Lessons in Broadway Musicals

Hey, my peeps. Whazzup?
Aaaah, musicals. We all know of them, and many of us are unashamed musical theater geeks. It's not uncommon in my house for me to listen to musicals from the moment I get up until I go to bed. Sure, it makes my family crazy sometimes, but I have to feed my addiction somehow #Obsessed

But what makes musicals worthy of our time and attention? I mean, you have to choose the things you pour your time and energy into, and nothing should come before God. There's lots of other obsessions in the world, so why do we theater buffs love our plays?

In this post, I'm going to argue that there are great life lessons to be found in four of my favorite musicals. I chose these four just because I know them very well and I like them - and I think the messages are very clear.

And just as a warning: There are some minor spoilers ahead, although I will try to steer clear of the big ones. If I'm adding any of those, I will mark them in their own paragraph.

The Phantom of the Opera

People often say that the moral of Phantom is that you can't judge people based on the outside, but I disagree. Because, the truth is, the Phantom is hideous on the inside as well as the outside. He does some truly awful things throughout the course of the musical. 
But in the end, Christine exhibits selfless love for him. No spoilers, although if you've seen the musical you know what I'm talking about. And he discovers for the first time what it's like to have someone show you grace. 
This is a picture of what we look like when God redeems us. We are truly despicable people, We are not beautiful on the outside; we're even worse on the inside. Spiritually, we are dead. There's nothing we can do to fix ourselves, and every attempt only sinks us further into the sin in which we dwell.
But then Jesus saves us and gives us new life, even though we've done nothing to deserve it. He shows us grace. 


Hamilton

Hamilton is the true story of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, who founded the Coast Guard and started our country's financial system. He was a brilliant man who made many great contributions to American society. The first act of the musical depicts a brilliant man who just keeps rising through the ranks of society. No matter what he does, he succeeds. He gets important positions. He's friends with influential people like George Washington.
But by Act II we see a man whose secret sins have caught up with him. His family begins to fall apart. His career is broken. He is entangled by his lies, and he cannot escape.
We can learn a lot from Hamilton's life as presented by this musical. Here are some of the most valuable lessons:
  • Our Founding Fathers, no matter how perfect we think they might be as compared to today's political climate, are very far from perfect. Also, blackmail, marital infidelity, media exaggerations, etc. have been part of the political climate from the beginning in America.
  • No matter how secret you think your sin is, when you try to hide it, it will never really go away. And it will return to haunt you someday.
  • Every action has a consequence. Or, as Jefferson says in the musical, "Every action has its equal opposite reaction." If you've done something good, it may give you benefits later - or it may very well turn around and give you a load of poop in exchange for your initial good. Same thing with not so good actions. We usually find this out the hard way. 

Les Miserables

Ah, this musical. I could go on all day about the positive elements of this story and the lessons we get from it, but for now I'll stick with one: Grace. 
Spoilers in the following paragraph, so if you haven't seen this yet and want to (you should, but not the 2012 movie XD) maybe skip it. 
It's grace that prompts the bishop to tell a lie to keep Jean Valjean out of jail, and grace that makes him give a bunch of precious silver to a convict who tried to steal it. It's grace that makes Jean Valjean later rescue a little girl from the cruel couple who's abusing her. Grace prompts Valjean still later to save the life of a boy who has fallen in love with his daughter, even though he knows that this may very well lead to him losing her heart. It's because of grace that Jean Valjean spares Javert, the villain of the story, from death, and the fact that he is willing to do this completely destroys Javert's worldview and his life, because he is unable to understand what grace could possibly mean.
There's additional grace in here - but to talk about all of it would be a very long post and I could honestly go on about Les Mis for months so I'll stop before I really start XD

Wicked

I know, I know. Wicked? Really? Where's the good message in that one? It's all about antiheroes and stuff, isn't it?
Well, yes and no.
If you take it the way it was perhaps intended to be taken, Wicked says that there's no good and no evil. Everything is ambiguous. It's kind of New Age-y. 
But, if you look deeper, there's the message that Phantom allegedly has. Wicked is all about not judging by the surface appearance. Elphaba, the green-skinned protagonist, is a girl who wants to do the right thing and rise above the place where she's spent her childhood (or in other words, to escape the discrimination that surrounds her.) She is manipulated into making a couple of significant mistakes that she was told would not happen, and the press launches her into the public eye as a villain and enemy to the common good. 
And at the end, she's almost embraced that wickedness. She doesn't want to fight to be good anymore. But she does keep fighting for it, and that's the thing we have to remember. It is very hard to be good. We want to be wicked. It's in our nature. Only through God are we empowered to do the right thing. 


