I thought of writing up my entire musical journey map up to this point. What does that mean? It means write ALL the musicals I seen in the order I seen them. Some will NOT have the years. Some, I actually had to RESEARCH the year just to figure out when I saw them- NO JOKE.
Elementary School- Lion King, Cats, and Seussical the Musical: All of these musicals I don’t remember seeing. Seriously, that is why I put elementary school. There was no way I could research those musicals to figure it out. I only know I saw them because my parents told me.
2006 (Broadway): Wicked- HUGE turning point. First time I saw Wicked. It was the musical that sparked my LOVE for musicals. This is the first musical I remember seeing. However, all I remember was being with mom, being in NYC, and that “Popular” was my favorite song. Despite not having many vivid memories, the impact clearly shows.
2007 (Abingdon, VA: Barter Theater): Oliver- well, another musical I don’t remember seeing
2008? or if not 2009 or 2010: not sure (Tour: Charlotte): Wicked I think most likely 2008.
2009: Mamma Mia (Tour: Charlotte)- I had seen the movie one year previously. What I do remember was that were additional songs in the stage show. I only know it was 2009 because my playbill says so.
2011: Addams Family (Tour: Charlotte): This was the musical I actually had to research when I saw it. I did remember being in high school, which theater it was, and what part of the theater I sat in, but FORGOT which year I saw it. I knew it was in the later part of high school meaning Junior or Senior year so it had to be 2010 or 2011 because I saw the musical in the month of October. 2010 and 2011 were the two years I started Junior and Senior year. I had to research which particular year it toured the United States. By research, I realized this musical started its United States tour in 2011. So through all that research, I was able to realize when I saw this musical. This was a musical I ended up not liking.
2012: La Cage (Tour: Charlotte)- I saw it right after I graduated from high school. Ended up not liking it in the end.
2012: Godspell (Central Piedmont Community College: Charlotte)- I remember just loving all of the fun costumes. There was a hippie costume, a black and red costume where the guy had a mohawk and another costume was a pink dress. It was the costumes I remember the most.
2013: Wicked (Tour: Charlotte)- I went the third time for my dad. He still had not seen it yet. I ended up seeing Wicked for my dad. Before the show began, the tallest guy sat in front of me, and my dad switched places in me giving me the better view. By the end of the show, my dad told me, he understood why I loved the show so much.
2013: Les Mis (Central Piedmont Community College: Charlotte- 3x): I remember thinking how well how can a community college pull off Les Mis? It was my first time seeing the stage show. It was a professionally made production of Les Mis. My first time, which was with my family, I was amazed that it did not FEEL like a community college production- it felt PROFESSIONAL. I still had two more productions of Les Mis to watch: I was going to be ushering for those two Les Mis productions. The energy drained a bit in my first day of ushering, but I believe the acting improved, but the second time I ushered, the cast was at their best and the energy was back. I may not really remember the principal actors, and what I thought of them, but I do remember that it was PROFESSIONALLY MADE. This production was truly the motor that made me develop a dream of wanting to see Les Mis in the West End.
2014: Phantom of the Opera (Tour: Greenville)- Charlotte is my main location of seeing musicals. This was an exception. This time, I would be seeing a musical in Greenville, SC. The Peace Center is such a gorgeous theater. Just like Wicked in NYC, Phantom of the Opera was a date with mom. I fell in love with Phantom of the Opera by songs alone, but the stage show made me fall in love with the plot. In this production I had an understudy for Christine. I was spellbound from start to finish. When that overture started, I couldn’t take my eyes off that chandelier during that entire overture. I was choked up watching this production. At this point, Phantom of the Opera ended up being just as good as Les Mis and Wicked. Little did I know that an actor in the ensemble of this production, I would later see as a lead (more on that later).
2014: Porgy and Bess (Tour: Charlotte)- I just remember seeing it, basically. I enjoyed it a little, but just like Addams Family and La Cage, did not like it really. These shows happen: you fell “meh” about them.
2014: Annie (Tour: St. Louis)- Before I saw Wicked, Annie was my favorite musical. I saw this at the gorgeous Fox Theatre in St. Louis. This was special. I know I already said I saw musicals with dates with my mom and my dad. This time, it was a date with my grandma. I flew in an airplane by myself to spend a week with my grandma alone. One of the memories was seeing Annie. Seeing Annie at the Fox Theatre made me feel like a little girl again. I sat in the first row of the orchestra.
