Favorite Songs About Unrequited Love From Musicals?

Guten morgen, alles! Es ist eine neue Woche! …Und es ist Montag.

Although it is Monday, it’s actually a pretty exciting day! Cabin assignments for Camp NaNo come out today! But… what relevance does that have to a musical theatre post? Good question. Well, since Camp NaNo is fast approaching, I’ve been working out the last knots in my plot for Stolen Score. And the more I think about it, I think that there’s going to be an unrequited love subplot going through it! And so, that’s been getting me thinking about some of my favorite songs from musical theatre that deal with unrequited love! Los geht’s? Ja? Klingt gut!

· “I’m Not That Girl” + “I’m Not That Girl Reprise” from WICKED – This is one of the first songs about unrequited love that I was introduced to. And really, I think that I first found out about the whole idea of unrequited love was through the reprise of “I’m Not That Girl”. As a kid, I think that I had this ridiculous, naïve (yet wonderful) notion that if you loved someone, they loved you back. Well… this song really showed me that that was wrong.

· “Der Letzte Tanz” [The Last Dance] from ELISABETH – This is a kind of weird one because well… it’s Death (der Tod) singing this song. But… he paints his emotions in this song as that of unrequited love. And yet, he plays it off saying that he’ll win anyways. Nonetheless, this is one of the songs that I feel, makes der Tod more human. In fact, it’s largely due to this song that I really feel like der Tod meant it when he said that he loved Sisi. But… that’s a discussion for another time. And a topic that’ll probably manifest itself again in this post!

· “On My Own” from LES MISÉRABLES – What would this list be if I didn’t include this song, right? “On My Own” is practically the poster song of unrequited love. And it is most certainly a heartbreaking song. But it’s a paragon of the whole sub-genre, I think. It demonstrates the emotions perfectly and through use of metaphor, builds this “other world” where Marius does love her. Only to be shattered by the realization that it’s all just imagination. That nothing’s changed and nothing ever will.

· “Reflection” from A TALE OF TWO CITIES – Sydney Carton, like Éponine, is known for being a character who got the short end of the stick when it came to unrequited love. And like “On My Own”, “Reflection” uses much of the same imagery. What makes Sydney different from Éponine, then? Well… personality-wise, not much, actually. They both sacrifice their lives. They both believe that they’re not good enough for the person they love. But… what I would say is different about them is that Sydney believes that he’s not good enough for anything. It’s a key characteristic of Sydney and in fact, it’s something that he’s known for. And this song brings that out perfectly with the line: “And yet, dolls can be beautiful. So easy on the eyes… but careful not to touch! It wouldn’t do for you to touch or come too close at all…”

· “Boote in der Nacht” [Boats in the Night] from ELISABETH – While I’m not the biggest Franz Joseph fan, I can’t help but feel pretty bad for him in this song. He loves Sisi. I won’t deny that. And throughout this song, Franz Joseph repeatedly says that he loves Sisi. But Sisi never once says it in return. Once, she says, using the boat analogy, “Jedes hat sein eigenes Ziel und seine eigene Fracht.” [Each has its own goal and its own cargo]. Then, the song ends with Franz Joseph saying once more that he loves her, but Sisi merely replies with “Begreif’ doch: Was nicht sein kann, kann nicht sein.” [But understand: what cannot be cannot be.]

· “Elisabeth, Mach Auf” [Elisabeth, Open Up] from ELISABETH – Let’s go for double unrequited love here, shall we? First up, we’ve got Franz Joseph. He just begs Sisi to forgive him and to open the door, but she refuses, telling him to leave her alone. Well… first she gives him an ultimatum to fulfill and then tells him to leave her alone. Then, we’ve got der Tod (Death), who offers Sisi a way out of her misery—I’ll leave it to you to figure that out—and then outright says “Elisabeth… ich liebe dich.” [Elisabeth… I love you.] And Sisi almost puts her hand in his and gives in, but then, last second, she tears away, shaking her head saying “Nein, ich möchte leben! Ich bin zu jung um aufzugeben.” [No, I want to live! I’m too young to give up!], followed by telling him to go and leave her alone.

