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.