86-Ezra

Artwork Wednesday – Fandom Crossover Edits!

Once upon a time, I was chatting with Bella  about A Tale of Two Cities.  At some point during the conversation, we realized that lyrics from other musicals like Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera fit the characters from AToTC.  Cue massive feels and fangirling and ideas shooting back and forth–and then a Photoshopping frenzy!  🙂  I began making picture/lyric edits, and Bella has already featured some of them on her Tumblr fan blog, which is here.

Warning: Serious feels and heartbreak ahead for Phantom and A Tale of Two Cities fans.  What do you mean, I’m taking this too seriously?

 

See what I mean?

That crack you heard was the sound of my heart breaking…

SYDNEY

*gross hysterical sobbing*

As much as I love Sydney, Charles and Lucie are an absolutely precious couple, and they also need some love!

How about some Tale of Two Cities + Phantom?

I recently introduced another friend of mine to The Phantom of the Opera musical (the 25th Anniversary Concert, of course.  🙂 )  And she loved it–so much that she made some edits of her own!

#TeamRaoul!!!

*applauds*

Aw, yeessss!!

But it isn’t just musical crossovers I make, oh no.  Here’s Captain America + Bandstand:

I’m sorry.

And then The Alamo:

Now I’ve got to run, ’cause Chris is going to kill me.

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86-Ezra

10 Favorite Musicals – Part 3

Whew! Just barely made it under the deadline. Of my own link-up…that’s sad.

Anyway, the last four musicals on my 10 Favorites list:

#7: Fiddler on the Roof

Village milkman Tevye struggles to find good husbands for his daughters and adhere to the Jewish traditions of his people in a changing and anti-Jewish world.

This was my favorite musical for years; I fell in love with the grand orchestra in the “Tradition” number almost the minute I heard it.  And it’s the music that I like most, but I like the story too, the different kinds of traditions people have and whether or not they should be changed.

Speaking of, my favorite number is “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”  Tevye’s middle two daughters are initially eager to be matched up, until the eldest reminds them that the village matchmaker decides according to practicality (and whoever pays her to speak to a girl’s father), not love.  Their sentiments quickly turn apprehensive: “Matchmaker, matchmaker plan me no plans; I’m in no rush.  Maybe I’ve learned: playing with matches, a girl can get burned.”

Have I mentioned I love wordplay?

#8: The Pirates of Penzance

Pirate apprentice Frederic leaves his comrade when he comes of age, hoping to marry and settle down–but learns a surprising fact about his coming of age that turns his expectations up-side down.

I fell in love with this musical at age 8, and I thank God I didn’t permanently ruin my voice by trying to sing Mabel’s songs at that tender age.  But now that I think about it, this musical may have inspired my passion for singing.  The story is also downright hilarious; Frederic, the self-proclaimed “slave of duty” is apprenticed on a pirate ship–because his hard-of-hearing nurse misheard his father say “apprenticed to a pilot.” (A ship’s pilot, i.e. captain.)  And that’s only the beginning.  Not only are the pirates the worst pirates Cornwall has ever seen–for several reasons–most of the characters deliberately invert the stereotypes you’d expect of each each personality and vocation.

My favorite number from this one is probably “Poor Wandering One.”  Mabel tells Frederic that she is willing to give him a second chance (and give him her heart).  Which sentiment is very kind, even though she should probably, y’know, get to know him better before making that promise.  But the music and vocals are gorgeous.

#9: The Count of Monte Cristo

Actually, I’ve listened only to the Highlights CD, because this musical has never been to Broadway or West End. (*grumbles*)  But the highlights CD is pretty good.  I never actually finished the book The Count of Monte Cristo, but as far as I can tell, the musical does tell the basic story: Edmond Dantes is framed by three friends who each wants something he has, and is unjustly imprisoned in the Chateau d’If.  Fifteen years later, he escapes and vows revenge on the folks who mistreated him.

On that note, the number “Hell to Your Doorstep” is a show-stopper, folks.  Not that I condone Dante’s sentiments in the song, but if you’re going to use electric guitars in your orchestra, this is the way to do it: to express absolute rage.

My favorite number from this one is “A Story Told.”  Dante’s three friends plot their slander and try to justify it; one character says, “Part of me wishes Dante didn’t have to languish; but I can see it’s him or me.”  A very interesting song on a number of levels.

