romantic song, and at the time I was stuck in a stage of finding anything romance-related mushy for maturity reasons, the story behind this song made it hard for me to connect to it. Yes, I’m saying this, and I recently enjoyed reading the story 1984 which is also brutally dark. Please forgive my cognitive dissonance.

All in all, this issue begs a question at the back of my mind: Is it okay to deal with exceptionally serious issues in plays with singing? If it is okay, should a way towards goodness and dignity be provided through the cause-and-effect process of a story? Maybe. Maybe Miss Saigon does exercise this process, but I might never know because I learned about that one theme, so I never gave it a chance. Maybe it has so many more themes than the one I know about. Come to think of it, the reason I enjoyed the book 1984 was because Winston was fighting to keep his feet on the ground by using this exact same, objective process of cause and effect that we see in stories, and all around us. But on the other hand, I do NOT want to see a 1984 musical… or would I?… Nah! Most likely not. However, there is also ‘Les Misérables’. This is a dark musical, but I think that it has managed to reach the light sometimes.

Tomorrows post will be about Excessive Comedy.

3 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud: Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story–Part 1

  1. I made a big mistake in high school: I did not give TRAGEDY a fair enough chance: I was TRAGEDY: that genre is pure sad- they don’t go beyond that emotion. Boring, boring, boring. That is what I thought they were- that’s it.

    Guess what happens in my 1st year of college- I watch the movie musical of Les Mis. The 1st time, I came in unaware I was about to watch a tragedy. So after I realized that during the movie, I was like “WHAT”, I did not know what to do- I was shocked and confused that I didn’t know what to do or how to respond at all to the rest of the film. By the end, I was like did I just like that or was that just too depressing. But I started researching Les Mis anyways.

    Well, look what I did: saw Les Mis, that film a 2nd time. This time, knowing it was going to be tragic, was able to calm down. I realized there was something special about Les Mis. I began to notice it wasn’t too depressing- that it is inspiring and uplifting- I was left with a thought- but why? By summer 2013, I was obsessed with Les Mis.

    So that high school girl who did not give tragedy a chance became obsessed with a tragedy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. 🙂 It’s amazing how much our perspectives can stretch when being exposed to genres that we never thought we would like. It wasn’t until last year, around the age of twenty-five when I discovered that I can actually read a dystopian novel like 1984, and enjoy it.


      1. So if I had known Les Mis was a tragedy ahead of time- no way would I have watched it the first time. Les Mis turned my current love of musicals into a passion. Prior I thought ALL musicals were happy. I already knew the emotion of sad was in musicals, but not heartbreak- so Les Mis introduced me to heartbreak. So I got a fresh perspective on things.

        Liked by 1 person

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