It’s no surprise that Hypable loves Broadway. We selected a few shows made us get in touch with our emotional side. We were hit with a lot more feelings than we bargained for.
I saw Once at a very transitional time in my life. A junior in college living in New York City alone for the summer, I waited four hours one Saturday morning for a matinee rush ticket and ended up learning a lot more about the myself than the show.
My adoration for the show started not much earlier prior to that summer, I had heard “Falling Slowly” numerous times and saw the spoof of the show during the opening of the 2013 Tony’s, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. But nothing could prepare me for seeing the full musical.
Once is not a sung-through show, but the story is small and a portion of the dialogue is spoken in Czech. After the first song (“Leave”) I burst into tears at the beauty of the music — the guitar and the vocals evoked my favorite genre alt-indie — and didn’t stop for long before I started again.
There’s no big theatrics, the main character’s names are literally Guy and Girl, he’s an Irishman armed with a vacuum (he’s a Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy) and she’s a Czech woman living in Ireland trying to support her young daughter and help her family. They simply create good music together. Were this a rom-com, they’d end up together, and they do briefly flirt with this convention, but the show doesn’t go down this route, but rather their relationship remains platonic through the end of the show.
At intermission, I dried my eyes and made small talk with the woman at the merchandise stand. I asked if this show ever made her emotional and she told me she cried every time she say it (which, because she worked there part-time, was frequently). Whether she was telling the truth to make me feel better or lied as a part of a salesman’s tactic, I bought a $50 Once hoodie that would be ghastly anywhere but totally worth it to remember this experience.
That night, and for many more days and nights after, I played the Once soundtrack on repeat. Standouts such as “Leave,” “Gold” and “If You Want Me” totally buck the typical Broadway musical sounds and play more like a concert played in a small bar in Ireland.
Irvin: ‘Finding Neverland’
I’ll ‘fess up: I’m a crier. I cry at a lot of shows (Wicked’s “For Good,” Mamma Mia’s “Slipping Through My Fingers,” all of Les Miz). But those are all dignified single-tear-on-the-cheek affairs, and then I feel good about having had a good cry. Finding Neverland was not like that.
Finding Neverland was, for lack of a better term, emotional terrorism. Having never seen the movie about J.M. Barrie and his inspiration for Peter Pan, I knew that it was probably sad, but I did not expect to be sobbing so much I almost had to leave the theatre. Having lost my dad at age ten, something in me was triggered by Peter’s reaction to losing his parents, and I pretty much lost it at “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground.” The musical, with its haunting melodies, perfectly captures the agony of losing a parent at a young age – how one’s entire world view is shattered by the realization that sometimes good people don’t get happy endings.
While I couldn’t relate to the other characters as well, not having been on the adult side of that painful situation, I could easily project their pain onto people I knew, so pretty much everything in the second act was setting me off. And the death scene was gorgeous, not done justice at the Tonys when Jennifer Hudson performed it out of context.
Finding Neverland is not a perfect show – there are some jarring tonal shifts, and the Act One closer is more bombastic than meaningful (“I need to be stronger! Stronger! Now I’m stronger! Stronger! Stronger!”). But in terms of emotional response elicited, it’s unmatched. I’d love to see it again… I just don’t think I can for a couple years.
Natalie: ‘Les Misérables’
Are you really a Broadway fan unless you’ve interrupted yourself attempting to sing along to all the overlapping parts in “One Day More” at once? I think not. Given that I once wrote a 7000-word blog post reviewing Tom Hooper’s film version of this show, making this blurb concise is going to be one of the greatest trials of my life.
Les Misérables has been running consistently in London since it opened, but since the release of the 2012 film, the show has been revived worldwide, and I’ve seen it seven times on a Broadway-scale stage in the past few years. However, I first saw Les Miserables as a child, when it toured Australia in the ’90s, and I think I imprinted on it.
Over time, different aspects of the show have stood out to me in different ways — as a lovesick teen, I was all about Eponine and how unfair her plight was, as an adult fascinated by historical events I became filled with empathy for the naive revolutionaries, particularly the alcoholic skeptic Grantaire, who never believed their cause was worth dying for but loved his friends enough to die with them anyway.