#10: My Fair Lady

Cockney-sounding Eliza Doolittle goes to phonetics professor Henry Higgins to learn how to speak in a more refined way.  Henry, however, has an ego the size of Buckingham palace, and Eliza finds the whole operation a little more than she bargained for.

Another musical I grew up watching; I was as familiar with “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On the Street Where you Live” as other kids were with TV cartoon theme songs.  And as a kid, I just liked the music, but as an adult, I like the music and the subtle wit.  A prime example would be Henry Higgins’ number “Why Can’t the English [Learn to Speak]?”

But my favorite song is “Show Me.”  Though Eliza has spent months learning to speak well, she’s tired of mere words.  She wants action–“Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of fall, don’t talk at all–show me!”  I love this distinction because I think society has lost sight of it.  People act as though cussing out a stranger ranting on social media is standing up for a cause, supporting something good.  In one sense it is, but words are easy, and anyone can fire off insults.  Actions require sacrifice.  I’ll believe dedication once I see someone living it out.

The song is also good advice for fiction writers.  Like mothers hovering over our darlings and explaining every little insecurity and virtue, we often narrate when we should get off stage and let the characters react, decide, and act.  To show the reader their fears, habits, desires, and flaws through their behavior.  Actions speak louder than words, after all.

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86-Ezra

10 Favorite Musicals – Part 2

All right, the next  three musicals in my top favorites list!

#4 Jekyll and Hyde (1994 concept album)

Doctor Jekyll creates a serum that will divide human nature into its good and evil sides, hoping to do away with the evil.  Failing to secure a test subject for his serum, he uses it on himself, creating the personality of Edward Hyde.  But Jekyll finds himself unable to control and do away with Hyde.

This is another musical I never thought I would like, but I listened to it after Bella mentioned it on her blog.  After a few songs, I was intrigued.  After listening to the whole thing, I liked it.  After listening to it a few more times, I became obsessed and lived attached to my laptop via earbuds to listen to the music on a YouTube playlist.  (And then got the CD for Christmas.)  But let me reiterate that this is the 1994 concept album, not the final Broadway version  The Broadway version had dirtier subtext, a choppier story, and didn’t have Anthony Warlow as Jekyll (yes, that’s a deal-breaker here).

The 1994 concept album, however, provides a lot of food for thought.  The musical asks why man’s nature is the way it is, why he is capable of both justice and corruption.  Of both compassion and hatred. “Why does he revel in murder and madness; what is it makes him be less than he should?” Jekyll asks in one of the opening numbers.  But Jekyll is incorrect in his theory about how to fix the problem; his solution relies completely on science and man’s effort.  Not that either of those are bad in and of themselves—but if man’s nature is truly “a deal with the devil he cannot disclaim,” then can man really free himself by his own effort?

On the flip side, Jekyll does not blame the devil or God or anyone for mankind’s sinful nature.  It is something to be overcome, but it is not a victim status inflicted on him by some higher evil.  (I intend to do an in-depth post about this musical and its themes later.)  Jekyll also reexamines himself after his experiment goes wrong.  In the earlier number “I Need to Know,” Jekyll speaks generally of man’s sin, man’s weakness, mankind’s failure.  A sweeping generalization.  But then, in “Streak of Madness,” after Edward Hyde has been created, Jekyll  refers only to himself, his own nature, his own sin.  Hyde is an extension of his own personality, after all.

Ultimately, this story is a cautionary tale.  It shows a man (even a well-intentioned one) who tries to play God and rid himself of his evil nature through his own effort—and this he cannot do, and the experiment fails.  Oops, spoilers, but we all knew the story, right?  Speaking of the failed experiment, the overall feel of this musical is somewhat dark (thanks to the subject matter and to Edward Hyde).  I would have preferred it if it had a redeeming character like the Bishop from Les Miserables as a contrast to the mistakes the characters make.  There are also a lot of caveats: scattered cursing throughout, misuses of the Lord’s name, and a couple of songs with sexual subtext.  I skip the numbers “Bring on the Men,” “A Dangerous Game,” and “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch,” entirely.  And on other in Act II, but I can’t remember its name.