2014: Scrooge (Children’s Theater): I was ushering at Charlotte’s Children’s theater. So I got to see the musical. I think I saw it the same month I saw Annie.
2015: Music Man (Gardner Webb University)- this was the first musical I ever saw at Gardner Webb University, a place I call home. I have already learned to appreciate some of the songs before the show. It was the most light-hearted musical of the year. I did not know how Gardner Webb University’s productions would compare to CPCC’S professional-natured productions. Gardner Webb’s theatre department is smaller compared to CPCC, but I loved their production of Music Man. Little did I know just how incredible my year of 2015 musicals would be.
2015: Pippin (Tour: Charlotte)- At this point, mom and I had two dates to the theatre. Pippin was our third date to the theatre. Pippin almost didn’t happen: when mom got the tickets, there was only ONE DAY left with two seats together. Those last seats just happened to be five rows back from the stage. I ALWAYS wanted to see Pippin every since I heard “Corner of the Sky”. I literally really loved the song: I connected to that song right away. I fully understand what the song was about. Soon enough I saw a preview of Pippin, and I loved the preview. I thought it was so amazing how Pippin’s nature of spectacle was circus, which made me want to see Pippin more than ever.
I felt like I was watching a circus with singing: literally. I had understudies for Pippin (Sam Lips) and the Leading Player (Lisa Karlin). The Leading Player was truly the standout that night: she intrigued me the moment I saw her: everything I know about her is based off of that actresses’ portrayal. At one point in the show, we were asked to sing along. Pippin was the spectacle musical of the year, and the one who the least amount of experience. I just knew one song coming in: at intermission, I wanted the soundtrack- I ended up buying the soundtrack at intermission despite not hearing any of the songs in act II.
2015: Les Mis (West End)- In 2015, my family church choir was in residence at Bristol Cathedral: my mom was part of that church choir. A pilgrimage was built around that, which STARTED in London. The pilgrimage was not just limited to the choir. In 2014, when I found out my family was going up early, I started nagging my parents to take me to Les Mis- I dreamed of seeing Les Mis in London since 2013. Soon enough they told me, I was seeing a musical in the West End. I wanted to know which one, but they weren’t telling me. All Spring 2015, I kept on asking them, and I was getting very impatient on waiting. June 2015 hits, and my mom texts me French Flag Emojis and Musical Notes, and I was confused. She told me to check my email, and the moment I read Les Misérables, I ran to my mom crying. I was going to be seeing Les Mis in the West End- that dream was coming true- I just could not believe it.
So when I actually saw the Queen’s Theatre, I thought I was imagining it. Same with buying souvenirs (I was SHOCKED I had to buy the playbill), and it did not seem real in the auditorium real and when I realized just how close we were to stage (in the 9th row). My mom wanted to get me the best seats possible. I had an understudy as Jean Valjean (Adam Bayjou) that night. It was the first note that told me, “Yes, this is no dream anymore; this is real”. That first note told me it was going to be more expected- and Yes, it was more than expected in both cast and staging. I lived a dream that night. The cast I saw will always be special to me- after all I lived my dream with them. They were so good- they were epic, passionate, and powerful.
I had my first stage door experience that night. So Mom and I went on not ONE BUT TWO dates to the theatre in one summer. Les Mis gave me the most joy out of all the musicals I saw that year. By seeing Les Mis in the West End, Phantom of the Opera was kicked out of being tied with Les Mis and Wicked.
2015: Sound of Music (Charlotte: Tour)- After Les Mis, I thought no more musicals were to happen. I was wrong: a 4th musical happened that year. I ended up seeing Sound of Music. I ended with a childhood musical. I grew up with Sound of Music, and that was way it was so special ending with Sound of Music. I was more emotional with Sound of Music than ever all because of my reaction with Edelweiss. I never realized Edelweiss had some kind of sadness in it- not growing up or throughout 2015. It was during the production I realized it- it was right at the moment the Captain stopped singing and right that lasted before the children joined in- I realized in that moment, sadness is part of Edelweiss. I think my tears in the 2nd half of Edelweiss was a combo of things- the discovery of sadness in the song, the childhood nature of Sound of Music, and the memory of Edelweiss being my first piano recital. I think Edelweiss is one of those songs that is very hard to notice that sad is part of the song.