· “As Long as He Needs Me” from OLIVER! – This is kind of a unique and different case of unrequited love in that this song is essentially Nancy thinking that Bill loves—and needs—her. To the audience, though, it’s a little less clear if Bill really loves Nancy. And, while he does definitely care for her in some weird way, he does not love her. Not in the way that she wants him to. Not in the way she thinks he does. And maybe that’s what makes it so heartbreaking.

· “All I Ask of You Reprise” from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – There are several things about this reprise that makes it so very sad. But first, let’s note that I’m not a big fan of the Phantom (Erik). However, I can’t help but feel for him in this scene. He’s just heard Christine and Raoul proclaiming their love to each other and well, he sings a reprise. He sings a reprise, singing about how he feels like Christine’s betrayed him. However, something that, in my opinion, makes this song just sad and not heartbreaking is that the Phantom ends the song on a note of vengefulness. But… that is a good demonstration of how the Phantom copes with his unrequited love for Christine.

· “G.E.K.U.P.P.E.L.T.” / “U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D.” from STARLIGHT EXPRESS – So, Dinah is actually my favorite side-character from STARLIGHT. And that’s mostly due to the strength that she shows in this song. Greaseball’s just dumped her and essentially asked out one of her best friends. Dinah’s not jealous—well, not really—but she is devastated. But she gets right back up, determined not to let Greaseball ruin her life. While it is a song about unrequited love, it is also a song that exhibits great strength and spirit on the part of Dinah and that’s something that one doesn’t usually see in songs about unrequited love.

· “I’m Still Hurting” from THE LAST FIVE YEARS – And so, here, we’ve got the opening song from THE LAST FIVE YEARS. And this one’s a real heartbreaker. Right from the start, we get a bit of a glimpse of how the story we’re just entering is going to end. And that’s largely due to how the musical is formatted. But man… it hurts. At this point in the musical—and really, throughout the musical—it’s never made clear if Jamie’s feelings for Cathy have just fizzed out with time or whether he still loves her but just didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore. But, as we watch Cathy sing this song, it’s clear that she thinks that Jamie just doesn’t care anymore—that she’s the only one hurting. And I think that’s what makes this song an unrequited love song.

· “See I’m Smiling” from THE LAST FIVE YEARS – And now, we have yet another song from Cathy’s perspective. It’s the part where Jamie says “I can come back on Monday… if you want.” that I think Cathy really realizes that their relationship is over—that Jamie doesn’t love her anymore. It’s not that he wants to come back and be with her and see her show. He says it like it’s some sort of burden on him but he’ll do it just to appease Cathy. And I think it’s that realization that Cathy has that finally makes everything make sense to her. From there, she connects the rest of the dots, leading to the end of their marriage and breaking her heart. Oh, and the part where she sings “I’ll never understand how you can stand their straight and tall and see I’m crying and not do anything at all.” breaks my heart every single time.

· “Heaven’s Light” from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME – While this song is actually a song of hope. A song which Quasimodo sings because he thinks that Esmeralda might have feelings for him. But after you watch THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME once, the song takes on a completely different feel. Because you know that Esmeralda loves Phoebus and not Quasi. That he’s hoping and dreaming in vain. So, although he doesn’t know it (yet), he’s dealing with unrequited love.

· “I Dreamed a Dream” from LES MISÉRABLES – I realize that I’m going to have to argue this one a little. But… hear me out. There are two different stories of unrequited love I see going on here. The obvious? Well… the story that she once had with Cosette’s father (Felix Tholomeyes in the book) and the feelings of love she still bears for him in her heart. Then—this is the point I’m going to have to argue—the story in which Fantine loves life, but life doesn’t love her. And I think that this is really brought out in the German version, “Ich Hab’ Geträumt Vor Langer Zeit”: “Doch wir sind nicht gemacht fürs Glück, Für seine Stürme und Gefahren.” [But we’re not made for happiness, (but) for its storms and dangers.]

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Und das ist alles für mich! What are some of your favorite songs about unrequited love? Tschüss!