The score of this musical reflects the emotion and undertones of the story remarkably.  Minor chords, minimal orchestration during the quiet, tense moments, swirling, soaring melodies of triumph, blaring chords during Hyde’s rampages, they all compliment the lyrics perfectly.  The piano is a major player (ha!) in this musical score, and I think it contributes to the feel of the story better than another instrument would have done in its place.  Often, a piece starts out with a meditative piano introduction or slow, minor chords, and then builds to fuller orchestration.

It’s incredibly hard to pick a favorite number from this one.  As with Jane Eyre, it would be easier to list the songs I don’t care for, but after some consideration, I’m going with “This is the Moment.”  I’ve heard that this is a cliché number at sports events, but I think it fits writers just was well.  If not better.

#5 Les Miserables

Released convict Jean Valjean returns to stealing, and gets himself arrested again–but a Bishop shows him unexpected mercy.  Thereafter, Valjean resolves to become a better man and build a new life.  But to do so, he breaks his permanent parole and must constantly run from Inspector Javert, a man dedicated to justice, with no room for mercy in his life.

Yes, I left out several other themes of Les Mis.  But it’s hard to describe everything succinctly.  The story has themes of justice, mercy, forgiveness, friendship, redemption, fighting for your freedom, fighting for what you believe in, and probably others I haven’t noticed.

But I’d like to talk about the Bishop.  This character appears only in Act I of the stage show and in only 1—2 numbers (depending on how you count), but his brief presence affects Valjean’s life and therefore, the rest of the musical.  The Bishop probably knew that Valjean was an ex-convict, but nonetheless gave him shelter and food for the night, treated him like an ordinary guest.  And when Valjean was dragged back to the Bishop’s house the next day, with stolen silver in his bag, the Bishop said he gave the man that silver.  Which wasn’t true, and I don’t think the Bishop did the right thing to lie.  On the other hand, if he decided to gift the silver right then and there upon hearing the accusation, then it was technically true.  His intent was to show this convict God’s mercy.  Not only did the Bishop drop charges for the theft, he gave the silver to Vajlean, and also the fine silver candlesticks that Valjean had left behind.

But the Bishop’s mercy comes with a charge: “You must use this precious silver to become an honest man.”  Valjean isn’t getting a get-out-of-jail-free ticket for stealing the silver.  He must repent and change his ways.  Of course, the Bishop has no way of knowing for sure that Valjean will do this—but that almost makes his mercy the more poignant.  This man is willing to give his silver to an ex-convict who might see the treasure, not as a second chance, but as an easy way out.

Though the Bishop has no way of knowing how Valjean uses the gift, Valjean does repent of his ways and use the silver to become an honest man.  He takes the charge so seriously that, when he hears that a man has been mistaken for him and is going back to prison, the real Valjean shows up at court and reveals himself to be prisoner 24601 instead.  Valjean’s kindness and industry and faithfulness uplifts many other characters in the musical.  And it all started with a simple act of mercy.

I do have to mention some problems with the musical: there is scattered cursing through out, some suggestive lines, and a couple of songs inappropriate for general audiences.  “Lovely Ladies” is about prostitutes, and “Master of the House,” is completely inappropriate and does nothing for the story.  We just skip those two songs.  🙂

Having waxed eloquent about the Bishop, my favorite song from Les Miserables is not one of his numbers, but the Epilogue.  It’s a bittersweet ending to the story, but a beautiful one, especially once the choir joins in the melody and the music soars.

# 6: The Secret Garden

Spoiled orphan Mary Lennox comes to live with her uncle Archibald Craven on the Yorkshire moor.  There is nothing to do in that old house with over a 100 shut up rooms—but when she goes outside, Mary discovers the waiting world of the gardens of the manor.

Yech, I did it again.  Turned the story totally cheesy.  Ahem.  This was another musical Bella recommended.  It had to grow on me, but it quickly became a favorite.

Though adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel of the same name, the musical focuses on not only the children seeking a place to belong, but on the grown-ups of the story coming to terms with the past and moving on.  It’s an interesting dynamic that was hinted at in the book, and the musical expands upon it.  Which changes the story a good deal, but I think that expanded them works well in the musical and makes it a good story on its own terms.

