Happy Tuesday, everyone, and gear up for a ride. I’m taking a break from books on the blog today — mainly because A Feast for Crows has me wanting to throw my Kindle across the room — and focusing on my other passion. Namely, musicals.
As you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of musical theatre. (Theatre? Theater? I’m sticking with theatre.) And after watching the Hamilfilm this past Friday using my brand new Disney+ account, it’s basically been the only thing on my mind. And if you’re hesitant about reading this post because of the chaotic fangirl-fest that was my completion of the Hamilton Book Tag, you can relax. I’ll try to keep screaming musical lyrics to a minimum.
What exactly is a musical?
Wikipedia defines a musical as “a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance,” in which “the story and emotional content of a musical – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.”
My preferred definition is from the song “A Musical” from Something Rotten!:
It’s… a… musical
And nothing’s as amazing as a musical
With song and dance
And sweet romance
And happy endings happening
By happenstance“A Musical,” Something Rotten!
Musicals & Me: A History
I think the best place to start the discussion of how I came to love musical theatre is with the first live show I ever watched, Wicked. My parents took me to watch this reimagining of Oz when I was in fourth grade, and were assaulted for a long time thereafter with me screeching “No One Mourns the Wicked” in the car.
After my Wicked phase, I returned to my normal routine of not screeching in the car and not listening to music. But in the years that followed, I slowly reentered the world of musical theatre after discovering Aladdin and the wonder that is Les Misérables‘s “One Day More.”
And then came Hamilton. From the moment I heard the first line of the first number, my heart went boom and I proceeded to become obsessed — with the libretto, Revolutionary America, and musical theatre in general.
The rest is history (pun intended). I’ve teared up listening to “You Will Be Found” (Dear Evan Hansen), been enchanted by the haunting melody of “In My Dreams” (Anastasia), cracked up during “Hard to Be the Bard” (Something Rotten!), and swooned to the tune of “The Music of the Night” (The Phantom of the Opera). The list goes on and on. The beauty of musicals never fails to grow old.
So why do I love musicals?
✨ The visual performance. As a visual learner and reader, the very existence of live musical theatre is a dream come true. The tiniest details in the performances bring the story and characters to life in the most literal way, while the numbers, the choreography, the set design, and the costumes all lend a charm to the show that’s all its own.
✨ The songs. Even if you’re not watching a musical live (as is happening more and more often due to COVID-19), just listening to the songs is a wonder of its own. The songs found in musicals contain a depth of emotion almost unheard of in “regular” pop music. Everything from the melody to the lyrics to how many beats of rest there are before the next line brings the listener into the deepest parts of a character’s personality. As a result, characters in a musical often seem more developed and nuanced than in other forms of storytelling.
✨ The escapism. It doesn’t matter whether a musical is set in the aftermath of 9/11, or 18th century America, or the kingdom of Agrabah. The spectacle, the music, the dance — it all transports you to a magical world not quite like our own. There’s just something in the air when you’re experiencing musical theatre that makes everything else fade away.
✨ The interaction between stage and audience. It’s not only the show itself that’s magical. The feeling of being unified with several hundred other people for even just a few hours — the only thing that matters being your collective awe of what’s unfolding on the stage — is incredible in itself.
✨ Just… because. To be honest, making a list of the reasons why I love musicals has been one of the hardest things I’ve done on this blog. There are so many reasons, and yet none at all. From the moment you enter the theater or put in your earbuds, you’re setting off on a journey that never truly ends. You’re entering an interpretation of another world that’s unique to you and your imagination, and you can stay as long as you want. Whether it’s a musical or a book or a TV show, that’s what keeps me coming back for more.
This was a fun post! Chat with me in the comments — are you a musical theatre fan? Are you as obsessed as I am? Do you have any recommendations for me?