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53 thoughts on “Favorite Songs About Unrequited Love From Musicals?

  1. “I’m Not That Girl” was my first introduction to unrequited love. I clearly didn’t understand what it meant for someone to not love you back. I know that was the situation, but it clearly didn’t make sense to me. But the thing is, at least I understood the song was sad.

    “On My Own” was the song where I finally started to understand unrequited love. The second time I saw Les Mis, I truly started to love Eponine and at first, I didn’t automatically pick up that “On My Own” was heartbreaking. But as I started to understand Eponine more and more, I started to understand the emotion of that song. “On My Own” shows just how strong Eponine’s love for Marius is and it shows she finally accepts that he will never be hers, but also shows that she will never stop loving him. It has the fantasy imagery and I honestly feel like this song goes beyond the unrequited love. Lyrics like “without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to” and “a world thats full of happiness that I have never known” and those two lyrics just show how empty Eponine’s life is.

    The moment I realized “I’m Not That Girl” was about the same thing as “On My Own”, that songs made so much more sense. It even brings in some of the same imagery through lyrics like “everything so often we long to steal to the land that might have been”. This song is not quite as strong as “On My Own”, but still quite heartbreaking. I have to be careful to not get too vulnerable with the song due to that Elphaba still has some innocence in her. Without “On My Own”, “I’m Not That Girl” still would be just a sad song. Through that realization, the love triangle was strengthened and there was a better understanding of it.

    Wow I wrote more then I throught

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    1. I think those two songs really build off of each other in that they really help one understand the other, etc.! While of couse, the emotional weight of the two are immensely different, I think that they’re both kinda similar! I completely agree with what you said about “I’m Not That Girl“ being just a sad song without “On My Own”. I think that I wouldn’t quite understand the depth of emotion “I’m Not That Girl” holds if it weren’t for Éponine and “On My Own”!

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      1. So glad that On My Own helped me understand I’m Not That Girl. I may have discovered unrequited love through I’m Not That, but truly began to understand it through On My Own. Just through the melodies alone, you can tell there is a huge difference when it comes to the emotional weight

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      2. “I’m Not That Girl’s” melody stays consistent the whole way through. But with the melody of “On My Own”, the song is basically broken down into like three parts: the intro, then the second part which is everything in between the intro and the lyrics “all I see is him and me forever and forever”. And then you can just hear this strength at the end of those lyrics and as the song continues, it keeps on gaining momentum having the emotion build up over time until it is time for the melody to slow down at the end

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      3. Les Mis’ songs know to make sure that their melodies completely match who these characters are. Since “On My Own” has that crescendo, it gives the song a lot of power and strength, which is the kind of strength you find in Eponine and even shows just how strong her love for Marius. So it is fitting that the song builds up the way it does

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      4. I think a big reason why “On My Own” was helpful in “I’m Not That Girl” is due to one essential fact. Eponine’s story revolves around unrequited love, which is why she is how I started to understand what it meant to have unrequited love.

        Elphaba’s story doesn’t revolve around that theme so if it is your first exposure to that through her, then it can be difficult to understand unrequited love in the first place. Then there’s the whole she just found out moments before. So I can understand why it took so long for that song to become heartbreaking

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      5. 100% agree. The focuses of the two stories are completely different. With Éponine, the whole unrequited love theme is much more prominent and important than it is with Elphaba’s storyline. Also, I’m kinda just thinking of it this way, but when it comes to Éponine, Marius is practically the only good thing in her life.

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      6. I agree about Eponine when it comes to Marius. That is why she loves him that much. If you don’t understand her life outside of Marius, then there is no way you can understand why she loves him that much

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      7. A lot of how I view Marius is based off of how Eponine views him. Its just of everyone in the love triangle, I love Eponine the most. It can be easy to only see the unrequited love and some people do fail to understand why she loves him that much. Well it is important to understand the rest of her life: just look she literally has nothing in her life thanks to extremely abusive, selfish, neglectful, greedy, unloving parents

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      8. I think that I care about Éponine the most of the three involved in the love triangle as well. Of the three, I think I’ve just built up the most emotional connection to her and that I understand her the best

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      9. Same. I only fully care about Cosette as a child, but do feel for her when she has to watch her adopted father die. But still, there is just something about Eponine that makes her standout. Cosette is the least developed of the three.