The music is my favorite aspect of this musical.  Yeah, I say that a lot, but since these are stories told through music, the music does have to be good.  It has almost a turn-of-the-century opera feel to it, an old-fashioned, classical style of music and singing.

And my favorite number from this story is “Come to My Garden.”  In fact, I was learning to sing that song during voice lessons when the pneumonia hit last year (and lasted for 3 months).  The sickness revived the asthma I had as a kid, and so long story short, I’ve had to quit voice lessons.  And for a while, I feared that listening to that song, the beautiful number I wanted to learn, would just remind me of what I’d lost.  But oddly enough, it doesn’t hurt to listen to that song.  “Come to My Garden,” actually gives me hope that perhaps I can heal from this; something about the lyrics and melody, gentle yet soaring, just says “hope”.

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10 Favorite Musicals! – Part 1

Overflowing Mind & Pen

All right, it’s here!  10 favorite musicals implies, of course, that I enjoy and listen to more than just those; the ones that didn’t make the top favorites list are: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Maury Yeston’s Phantom; The Lord of the Rings; The In-Between; The Sound of Music; Cinderella; and H. M. S. Pinafore.  (I may have forgotten a couple; I listen to a lot of musicals.  🙂 )

As such, I’m going to mention three favorites in this post, three more in the next post, and the final four in the last post.  Writing about all ten in one post would probably break the record for the World’s Longest Post Fangirling Post About Musicals.

Right, we’re off.

#1: Jane Eyre

Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre tells the story of an orphan from her loveless childhood to her lonely young womanhood as a governess—but her situation is at Thornfield hall, the master of which, Mr. Rochester, kindles a spark of life in her that had remained long hidden.

Great.  I just made my favorite novel sound like a CBD romance thingy.

Anyway, Jane Eyre is my favorite musical of all time, which is why I’m mad that it (a) closed after only 7 months and (b) was apparently never filmed.  Or at least never released on DVD.  Fortunately, there’s a soundtrack available, and when I discovered the musical in June 2014, I fell in love with the score instantly.

This musical is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book (second only to the 1983 mini-series with Timothy Dalton).  Most notably, Helen is an influential character, and the story includes her faith and its impact on Jane’s character.  Helen even gets a beautiful number of her own: the song “Forgiveness”.  Also, in many of the songs, the lyrics are phrases or wording taken straight from the book (though tweaked to fit rhythm and rhyme).

The musical did make some changes: St. John not only has a minor role, but he was upgraded to be slightly kinder than he was in the book.  Also, Mrs. Fairfax was turned from a quiet, orderly housekeeper into an absent-minded figure of comic relief.  I understand the reason; the story needed some humor, and a stage play doesn’t adapt Charlotte Bronte’s dry wit very well, unless the audience is willing to sit for 3 hours listening to exchange of dialogue.  Still, it’s one thing to add comic relief; another to change a character’s entirely personality.

In general, however, the story stuck to the source material.  And the music is beautiful on its own merit: the melodies are haunting, quiet, souring, lonely, joyful.  The lyrics are poetic, passionate, and encouraging.  (That said, there is some scattered cursing throughout the songs; Mr. Rochester is the main culprit here.  Just something to watch out for.)

In fact, it’s hard to pick a favorite song; it would be easier to list the numbers I don’t care for (only three out of 25!).  But I’m going to go with Helen’s song “Forgiveness”.  In it, she admonishes Jane that “You have to be strong to offer good for evil, to return right for wrong.”  So many people act like a stubborn, fighting attitude is strength.  And if you’re fighting for what’s right, yes.  But it’s equally as strong to hold your tongue and “learn to endure.”  On the flip side, she tells Jane “You can continue to grieve, but know the Gospel* is true.  You must forgive those who lie and bless them that curse you.”  In other words, there’s no need to be a stoic about suffering, but to endure it with the knowledge that God knows–and blesses–who is right.

*I’m not sure if she means that “forgive those who lie” is the Gospel, or if she’s referring to the Gospel and the principle separately.  The first case is incorrect; “forgive those who like &etc.” is not the Gospel…but substituting the word “scripture” removes this problem.  🙂

 

#2: The Phantom of the Opera

Erik instructs young soprano Christine Daae in singing, masquerading as her Angel of Music.  Erik also terrorizes the opera house as the mysterious Phantom of the Opera.  When Christine learns his true identity, she flees from his guardianship, but this Phantom has a desperate fixation on her, hoping for her love.