So there you have it! My non-definitive post on the nature of grace and other such goods in musical theater. I hope you enjoyed this post!

So do you agree with my opinions of these musicals? Do you have any other musicals that offer stories of grace? Can we just fangirl about the above musicals for a little while? Because they are honestly full of so much awesome. 

Comments

  1. I like that point you make about Phantom of the Opera. It's not my favourite musical, but it's interesting.

    I love Les Miserables! My little brother has banned me from singing Les Mis songs in his presence because I've sung them 'too much'.

    I haven't seen Hamilton or Wicked, though.

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    1. Haha, my dad feels the same way about Les Mis. Except his ultimatum is that I can't talk about cast members because he can't keep the names straight XD

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    2. LOL! My dad used to do the same thing! And my siblings--"Wait, Cosette marries Valjean? Is he the guy who gets killed in the battle?" NO!! :D I quit trying to explain it after a while!

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    3. Haha, yes. Don't you love references that no one understands? XD

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  2. Wonderful post! I am a HUGE phan, and I love Les Miz too <3
    Great points you made there :)

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

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  3. If you don't mind my saying so, I'm going to be contrary and say that I don't agree with a lot of the "lessons" that you had for these musicals.

    I do agree with a lot of your comments for the Phantom, but I would go a little further. I believe it's a cautionary tale for young women. We are romantic creatures and have this danger of being seduced by dark powers (think of Eve). Sure, Christine's love is unselfish, but the Phantom doesn't really repent but hides further in his darkness.

    For Les Mis, I don't see what your definition of "grace" is. Grace is from God, and God cannot push people into despair (suicide) or for us to lie. Because those are sins and God cannot make us sin no matter the circumstances behind the action.

    For Hamilton, sins can be still secret (between you, your confessor and God). If truly confessed and forgiven, they are struck from His book. Granted, that doesn't release us from the temporal punishment of those sins.

    I don't have anything against your comments on Wicked, but I haven't seen that musical (nor do I wish to, really).

    Please understand, I have nothing against you personally. I just don't agree with a lot of those ideas that are presented.

    Catherine (Farm Lassie)
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com
    frugallyfancyfarmlass.blogspot.com

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    1. I definitely agree with you that you can take that angle on Phantom, but I didn't see it until now and so I didn't think to point it out.

      To be honest, I didn't word that very well on Javert. It's not because of grace that he commits suicide - it's because he doesn't know what to do with the grace he is given and it drives him to despair. I apologize for misphrasing that. I do believe that a lie to save someone's life is allowed, and that is the kind of lie that occurs in Les Mis.

      The point I was making with Hamilton is that if you do not confess to your sins and simply try to hide them, they will come back to haunt you. Alexander makes some huge mistakes and sweeps them under the rug, saying, "No one has to know." But it turns out that someone does know and he gets in major trouble. That was the point I was trying to make about that one.

      Thank you for being so polite in expressing yourself - that means a lot to me. :) And once again I do apologize for not wording the thing about Javert correctly - I will correct that in the post.

      ~faith

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    2. Thank you so much for clarifying those things for me! I understand your positions so much better now, I just needed more details.

      You're very welcome!

      Catherine

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  4. Phantom of the Opera...I love it so much...
    I also love Into the Woods. Have you seen that one yet?

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    1. You need to it's good! But don't watch the movie version first, see the play.

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    2. Okay, I'll do that. *pulls up Spotify*

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  5. Ahhh I haven't seen any of these yet. :( I know, I know, how is that possible? I blame the fact that I lived overseas for most of my life where they didn't have big theaters in English. Hopefully one day I can see them and identify these themes as well. :D

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    1. That's sad but understandable. I've never actually SEEN any of them either, but I have the marvelous gift of Spotify Free that allows me to listen to any cast album I feel like whenever I feel like. It's so marvelous.

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