What Makes a Good Musical Character? | Musical Theatre w/ My Family!

Guten morgen, alles! So, I’d written another post, but then, I saw everyone in my family sitting around in the living room and I remembered that I had a “Musical Theatre w/ My Family” post due so I thought that I’d write one while I had them all in one place! I scrambled to come up with a theme and I quickly decided on: What makes a good musical character?

MOM (46 yrs.)

“I think that potentially anything can make a good musical character. It just depends on how it’s played out, I guess. But I think that in general, relatability is key. Who are some of my favorites? Well… Rusty [from STARLIGHT EXPRESS] of course and I guess that I’d say that the leader from LES MIZ [Enjolras]! Oh, and the Beast from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.”

So, my mom went for a kind of vague answer here, but I think that it’s very true all the same. Relatability does make a character easier to like, I think. It’s a general rule that rings true with many of my favorites.

Looking over my mom’s favorites, though, I’m not sure if my mom would say that she necessarily relates to any of these characters (maybe she does and I just don’t know) but what I did notice about the three she mentioned is that they all hold some sort of importance to my mother, usually largely in connection to memories. STARLIGHT EXPRESS was my mom’s first ever real musical and is largely why she came to the U.S. in the first place. So, that takes care of Rusty. And then, with Enjolras, I distinctly remember my mom saying that the actor who played Enjolras [Mark Uhre] when we went to see LES MIZ on Broadway was her favorite actor. And then, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST holds a lot of sentimental value because it was the first musical she saw in America! So, I found that kinda interesting.

DAD (44 yrs.)

“Songs, songs, and songs. It’s a musical! Musicals have songs and that’s a key think that makes them so special. And well… those songs make the characters memorable as well. Favorites? Psshhhh… Nancy [OLIVER!], Éponine [LES MIZ], Raoul [PHANTOM], and Harold Hill [THE MUSIC MAN], I guess!”

I’m not too surprised by my dad’s answer here. But yeah, I mean, he’s right. My dad really likes musicals mostly due to the music and the songs. And he’s right. Musicals are special because of the songs, dances, etc. And I would have to agree, the songs are usually what get me to take a second look at characters. Especially in the case of Éponine, I remember going back to listen to “On My Own”—really listen to it—and then I really fell in love with her character!

But so as to analyze my dad’s choices… I’d say that the characters he chose were pretty much in accordance with what he sees as what makes a good musical character. I mean, Nancy, Éponine, Raoul, and Harold Hill are all pretty memorable for theirs songs, not just to me—or him—but also the world, I think. For Nancy, that’d be “As Long as He Needs Me”, for Éponine, “On My Own”, for Raoul, “All I Ask of You”, and for Harold Hill, “Ya Got Trouble”.

ME

Yeah, I know, I’m the one asking the question, but all the same, I’m still kind of having trouble with coming up with the answer to this question. But… let’s go for it. I think that, like my dad said, the songs that the character sings are very, very important. And what my mom said about relatability is also very true. Then, I also think that there is just something about the way that the character interacts with other characters that is absolutely crucial to creating a good character in musical theatre and also in any form of storytelling.

Some of my favorite musical characters are the following: Sisi [ELISABETH], Lucy Harris [JEKYLL & HYDE], Nancy [OLIVER!], Éponine [LES MIZ], Munkustrap [CATS], and Elphaba [WICKED]!

Sisi fits the bill for all three of my criteria: songs, relatability, and interactions with other characters! Then, with Lucy, I mostly see the criteria of songs and interactions with other characters met. With Nancy, songs. Éponine, mostly songs, interactions with other characters, and maybe a twinge of relatability. Munkustrap fits all three. And Elphaba fits all three as well!

MY SISTER (13 yrs.)

“Musical characters? Well, I guess that some of my favorites are the Phantom [PHANTOM], Éponine [LES MIZ], Cinderella [INTO THE WOODS], and Christine [PHANTOM]…. I don’t really know what those four have in common. But maybe that they all have something about them that really sticks out? Like, with Éponine… she loves Marius but he doesn’t love her back. That’s a big plot point, right? I think that they all have something about them that largely contributes to the plot.”

I thought that this was a really interesting reply, really. I never really had thought about it that way, but it’s definitely true now that I think about it.

When it comes to her choices of favorite characters, they’re pretty consistent with what she believes to create a good, sturdy musical character. The Phantom is well… the Phantom. He’s the title character, so I guess that that counts as being the center of a pretty big plot point. With Éponine, she is definitely a part of major plot points of LES MIZ, especially in the musical. …Though I’m not sure if that major plot point is her love for Marius. I think that the major plot point is more the fact that she sacrifices her life for Marius which stems off of her love for him, I guess. Then, Cinderella. Cinderella does play a big part in INTO THE WOODS. She has the slipper. She also works with the Baker, Red Riding Hood, and Jack to take down the giant! Then, with Christine, I guess that she is definitely a character that’s a pretty big deal. After all, she is a main character and without her, there’d really be no plot!

MY BROTHER (11 yrs.)

“I think it’s all about what the character wants, really. I don’t know how to describe it. But every character has something that they want. If you’re talking favorites, well, there’s Tevye [FIDDLER ON THE ROOF], Gavroche [LES MISÉRABLES], and Jack [INTO THE WOODS].”

I was pretty blown away by my brother’s answer. Because it’s so true. For all my talk about “I Want” songs, I (oddly enough) didn’t even really consider this! But it’s really, really true! The wants and dreams of a musical character definitely can determine whether or not I like them or not, I think! And it’s a rule that, in general, is applicable to every character, I think!

In reference to my brother’s favorites, I think that they all fit! But then, all musical characters that one might like can generally fit under this rule! There’s Tevye who really wants what’s best for his family. Gavroche wants to be a part of the rebellion and wants freedom for France. Jack really wants security for himself and his mother. He wants them to be able to be happy and he wants Milky White to not have to be sold.

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This was a really fun, interesting post for me to do and I sincerely hope that it was as interesting for you to read and consider! What do you think makes a good musical character? Tschüss!

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10 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Musical Character? | Musical Theatre w/ My Family!

  1. I think what makes a good musical character is partly due to their songs. Most of the characters I love I emotionally connect to. Relatability is so true which is clearly shown through my relationship with Elphaba. Still a hard question to answer

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      1. Fiyero is one of them that I honestly have no idea why I love. I don’t why I love Roger and Mimi from Rent either. When I first fell in love with Eponine, I had not clue why I love her as a character, but eventually was able to figure that one out. I think that will eventually happen to other musical characters as well

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