 I’m terrible at writing any synopsis, apparently.  Also, it’s hard to describe every aspect of The Phantom of the Opera.

Which is one reason why I like it.  At first glance, the story seems to be a Gothic romance; and to some degree, it is, but it’s also about love, trust, and compassion.  The Phantom, hideously deformed and therefore outcast from society, desperately seeks Christine’s love, but goes about winning it the wrong way.  Christine, alone in the world after her father’s death, also seeks love and guardianship and at first thinks she’ll find them in the Phantom, at first trusts him.  But then that trust is shattered when the Phantom reveals his true identity.  Christine flees, and puts her trust in Raoul, her childhood playmate and now her sweetheart who also seeks to win her love.  Which turn of events, of course, angers the Phantom.

So yes, in one sense it’s a Gothic romance, and there is definitely a love triangle.  But it’s not a beautifully dramatic one; if anything, it complicates things, brings terror and doom to Raoul and Christine.  Christine knows the Phantom is dangerous and must be stopped, but she can’t help but pity him.  Raoul would move heaven and earth to protect Christine, and the Phantom would destroy heaven and earth to win her love. In fact, he tries to do just that.

But then, at the end, he performs an act of sacrificial love.  All three of the protagonists, in fact, display sacrificial love for someone else, and that, I think, is ultimately what the story is about.  If you truly love someone, what will you give up for his/her happiness?

Speaking of love, this musical has one of my favorite love songs of all time, “All I Ask of You.”  And yes, the lyrics describe sacrificial love.  Rather than being a feel-good, he’s-the-one-who-flutters-my-heart type of love song, it speaks of service and leadership, sacrifice and loyalty, trust and commitment.

(Raoul)

No more talk of darkness

Forget these wide-eyed fears

I’m here; nothing can harm you

My words will warm and calm you

Let me be your freedom

Let daylight dry your tears

I’m here, with you, beside you

To guard you and to guide you.

(Christine)

Say you’ll love me every waking moment

Turn my head with talk of summertime

Say you need me with you now and always

Promise me that all you say is true

That’s all I ask of you

The rest of the score is similar: powerful lyrics and beautiful melodies.  I fell in love with the film soundtrack at age 12 and fell in love with the 25th Anniversary Concert about 10 years later, and I’ve never looked back.  The vocal talent required to perform this musical is impressive, and I’ve wanted to sing like Christine ever since I heard the film soundtrack.  For the record, my favorite Phantom is John Owen-Jones, my favorite Christine is Gina Beck (with Rebecca Caine as a close second), and my favorite Raoul is a toss-up between Hadley Fraser and Steve Barton.  (When I’m not feeling well, I listen to Barton’s performance of “All I Ask of You”; his voice is so gentle and steady and reassuring.)

And there’s dancing in this musical.  I tend to like a musical better if there’s dancing as well as singing, and this one contains two nice ballet numbers.  And the musical also has funny, lighthearted lines and sequences to break up the tension of the main story line.

Lastly, I love the characters of this story.  I like Christine and Raoul the best, but all three main characters are deeper and more layered than they first appear.  Christine, for example, comes across as air headed at first, but when you look closer, you see that she takes the word of those she trusts and is cautious around people whom she does not trust so closely.  Raoul seems to be (at best) a hot piece of cardboard and (at worst) an obstacle to the Phantom’s happiness, until you look closer and understand his reasoning and his devotion to Christine.  I’ve written and posted a dissertation about Raoul’s character (and one staunchly in defense of his good qualities, as he is generally hated by the fandom), and I’m working on a dissertation about Christine’s.  And I’ll probably write one for the Phantom at some point.

The only caveats are scattered cursing throughout the musical, and the number “The Point of No Return” has some pretty sensual subtext.  We just skip that song.  🙂

As with the musical Jane Eyre, it’s hard to pick a favorite song from The Phantom of the Opera.  But I’m going to go with “All I Ask of You” because it’s about trust, loyalty, commitment.  It speaks of sacrifice from both parties; it centers on the mutual need they have for each other; yet it also is romantic.  How much more romantic can you get than a man promising to “hold you and to hide you.”?

