Character death, for whatever reason, seems to work very well with song. Songs just portray the sadness very well, I suppose. Today, I thought that I would make a list of some of my favorite songs dealing with character death. These could be songs about death, songs contemplating on one who has died, or a song that is sung while a character is dying. Because we’re talking about character death and character death usually is a large plot point in most stories, there will be spoilers riddled throughout this.
· “A Little Fall of Rain” from LES MISÉRABLES
o This song is the one that my mind immediately thinks of when I think of character death in a musical. “A Little Fall of Rain” always makes me cry whenever I watch LES MIZ or sometimes even when I just listen to the song. I think that “A Little Fall of Rain” is one of the most heartbreaking parts of LES MIZ because it’s so clear that Éponine is so happy in her death because she gets to be with Marius and because she saved his life.
· “Fantine’s Death / Come to Me” from LES MISÉRABLES
o This is actually one of my favorite songs from LES MIZ (though I must admit that it’s really difficult to pick favorites when it comes to LES MISÉRABLES). Fantine was the first character from LES MIZ that I fell in love with and this scene always just makes me cry so hard. The melody is so beautiful though, and even at the end of her life, all Fantine is really thinking about is Cosette.
· “Finale / Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)” from LES MISÉRABLES
o LES MISÉRABLES has one of the most well-executed endings to a musical that I have ever seen. It’s powerful and it stays with you forever. Jean Valjean’s death is a calm, peaceful one, but it’s still heartbreaking. Fantine and Éponine (the Bishop takes Éponine’s place in the movie) come to greet Valjean’s soul and it’s just a really overall powerful scene that I fell in love with from the moment I saw it.
· “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from LES MISÉRABLES
o Of course, Marius is one of the characters in LES MIZ who actually survives the entirety of the story, but that doesn’t mean that his story is all happy either. At this point in the musical, all of his friends are dead. Having him sitting alone in the once vivacious café in the movie was, I think, a really good move. When I went to see LES MISÉRABLES on Broadway in April last year, this scene totally got the tears out of me. It was absolutely beautifully staged.
· “Final Battle” from LES MISÉRABLES
o The character that I want to focus in on for this song is Enjolras, the leader of the rebellion. Enjolras’s last words are just so powerful that I couldn’t not include it on this list.
· “Javert’s Suicide” from LES MISÉRABLES
o Javert is the clear antagonist of LES MIZ but he’s not really the villain. In “Javert’s Suicide”, he’s realizing that he was wrong and it’s just too much for him to live with. He can’t live with himself if all of the things that he has stood by all his life are wrong. This scene always gets the tears out of me. It’s a heart wrenching scene and overall, I just feel bad for Javert. I also like that he reprises Valjean’s soliloquy. I think that that was a really nice touch to add.
· “Totenklage / Rudolf, Wo Bist Du?” (“Death Sentence / Rudolf, Where Are You?”) aus ELISABETH
o When this song is sung by certain actresses, they sound so heartbroken that I can’t hold back the tears. And really, it’s horribly sad because Sisi realizes that she left Rudolf alone and now she is alone too and that if she had been there for him when he needed her, perhaps both of them could have been stronger and happier.
· “Mayerling Waltz” aus ELISABETH
o This is a completely instrumental piece and is actually the scene in which Rudolf, Sisi’s son, takes his life. The music is just so beautiful and suspenseful. The direction of the scene on stage also just makes the whole thing so much more intense. I’m not sure if they are actually called anything, but I call them “the wings of death” (because they have wings and are always following der Tod (Death) around). Anyways, these “Wings of Death” slide the gun to each other as Rudolf plunges for it and misses it continually. Finally, the gun ends up in der Tod’s hand and he places it to Rudolf’s head. The loud sound of the gunshot and the toll of the bell in the background just makes the scene so powerful.
· “Der Schleier Fällt” (“The Veil Descends”) aus ELISABETH
o This is the finale of ELISABETH and it is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful finales that I have ever seen. It’s not as powerful as the finale of LES MISÉRABLES, but it is definitely just as touching and beautiful (in a different sort of way, of course). Sisi has been stabbed by Luchini, the anarchist, and der Tod is now ready to take her soul away. They greet each other and it’s overall just a really sweet moment. I think that the fact that Sisi is still so strong and independent, even in the arms of death (literally) is one of the best parts of the scene.
· “Die Schatten Werden Länger” (“The Shadows Grow Longer”) aus ELISABETH
o Here, I’m talking about the original song that is sung and not the reprise with Rudolf (though that would also work). Der Tod has just taken away Sophie, Sisi’s daughter and he is breaking the news to her. Hearing Sisi cry out for her child is one of the most heartbreaking things in the world and the way that the stage is set up is also just so heartbreaking.
· “Alle Tanzte Mit Dem Tod” (“Everyone Has Danced With Death”) aus ELISABETH
o This is technically the opening sequence of ELISABETH and it is such an interesting scene to watch. I don’t really know how to explain it but it is one of the most beautiful and interesting opening sequences that I have ever seen from a musical.
· “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from CAROUSEL
o This one is a little bit more uplifting than the ones that I’ve listed so far. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is (as I recall), the ending of CAROUSEL. It’s a really powerful song and really moving. If I’m remembering correctly and it really is the finale for CAROUSEL then I must say that it is one of the best finales that I have ever seen from a musical.
· “Once Upon a Dream (Jekyll)” from JEKYLL & HYDE
o I believe that this song was cut from the Broadway production but it really is a pity because it’s such a beautiful song. This is sung just after Hyde kills Lucy and now Jekyll is remembering what the experiment was meant to be and thinking on what it has become. It’s so sad because the remorse is so clear in Jekyll’s voice.
So, those are some of my favorite songs dealing with character death in musicals. Do you have any favorites of this sort of song? If so, what are they?