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      10. If I still viewed “I’m Not That Girl” as a sad song, it would be so different. The realization of “I’m Not That Girl” being heartbreaking made the love triangle more insightful, complex, and fascinating. That realization was important to me the 4th time around and a reason why that was when I felt the most vulnerable when watching

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      11. I think it’s so amazing how musicals can build off of each other like that! I love how I can be sitting there, watching a completely unrelated musical and a lightbulb can just go off and make me think “Ah… but what if…?”

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      12. When it hit me that “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking I was like “why wasn’t I able to notice that before and I was like so glad I found that out”. First it took realizing that “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl” are both unrequited love songs. But when I decided to memorize “I’m Not That Girl”, I found lots of insight built into it and was able to find similar lyrics that are quite similar to some lyrics from “On My Own”.

        Wicked and Les Mis are drastically different. I may have first noticed a love triangle in Wicked and even knew that a love triangle provides an interesting texture, it was Les Mis where I finally understood just how complex a love triangle really is. The Les Mis love triangle I don’t nearly have to question as much as the Wicked one because the Les Mis one has no ironies and no unrequited love shifts

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      13. Definitely. Les Miz helped me figure out a lot about the Wicked love triangle (weird as that seems). I think that the Les Miz love triangle’s a lot more straightforward and doesn’t have that element of “Well, maybe this…” that Wicked’s love triangle has

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      14. It is weird like you said since the Wicked one is more complicated. I do remember thinking once “I’m Not That Girl” is a sad song, what else can it be. But still was so wrong about that. When you are unaware of heartbreak, those sort of thoughts happen. A heartbreaking song is so much more than just a sad song

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      15. Yeah. And then there’s also the curveball that Fiyero throws into the whole equation. There’s just so much that could be within the Wicked love tringle but is not explicitly said and relies mostly on speculation. With Les Miz, it’s pretty straightforward

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      16. Well a big reason why I only could see “I’m Not That Girl” as a sad song is because I had more attention focused on the friendship since that is so much more important. In Wicked, all I can is that I actually think he has a crush on Elphaba in the first act but without realizing it, that was how I interpreted it last year. In Wicked, its Fiyero’s with Glinda, Elphaba has unrequited love and you would think it would stay that way but plot twist: Fiyero breaks up with Glinda and starts going out with Elphaba and now Glinda has the unrequited love.

        But with the Les Mis, it is always this: Marius love Cosette, Cosette love Marius, Eponine is the one with the unrequited love.

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      17. This is gonna sound kinda weird but one of the reasons I never really saw the possibility of Fiyero having a crush on Elphaba as a kid was probably because I always tried to ignore “lovey-dovey” stuff in movies and stuff. And… there’s also the fact that I didn’t even know the word “crush” (in this sense) until a few years after I’d seen Wicked for the first time. So… I guess I was a pretty oblivious kid. But now, when I look at it, I definitely think Fiyero had at least a tiny crush on Elphie after the lion cub incident

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      18. But I honestly don’t think he even knew. In high school, I knew heartbreak could happen in life, but even then didn’t see the possibility of it being in musicals. I knew “I’m Not That Girl” was that she wasn’t being loved back, but I wasn’t even able to grasp it. I still don’t fully understand unrequited love, but do have a better understanding of it thanks to Eponine

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      19. Yeah. I got a real slow start on understanding the very idea that unrequited love could occur. As a little kid, I thought Elphaba was singing about how she thought Fiyero wouldn’t want to be her friend. I think I had this weird, naïve idea that love doesn’t happen unless both people love each other. Clearly, I was wrong. It’s funny, seeing how much I’ve changed just by looking at something like this! But I would definitely have to agree: Fiyero probably wasn’t aware of how he felt about Elphie

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      20. That is all I can think about. In high school, I knew she was singing about this guy who doesn’t love her back, but I didn’t even know that the term was called unrequited love. Even when I first fell in love with Eponine, I couldn’t identify unrequited love as heartbreaking, but after a few listens and a better understanding of Eponine, I realized that unrequited love is heartbreaking. In an odd way, Eponine made me understand Elphaba even more.

