Hallo, leute! Wie geht’s? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about characters recently. And whilst I should have been working on my writing, I ended up thinking a lot about big character growth moments in musical theatre! These are moments in which we see great development from certain characters or a major plot point in their story is revealed or started. So, here’s my top ten! Los geht’s!
· Sisi’s growth in “Ich Gehör Nur Mir” [I Belong Only to Me], “Elisabeth, Mach Auf” [Elisabeth, Open Up], and “Die Letzte Chance” [The Last Chance] from ELISABETH – Right before Sisi sings “Ich Gehör Nur Mir”, she’s been verbally abused by her mother in-law, Sophie and when she turns to her husband, Franz Joseph for help, he refuses to grant her any, telling her that his mother means well [though it’s clear she doesn’t] and that she should just listen to her. Essentially he just tells her that he’s not going to do anything about it. In “Ich Gehör Nur Mir”, Sisi sings about how she will not let anyone possess her and be her owner so to speak. That she will remain true to herself. However, whenever der Tod (Death) shows up, it’s quite clear that he holds sway over her. And in “Elisabeth, Mach Auf”, this also manifests itself when der Tod tells her to flee and she almost puts her hand in his. But at the last moment, she tears herself away from him, yelling that she wants to live. That’s pretty big character growth on her part, I think. Then, in “Die Letzte Chance”, a very similar thing happens. And I think that’s absolutely phenomenal character growth.
· Der Tod (Death)’s growth in “Schwarzer Prinz” [Dark Prince], “Der Letzte Tanz” [The Last Dance], “Elisabeth, Mach Auf” [Elisabeth, Open Up], and “Totenklage” [Death Sentence] from ELISABETH – One might think “How on earth can Death [der Tod] have character growth? Isn’t the idea that he remains the same?” Well, let’s look into this, shall we? In “Der Letzte Tanz”, we really get to see that very determined, “I will win” side to der Tod that we see so very often throughout the musical afterwards. But inversely to that more aggressive, determined side of der Tod, we see the softer, sweeter side to him as well in “Schwarzer Prinz” after he saves Sisi’s life. In “Elisabeth, Mach Auf”, der Tod says outright that he loves Sisi. That’s a pretty big character moment for him, I think. Then, in “Totenklage”, after Sisi begs der Tod to end her misery and take her away with him, he throws her words to him in “Elisabeth, Mach Auf” right back at him, saying “Zu spät! Ich will dich nicht – Nicht so! Ich brauch’ dich nicht! Geh!” [Too late, I don’t want you! Not like this! I don’t need you! Go!]
· Valjean’s growth in “Valjean’s Soliloquy” and “The Confrontation” from LES MISÉRABLES – The growth in “Valjean’s Soliloquy” is pretty obvious. I mean… he essentially makes an entire life-change. But what about “The Confrontation”? Well… to be completely honest, this growth probably most accurately starts in “Who Am I?” but starting at this point, we see this side to Javert where he sees the constant need to do what is right, even if it might seemingly be completely inconvenient. And I think that’s a pretty big character plot point in Valjean’s story.
· Javert’s growth in “Stars” and “Javert’s Soliloquy / Suicide” from LES MISÉRABLES – I think that the growth seen in both “Stars” and “Javert’s Soliloquy / Suicide” are pretty obvious. In “Stars”, we first see the extent to which Javert’s love of the law goes. And again, we see that in “Javert’s Soliloquy / Suicide” when he says “I am the law and the law is not mocked! I spit his pity right back in his face.” But in “Stars”, we really get to see Javert as he is for the first time without Valjean’s opinion on him hopping in. We see his mission to find Valjean stated and sealed as he says “This I swear by the stars…”. In “Javert’s Soliloquy / Suicide”, we really get to see Javert’s change in perspective as the song goes on and we see the inner conflict he’s fighting against.
· Belle’s growth in “A Change in Me” from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Belle’s a character that we don’t really get to see as much growth from in the movie version. But, in the stage version? We see great character growth from her in “A Change in Me”. In fact, I think that the title’s pretty self-explanatory… But, nonetheless, the change and growth Belle sees in herself is pretty amazing. “And I never thought I’d leave behind my childhood dreams but I don’t mind!” and “For now I realize that good can come from bad! That may not make me wise, but oh! It makes me glad!” are great lines demonstrating her growth, I think!
· Fiyero’s growth in the lion cub scene and “Thank Goodness” from WICKED – Up until the lion cub scene, Fiyero could be a character that one sees as quite annoying and shallow (he even addresses himself as such!) and just one that you will never, ever like. At least… that’s how I saw him the first time I’d ever seen WICKED. However, when the lion cub scene comes around, you see a completely different, more caring side to Fiyero. A side to him that cares more about others than himself. And then, in “Thank Goodness”, his concern for Elphie is just a really great character moment, I think.
· Cathy’s growth in “Climbing Uphill” and “I Can Do Better Than That” from THE LAST FIVE YEARS – We get quite a good idea as to who Cathy is right from the beginning when we see her in “I’m Still Hurting”. But I feel like it’s in “Climbing Uphill” that we get to see the moment in which she really breaks down. We get to see her in the midst of emotional difficulty. Then, in “I Can Do Better Than That”, we also get a really good idea as to Cathy and how she thinks. Her ambitions are really well laid-out here.
· Christine’s growth in “Raoul, I’ve Been There” and “Twisted Every Way” from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – Christine’s pretty complex as it is. But in “Raoul, I’ve Been There”, she breaks down and for the first time, we really get to see her voice her sheer terror. Then, in “Twisted Every Way”, we get a glimpse into the moral and emotional dilemma Christine’s facing as the managers pressure her into performing Don Juan Triumphant in order to plot the demise of the Phantom.
· Grizabella’s growth in “Grizabella the Glamour Cat” and “Memory Reprise” from CATS – In “Grizabella the Glamour Cat”, we see Grizabella shunned, rejected, and despised by the other cats. We get a little hint as to why the Jellicles aren’t too glad to see her. But when we see her again when she eventually sings “Memory Reprise”, Grizabella’s longing to be accepted by the Jellicles is made ever so evident and it’s just a great moment for her character.
· Emanuel Schikaneder’s growth in “So Viele Fische im Meer” [So Many Fish in the Sea] from SCHIKANEDER – Throughout the musical, Emanuel puts on this tough-guy façade and while he continues to keep this mask on during “So Viele Fische im Meer”, it’s very, very clear that he’s hurting. In fact, it’s one of the only moments in the musical in which one really sees him truly hurting. Even though he masks his hurt by claiming that he doesn’t care, certain lyrics get you to say “That’s what you say. But not what you really mean.” And I think that this song really just furthers what we can know about Emanuel. He’s ambitious, he’s a little unable to control himself. He’s a bit troublesome. He’s tough. But… at the same time, he’s a guy who hurts and he just doesn’t tend to show it very well.
That’s it for me today! What are some of your favorite big character moments from musical theatre? Vielen dank und tschüss!