 

#3: A Tale of Two Cities

Adapted from Dickens’ novel, the story describes three French families suffering from the corruption of the French nobility shortly before the Revolution.  Lucie Manette, after being reunited with her father, who was unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille for years, remove to England and become acquainted with Charles Darnay, a young Frenchman with something of a mysterious past.  Meanwhile in France, the Defarges had enough with the suffering of their people and become instrumental in the acts of the Revolution.  All these characters impact each other in minor ways on the surface, but they are also connected in a more sinister way, that, when discovered, that will resurface deep anger and pain.

Give me a break.  It’s hard to describe Dickens’ novels succinctly.  But then, that’s why I love them.  🙂

This is one of the few musicals that can make me cry.  I am not the sort to cry over books and films; if someone tells me, “Oh, that movie is a tearjerker,” there is actually 99% chance I will not cry.  But with this story, I’m always in a puddle by the Finale, if not long before.  In fact, I tend to lose it when Charles weeps during “Let Her Be A Child.”

The musical focuses more on Sydney Carton, the English lawyer who frees Charles Darnay from an unjust trial in England, but who seems not to care about anything in the world.  Which is untrue; his careless attitude merely conceals a heart of long-enduring pain and disappointment.  (Actually, it’s the PBS Theatrical concert [available on DVD] that focuses on Sydney and his character arc.  The theatrical concert is an abridged form of the Original Broadway production.  The OBC was filmed, apparently, but never released on DVD *grumble growl*.  However, we do have the theatrical concert, and it gives a taste of what the full production must be like.)

What’s interesting to me is the contrasts between the main characters.  Sydney compares himself (unfavorably) to Charles Darnay, and Lucie is simply but powerfully compared to Madame Defarge.  Both ladies lost their families at a young age.  Both suffered at the hands of aristocrats.  Both endured loneliness and pain.  But each lady responded to that differently.  Madame Defarge let the pain twist her into cold fury, an anger that could be satisfied (in theory) only by revenge: “I’ve waited twenty-five years for this day!  Doctor Manette may forget; Doctor Manette may forgive, but this one survivor will never let Evremonde live!”

Lucy, on the other, hand, let that pain make her compassionate*.  She did not become hard and bitter; when reunited with her father after all those years, she says, “We both were lost, but now that’s all behind us, all the endless years I never knew you.”  She does not resent the family who unjustly imprisoned her father; and she does not condemn the descendant of that family for his ancestor’s actions.

It is this kindness and forgiveness that gets Sydney Carton’s attention.  She treats him like a normal human being and shows concern for his welfare; upon learning that he was not at church on Christmas Eve, she simply says, “It’s not our business where you were, Mr. Carton,” and invites him to share Christmas dinner with her family, saying he was not eating enough and needed a little fattening.

*This observation is not actually mine; this post brought the contrast to my attention.

This kindness and forgiveness helps Sydney see the world in a new light.  In his song “I Can’t Recall,” he says, “The heavens seem an inch away, not cold and empty like before.”  It almost sounds as though he viewed God as a distant being, one who did not listen and did not care about the world below, much less Sydney’s own hopelessness.  But Lucie’s caring put into words and actions the benevolence attributed to God.  And by the end of the musical, his outlook about God and sacrifice has changed completely.

And I need to change the subject before I melt into a useless puddle.

The melodies in this story are unique because of how amazingly they mirror and evoke the emotion of the moment.  But the lyrics are especially powerful.  For example, the song “Everything Stays the Same” describes the futility of the violence of the French Revolution, and quite frankly, it reminds me of the whining protests going on today.

Come join the revolution

Come play the latest game

Not much has changed, but then again

Not everything stays the same

Because of the amazing lyrics, it’s hard to pick a favorite song.  Get used to that line of thought; it’s prevalent among my favorite musicals.  After much thought, and nail-biting, and hair-pulling, and listening to the soundtrack again, and listening to my favorite songs on repeat, and all but dissolving into a puddle again, I picked “Let Her Be A Child” as my favorite.  Sydney muses on the fate of Lucie’s family–and her daughter–if Charles is unjustly killed, and resolves to do all he can to save him.