I never expected to see four musicals in one year.
2016: Wicked (Tour: Charlotte)- This was my 4th time seeing Wicked. Do you know how in Wicked it is about how Elphaba and Glinda changed each other lives for good? I went with a school that has changed me for good. Student Activities at Gardner Webb took a group of fifty students to Wicked.
Part of why I was the most vulnerable this time around was because I was with Gardner Webb. Another reason was because the other three times, I did not know “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking”- I realized the song was heartbreaking in between the 3rd and 4th time: thanks to “On My Own” and memorizing lyrics. I had the standby as Elphaba (Mary Kate Morrissey), who was excellent and so were Glinda and Fiyero. I have a rule with Wicked: Elphaba and Glinda both have to be excellent or else the show wouldn’t be effective especially during “For Good”. Here is how excellent my Elphaba and Glinda were: I was crying during “For Good”- that song is the most emotional song in the entire song- even more emotional than the unrequited love song, “I’m Not That Girl”.
It help that I started to fall in love with Elphaba at the age of 12 and that when I saw Wicked this time that I was 22.
2016: Newsies (Tour: Charlotte)- When I first heard the songs earlier in 2016, I only enjoyed the songs, not loved them. I saw the musical in August. I had a feeling I would love Newsies. The moment I heard it was Tony Award Winning Choreography, I got even more excited. I purposely did not look up any of the dance ahead of time.
I got emotionally attached the musical right away. It was Jack and Crutchie’s intimate bond that moved me so much. If you get emotionally attached to a musical so quickly, it is a good sign a musical most likely will be meaningful. Then I got emotionally attached to the bond between all the Newsies. The dancing left me mind-blown- I mean they are doing high kicks- doing splits high up in the air- jumping over each- dancing on the newspaper- and other crazy tricks. Their story is inspiring in so many ways. Newsies is still very fresh in my life- after all I only loved it for two years. “Courage Cannot Erase Our Fear. Courage is When We Face Our Fear”
2017: Little Shop of Horrors (Gardner Webb)- You know how at CPCC, I ushered for Les Mis. I helped at Little Shop of Horrors as well. The show was so popular over that long weekend that we ran out of playbills. I can understand why it is such a fun show, and why others love it. The fact that I personally knew some of the cast members put an impact on my viewing of the show. Even though I was house manager, I was able to watch one production. I only love five songs: so NOT the biggest fan of Little Shop of Horrors. I can still see how well done this show was. They did an amazing job of designing the shop and creating the plant. I kept on wanting to scream at the plant, and one of the deaths I honestly wanted to cry at, but the tears never came out.
2017: Rent (Charlotte: Tour)- I have wanted to see Rent since I fall in love with it by listening to the songs on Pandora in 2012. There never seemed to be a tour or any sign of it making a comeback on Broadway. I felt like I would never get to see Rent live. The closest I had gotten was the final Broadway cast film. Then in 2016, when I heard that Rent was touring to Charlotte, I could not believe it. I started convincing my parents. It was a Christmas Present in 2016. Good thing Gardner Webb was only about one hour away from Charlotte.
I saw Rent with mom and dad. We sat in the best seats. We were in the Mezzanine, and I could see the entire stage. Only downside was that the couple next to us were TALKING the entire time: they were whispering, but I could hear them the entire them. While I was focused more on the actors and the production, I could not drain the talking next to me. Despite that, it was a five year wait worth it. I was a bigger emotional wreck than I expected: I knew I would tear up a few times, but did not know I would get emotionally affected in the way I did. Rent is show where you just can’t ignore its message: “live in the moment and in love; No Day But Today”.
2017: Les Mis (Tour: Greenville)- I faced a major dilemma this time. I knew Les Mis was coming to Charlotte; that was where I originally wanted to see it. However, when Fall Semester started, I discovered Student Activities was taking students to see Les Mis in Greenville. I wanted to do both, but I had to pick ONE. Which one was I do? I already been to Ovens Auditorium and Peace Center. I was well aware that it was my last year at Gardner Webb, and I wanted to make the most of that year. So I decided to go with Gardner Webb because a) I love the Peace Center and b) it would be a huge part of making it the best year at Gardner Webb and c) I could help the inexperienced understand what was going on.