My feelings about the show skyrocketed when I actually read Victor Hugo’s novel (despite the title, it’s actually got a light and lively tone, which makes the fact that everyone dies even worse, because they’re all so adorable and funny until they do) meaning that now, I watch it with the weight of 650,000 words of character development on my shoulders, examining the faces of the cast for glimpses of the rich inner lives of their characters.
My favorite character, from childhood to this day, remains Enjolras, and the reveal of his dead body, thrown over the barricade on his red flag, is, for me, one of the most powerful and evocative images in wider pop culture. Despite my changing opinion about the relationship between Eponine and Marius, “A Little Fall of Rain” still causes a fair amount of rain on my face whenever I see the show. But the real kicker is always Valjean’s final line, before the final heavenly chorus: “to love another person is to see the face of God.” I’ve never been religious, but perhaps, if this is how it’s done, I could be.
To me this show and its source material timelessly encapsulates humanity at its best and worst — everything you ever need to know about human nature, you’ll find it in Les Mis.
For those of you who know me, you will know that I am not a particularly religious person – brought up steeped in the traditional values of both Catholicism (the Roman kind) and Protestantism, I never really took to either in the strictest sense. Which is why it may come as a surprise for you to hear that Godspell is one of the most emotional Broadway (and musical) experiences I’ve ever had.
“Day by Day” had been a part of my life long before I knew its origins – a staple of morning assemblies and choir throughout my childhood. But it wasn’t until I entered Comprehensive School (the U.K. equivalent to High School) that I learned about Godspell as a whole, when it was chosen as that year’s production. Theologically, I was riveted by it, as it laid out the parables from the Gospel of Matthew (mostly, there are some from Luke too) in a way I had never seen before. Though it was more than just its Biblical origins.
Godspell, through its music, was a reminder of disparate people coming together in friendship and community, was about love in all of its forms, and forgiveness. It came to me at a time in my life when I struggled with where I fit in, and out of it came an understanding of who I am and wanted to be, but also some of my dearest and enduring friendships. It’s difficult to quantify the depth of emotion that Shwartz’s music and lyrics evoke in me, but it remains one of the most affecting shows in my life – it’s impossible for me to make it through the score with dry eyes.
I had the good fortune of being in New York during the run of its revival in 2012, and managed to get tickets to see it at the Circle in the Square theater. It was the perfect setting for the show, an intimate and immersive experience that I often think back on, as with minimal dressing to the stage the success of the show rested entirely on the shoulders of the performers – and, vocally, it was one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but engaging the audience and having them join in during the intermission was a stroke of genius, and speaks to the core of the show – which is its community. Dancing with my friends on stage is a memory I’ll continue to cherish.
Though I’m still finding confetti in my clothes, years later.
Brittany: ‘Spring Awakening’
Spring Awakening was the first Broadway show I saw alone in New York. I was 16, sitting in the audience watching the original Broadway cast undress each other, curse, commit suicide, and the process of illegal abortion. It was radical and extreme and I will never forget sitting there, multiple times, watching those performances.
Enter 2015 when Deaf West’s Spring Awakening revival returned to Broadway. It was not the same show that I saw when I was a junior in high school and I was not the same person sitting to see it in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Spring Awakening is a hard story to tell. If the actors on stage do not trust one another, the story can quickly move from uncomfortable to unnerving. The cast, now comprised of both hearing and deaf actors, needed that trust more than ever to breathe life into this production.
Sandra Mae Frank, the lead deaf actress playing Wendla, at times had her lines sung by her backup voice, but mostly her story, that of a girl kept in the dark, was reflected just that way through her silence. The moments that were specifically chosen to be told in complete silence were perhaps the most striking of all. The scene between Moritz and his father, where the elder casts shame upon his son for embarrassing the family is told completely through ASL ending with a deafening door slam. I didn’t need to look at the words projected on the screen to know what was going on in the exchange and that is due to the actors incredible emotion poured into their delivery of their lines.
I went into this performance hoping to pass the story along to someone who had never seen the show before. Now my memories of the show no longer include Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, or John Gallagher Jr. Their voices may be the ones I hear when I revisit the soundtrack, but the visuals are forever changed to watching the Deaf West cast silently cue each other to begin their story.
This article is a part of Hypable’s inaugural Broadway Week in celebration of the 2016 Tony nominations. For more theater articles, click here!