Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Character development in musicals

So while this blog is mainly for book reviews, I had also planned to use it to post my thoughts on writing and storytelling and such. And the other night I was thinking about stories as told through theatre - and drama definitely has a written component, when talking about traditional drama, at least. So I wrote down my thoughts, using Wicked as my main example. So, spoiler warning there, if anyone really wants to see that show and doesn't want even very vague spoilers.

There's something interesting about having a storyteller's mind: I can always find depth in a story. I know those who disparage musicals because they don't have much substance to their stories; I disagree because sometimes you can create your own depth by interpreting the clues the librettist gives you. I find that a lot of my enjoyment of a show comes from dissecting the characters in my head, trying to understand their motivations and the fullness of their personalities. People say that there's not much to Wicked; I think that if you ponder it, both of the female leads are very deep. I've always liked Galinda because her character is particularly engaging to me in how she develops. She starts as the vapid queen bee of Shiz University, but as she and Elphaba open up to each other, we see that she has a sweet side, as well as more perception and smarts than she lets on. Galinda clings to her status and tries to keep her world from changing. Her acquaintance with Elphaba forces her to eventually grow and take responsibility, a bit too late, but that just makes the outcome of the musical all the more tragic. If you think about it, Galinda has the sadder ending to her story. She thinks her friend and her love interest are both dead, everyone hates Elphie, and Galinda herself helped to bring this all about by not being strong enough at first. Her new position of power doesn't make up for this. See, I think Elphaba's pretty interesting, too, but I don't think many people see the depth of Galinda's character. Did I think of all this when I was seeing the play? No, not really. I watched the play, absorbed what I was given, and did some rudimentary analysis, but I carry my impression around, and I can always go back and think about the story and characters at my leisure. Just one example of how a storyteller's mind allows me to take great pleasure from something in a way that might not occur to everyone.

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