Sydney now considers others more important than himself.  The bitterness and hopelessness of his life has faded; he received the unreserved love of the whole Darnay family: Charles, Lucie, and their little girl.  Which showed him, in a way, the love of God.  The Darnays treated him like a member of their family, and Sydney does not hesitate now to show how much he cares.  As he tells another character, “They gave me a family; now I’m giving it back.”

“It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

~Sydney Carton

*melts into a useless puddle*

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86-Ezra

Introducing: 10 Favorite Musicals Link-Up!

I love talking about musicals, but this time, I decided to create a link-up so that everyone can join the fun!  The link-up will run until February 28th, so you have plenty of time to post.  You can discuss all ten favorite musicals in one post; or you can post about five musicals one day and the remaining five the next; or you can write about one musical per day.  Feel free to be totally flexible with posting.  🙂

Rules:

  • List 10 of your favorite musicals. If you don’t have 10 favorites (*gaaaasp!*), list as many favorites as you have.
  • Explain what you like about each of your favorites. Feel free to add story summaries, a few favorite portrayals, and any caveats as well.
  • Mention a favorite song from each of your favorite musicals and explain why you like that song.
  • Have fun!

And looky, an official button:

Overflowing Mind & Pen

If you want to feature the button on your own favorite musicals post, just copy the code in the box under my button and past it into the HTML code of your post.  Bella and I found that just pasting the code into the post draft doesn’t work; but you should have the option to switch settings to see the HTML code of your post.  Past the button code there, and the link-up button should appear, ready to go!

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86-Ezra

Convalescing Activities

The sickness is slowly dispensing, and whenever I have energy and brain cells to spare, here’s what I’ve been up to:

Reading

While taking breathing treatments, I use the time to read (so that I’m not puffing medicine mist and staring into space for 15—20 minutes.  Dreadful waste of time).  So far, I’ve read Understood Betsy, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, still reading Three Roads to the Alamo, and I’ve started The Phantom Tollbooth.

I picked up The Strange Case &etc. on a whim several weeks ago.  The premise fascinated me: a man who creates a drug that splits his personality, letting him maintain his good reputation through one persona, but indulge in his temptations through the other.  I wanted to see how Stevenson handled the concept, and how the musical (or rather, the 1994 concept album) resembled the book.

Though I knew generally how the tale ended, it was nonetheless interesting to see the story unfold.  The imagery is vivid; Stevenson spends more time describing the London atmosphere at night and during its fogs than during the day.  Also, I don’t think Stevenson portrayed Jekyll’s experiment as right.  He sets forth the problem of how difficult it is to resist temptation; yet makes clear that giving in to that temptation—one way or another—destroys you.

But Stevenson’s theology is somewhat incorrect; man is not made up of dueling forces of good and evil.  Man is capable of justice and righteousness because he was made in the image of God and retains an understanding of good, even if he twists it.  But because man has rebelled against God, his nature is fallen and capable of any kind of evil.  I maintain that it’s because Jekyll’s theology is wrong that his experiment fails.  If he had a better understanding of God’s gift of salvation, he might have accepted it, and learned how to better resist temptation.

As for how the book compares to the musical…well, they’re two different stories.  They share a premise: Dr. Jekyll creates a serum splitting his personality into its good and evil sides.  But the motivation and fallout is completely different in the musical.  Dr. Jekyll hopes to divide the evil and good in a man’s nature and do away with the evil.  His motivation is improvement, curing of social and physical ills–a noble aim.  Thus, it’s all the more tragic when the experiment fails—again, I maintain—because of insufficient understanding of God’s laws.  The musical also added a little more nuance to the whole problem Jekyll is confronting, showing the hypocrisy of London society.

Fiddling with my blog

Which you may have noticed if you visited recently.  Each theme has some feature that I like, but also something I’m not qui-i-ite happy with.  So I keep tweaking it—hopefully, I’ll find a design I’m content with soon.

I’ve also drafted more blog posts.  In the works is “A Few Notes About Christine,” an analysis of her character, like the one I wrote for Raoul several weeks ago.  However, Christine’s post may take a while to put together, because there is a lot of material to consider and organize.  Also in the words is “A Few Notes about Movie-Raoul,” which might be interesting, and I’ve even drafted a couple for some of the Lord of the Rings characters.