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      21. I think it really took Éponine, a more extreme example of a person dealing with unrequited love for me to snap me out of my childlike stupor and realize that Elphie was singing about liking a guy who seemingly didn’t like her back. (Man… what kind of bubble was I living in?) I think that in general, Elphie and Éponine’s stories complement each other really well and thus can help in one’s understanding

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      22. I think my love for Eponine really literally comes from my love for Elphaba (yes that sounds weird).

        Even in high school, I was thinking musical songs cannot go further past being a sad song. Boy I was blind to heartbreak despite knowing heartbreak is a part of life.

        Crazy how it took a heartbreaking musical for me to understand that emotion. But I am so glad it was Les Mis that made me understand that emotion because it is a heartbreaking musical and because of that it was the best way to make me understand heartbreak for the best time. Sometimes I feel like musicals is literally where I learn more about emotions in general especially those negative emotions.

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      23. Without musicals, the emotional side of music never would have been discovered. Musicals gave me a better understanding of negative emotions. I started to grasp the negative emotions and honestly thought in high that I did fully grasp, but turns out I was so wrong about that.

        The emotion completely erased it and decided to start and decided to have me look at from a different angle. Through the eyes of tragedy, a genre I treated so poorly and a genre I didn’t want to exist. But thank goodness Les Mis entered my life

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      24. I’ve always been a bit of a tragedy lover ever since my dad read me the Hans Christian Anderson version of The (Little) Mermaid when I was 4. I always thought there was beauty to be found in tragedy but Les Miz showed me that inspiration can reside within tragedy and that wasn’t something I’d noticed before. Due to that new perspective, I grew to be able to see other stories like A Tale of Two Cities as not only tragic but inspirational as well

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      25. I actually read A Tale of Two Cities. My dad recommended I read it since it takes place pre-Les Mis. I don’t think I fully grasped tragedy in high school and I didn’t quite understand why does it need to be in theatre. I wish I hadn’t done that and each time we read a tragedy, I was like not going to like that and never will like one. Well good thing all of that negativity is done

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      26. Yep! In A Tale of Two Cities I might even go so far as to say that the inspirational element is stronger because Sydney Carton’s death is heroic and his last words are pretty inspirational as well! Did you know that A Tale of Two Cities also has a musical adaption?
        I think that tragedy can be a tough genre to understand but that once one understands it, it becomes a beautiful art form. As much as I loved tragedy, until Les Miz, I’d never seen the inspirational side to tragedy but once I did, I saw tragedy in a completely different way.

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      27. I didn’t know Tale of Two Cities has a musical adaptation. When I read that book, I wasn’t able to pick up on who the main character was and had a hard time telling apart the two cities. But could after the French Revolution began.

        All of the classics I read but Les Misérables and Don Quixote, I don’t know why I liked them

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      28. I think you’d really like it! The music is beautiful and the storyline is easier to follow in the musical than it is in the book, I think. When I first listened to the finale, I started bawling! It’s a pretty great adaption, I think!
        I really love reading classics but I’ve yet to read Don Quixote! I need to buy a copy next time I’m at the book store! There’s something so special about classics, I think but I can’t quite pinpoint it…

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      29. I only have time to read classics in between semester. So far, read, Les Misérables, Tale of Two Cities, Don Quixote, and Great Expectations and now this summer: Oliver Twist, Christmas Break: Hunchback of Notre Dame and the next time I read a classic after: Nicholas Nickelby. To be honest: I grew up on A Christmas Carol so I was exposed to classics growing up.

