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