Writing

Mainly my very, very informal outline (mostly narrative, which I’ll trim into a list of events later) and character profiles.  Developing characters is one of my favorite parts of writing—once I get excited about who these people are, I can’t wait to tell their stories.  And I make detailed profiles.  Some of my favorite character details to create are demeanor, quirks, birthdays (often, it’s a date that commemorates something about the project), the humor they use and enjoy, whether they can swim, the qualities they admire, and favorite books.  I use the Beautiful People meme to delve deeper into my characters.

I’m still deciding how much information to share about my writing.  On the one hand, sharing snippets could build interest in my work, and I could get feedback.  On the other, there’s something to be said for working in privacy.  However, I will say that this story was inspired by the 2004 film The Alamo (*gets urge to watch it again*), and its main character is Durant, whom I drew a while ago holding his baby nephew.  Posting the picture again because I melt every time I see it:

48-Durant & Baby Luke

Durant loves his nephews.  It’s the cutest thing.

And whenever I rest, I often think about the story, making up isolated events that probably won’t end up even in the draft–but this exercise helps me learn more about the characters and the dilemmas they might face.

Other times, I just pin pictures and quotes on Pinterest.  That’s work, right?  🙂

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86-Ezra

Writers’ Camp: Days 12 & 13

Conquering Writers Block!!! Okay, writers block is the worst obstacle a writer can face besides Plot Hole. This day will cover the different ways you can conquer or outsmart writers block, and how to keep yourself writing when you’d rather nap and give up on the whole thing.

Well, sometimes a nap or just a break is a good way to solve writers’ block.  🙂  But when I’m stuck, I try to identify the problem.  Why am I blocked?  Is it lack of information?  Tiredness?  Fear of not doing my ideas justice?  Frustration at my slow pace?

The nature of the problem often determines the solution—if I’m tired, I might take a break.  Or not, depending on what my day looks like, e.g. if I have several hours of free time, there is no way I’m letting that time slip away.  Often, though, the solution is just to blaze past the block and write, write anything, even if it’s stinky.  I often pound out a list of notes or ideas, a stream-of-consciousness, and look over it later.

I also write to fast-paced music.  Something about it just gets my fingers and mind moving.  Two of my favorite songs are “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling and “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde—apparently that song is a cliché anthem for sports events, but it works just as well, if not better, for a writer’s vocation.

And I always pray that God would get me unstuck, if it’s His will.

Be inspired! Share things that help/inspire you with writing. Put out some ideas on what you think might help other writers get on with their work.

Honestly, the biggest inspiration to keep going comes from my characters—I want to tell their stories!—and reminding myself that the finished product will be good when it’s done.  I write the sort of things I want to read, and I look forward to the day I can read my stuff without constantly editing.  🙂

In the meantime, I get inspired by:

  • Various genres of music: Celtic, trailer music, soundtracks, musical theatre, orchestra; and from musicals like The Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, The Secret Garden, and Les Miserables.
  • Films like The Alamo, The Phantom of the Opera, and Inception.  Actually, Christopher Nolan films are good inspiration, period.  They make me think and always make me wonder “what if?”
  • Pictures on Pinterest—I’m attracted to pictures that hint at an intriguing conflict or situation, that make me wonder what’s going on and what’s going to happen next.
  • From others’ characters or portrayals—Hadley Fraser’s performance as Raoul inspired a character of my own creation, as did Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of Raoul. The Bishop from Les Miserables also inspired a character, as did Dr. Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.
  • Historical details. Sometimes just a line or two will set me thinking, such as this line from English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century:

“In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it seems that a girl who was marrying somewhat above her station, a daughter of a banker or new landed family marrying into the old nobility, or a daughter of the lower aristocracy marrying into the ducal class, would be provided with a marriage portion of the order of 50,000 or 60,000 pounds [stupid American keyboard can’t make the pound symbol].  In an ambitious family resources would be mobilized behind the daughters, the instruments of family advance, while younger sons might be less generously portioned and left to make their own way in the world.” (pg. 100)

  • And from my own ideas and interests, such singing, politics, art, my own notions of duty and honor, and the conclusion that art and science are not necessarily opposite ends of the spectrum.

Well, that’s the end of the Writers’ Camp!  I had fun with this; such a great idea from Bella!