        But Les Mis actually opened me up to reading more classics. When reading those books, when it came to Les Misérables and Don Quixote, I already had reasons for loving them. Les Misérables for an obvious reason: the musical and that was a quite reference point and Don Quixote: the whole knight errant and squire thing and the fact that the book is a tragicomedy with the main character being tragicomic, the first time I ever saw that happen

        I feel like I see some similarities between Dickens and Hugo

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      30. Dickens and Hugo had similar reasons for writing: to address problems thay saw within society! That’s one of the things that I love about those two! As far as classics go, Shakespeare’s about the only one I can’t get into. But… I do read Shakespeare for the sake of the funny things that people say in those plays/books! I really adore classics. I think my love for them started with A Christmas Carol and Pilgrim’s Progress! I still listen to A Christmas Carol on audiobook whenever I’m sick–no matter what time of year it is! Classics just have a way of leaving an impact on me.

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      31. Shakespeare was how I first discovered tragedy in the first place: I was not just only close-minded to tragedy, but even Shakespeare. So I had a double nature when it. Sometimes I wonder, was I close-minded to tragedy because I just wasn’t ready for that genre. Since I was so close-minded, I wasn’t able to even grasp it almost as if I wasn’t ready for tragedy to enter my life. The only way for it to enter was just being blind to the fact that a musical is a tragedy

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      32. Shakespeare can be a tough code to crack. I still don’t really genuinely like Shakespeare to this day. But I agree, going into anything with an open mind can greatly influence the way you see something! When it comes to Shakespeare, I mostly enjoy it for the comedic value (weird, I know) but I hope to one day be able to appreciate it for what it is!

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      33. I cannot believe I once literally opposed tragedy. That is crazy now that I am obsessed with a tragic musical. My heart of all types of theatre will always be with musicals. They are the easiest to understand and are able to give you the best emotional natures. Even though I wish I knew Les Mis was a tragedy coming into it the first time with the movie, so thankful I didn’t even know.

        Well I did like one Shakespeare play: Taming of the Shrew just because it was a comedy.

        Boy I was more oblivious in high school compared to now

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      34. My favorite Shakespeare work is probably Twelfth Night–pretty sure that one was a comedy too! But… Romeo and Juliet showed me that I could find humor within Shakespeare’s writings, even the tragedies!
        Musicals definitely do make emotions so much easier to understand. I love musicals for that!

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      35. I see a play and I may feel the emotions, but I always feel an emotional connect. I don’t want to feel those negative emotions and feel emotionally disconnected.

        But for musicals when negative emotions strike and I actually have an emotional connection, musicals make it easier to embrace and accept those types of emotion. You want to feel emotions have an emotional connection.

        Yes, I can be kind of picky when it comes to negative emotions in theatre

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      36. I remember in high school, reading Romeo and Juliet. We had to take turns reading it aloud and I felt so emotionally disconnected. But… I did get some good laughs out of some parts…. I still remember that unit… after we finished reading it, we got assigned into pairs of two and got assigned scenes and we had to reenact them in front of the class as a final. That was embarrassing (to say the least) but it also helped me better appreciate the emotions in plays, I think. However, the emotions in musicals are just easier to connect to for me!

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      37. Then again, I did not grow up going to the theatre watching plays. I grew up watching musicals. Musicals just have this emotional advantage. Sometimes the songs help you emotionally connect to a character. The moment you emotionally connect, you want to feel their emotions, which shows that you care.

        For our Romeo and Juliet, I did a project where I wrote a little book about the show

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      38. That sounds like a much preferable project! It was so awkward working on The reenactment. But on the flipside, I made a friend with someone I’d never have talked to otherwise! (It was a really weird, awkward process though!)
        I didn’t grow up with plays either. I’ve only seen a few plays and none of them have been at actual theatres. Musicals are just easier to connect to on so many levels! The characters are easier to get to know and connect to as well

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      39. I feel more immersed in a musical plot than a play plot. If Les Mis was just a play, I wouldn’t even like the show. I feel like Les Mis was meant to be a sung-through musical due to the fact that the book is covered with so many emotions and characters actually sing in the book. What better way to express a book filled with several emotion in a sung-through format

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      40. People keep on thinking Les Mis is an opera, but it is not. Some of the songs don’t have an operatic nature. True if Les Mis was a play, it would be the same story and characters, but the plot and characters will mean so much more less to me. The emotions would be so boring. It wouldn’t have the same impact and would have been harder to see beyond the heartbreak

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