Some coincidence was going on with this 5th time with Les Mis. I had an understudy as Jean Valjean in the West End. Look what happened this 5th time: I had an understudy as Eponine. Crazy how that would turn out. Let’s look at Nick Cartell for a sec: do you know how I said earlier someone from my ensemble of Phantom of the Opera became a lead in one of my musicals? Well, Nick Cartell was that actor: He was in my ensemble of Phantom of the Opera- He ended up playing a talented Jean Valjean in this touring production. So, I ended up seeing Nick Cartell in both Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis in the exact same theatre.
I made a smart move with this touring production of Les Mis: to not compare the cast or staging to the cast or staging of the West End. A) It’s the 25th Anniversary Staging, B) Eponine was an understudy, and C) it will allow me to get the most out of this experience and will allow me to their talent and will allow me to see what they bring to the roles. I loved this 25th anniversary staging: Yes, I still love the original, but I also love the 25th anniversary staging. I love the addition of color, and because the backdrops are Victor Hugo’s paintings, it adds a bit more of Hugo into the musical. I love the use of candles in “Turning” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” and loved the weaving during the end of “One Day More”. So because I did not COMPARE to my West End cast, I got to fully appreciate the talent I saw on that stage and respect everybody: they had the passion, epic quality, powerful/emotional nature you expect from a Les Mis cast.
I was an emotional wreck once again: I got goosebumps, teared up, and got an occasional laugh. So twice in one year, I was an emotional wreck. One of the most interesting things about this cast is found in the love triangle- what happens when your favorite character in it belongs to Eponine, but your strongest actor is Marius? That is what happened to me and the actor who played Marius was Joshua Grosso. It made me view Marius and Cosette differently and the actor made Marius almost a core favorite Les Mis character. So due to that, he became my favorite Marius- I describe his Marius as charming and awkward.
2018: Oklahoma (Central Piedmont Community College: Charlotte)- I had graduated from Gardner Webb this summer. I started my college journey at CPCC so it was interesting being able to experience musicals there again this summer. My first musical there was Oklahoma, and they still have not lost their professionally made theatre. What do you know: two of the actors in Oklahoma were in Godspell. The actor and actress who played Will Parker and Laurey were in Godspell. The actress who played Laurey was not just in Godspell, but also in the ensemble of Les Mis. So I saw her in three productions at CPCC.
I had seen the movie of Oklahoma 2014, and learned to love it. By this point, I still was confused by what was happening during some of the songs. I still barely knew Oklahoma by this point. So seeing it refreshed everything. CPCC never fails to disappoint you in their shows: they always are professionally made. I heard in the summer that they take some actors from New York since students are on summer break. This was my 5th date with my mom.
2018: Grease (Central Piedmont Community College: Charlotte)- I saw the movie when I was a child. The stage show is way different the movie. It has the well-known songs, but has a lot of songs that are not in the movie. I ended up seeing it with my sister and one of our friends. Just by hearing the first song, I knew they cast well. I knew there was going to be a couple of new songs because that first song was not in the movie.
2018: Newsies (Central Piedmont Community College)- I only wanted to see Newsies at CPCC to see how they could handle the dancing. I kept on convincing my mom, but she never seemed to buying tickets. Then the week came, and the days passed, I began to get a feeling that I am not seeing CPCC’S production of Newsies. Saturday hit, and I knew for sure I wasn’t going to be seeing Newsies. My suitemate, Sydney and best friend, from my last year of college, texted me in the morning, saying what are you doing today? all I said was “nothing”. My mom was having me try on outfits to get applications for jobs. Okay- then the doorbell ran- guess who was at the door- Sydney- my mom did not have me get out of the pink dress I was wearing- I did not think that was odd or anything.
Sydney in the car asked what do you know what we are doing? I was like “NO”. She was like good”. I was like we could go shopping or something. Well then, it seemed we were headed downtown, and soon I said all I wanted this week is to see Newsies. I did not find it odd that she was getting dressed nicely in the car. Then we were close to CPCC- she said “I just want to see the Campus- nothing rang in my head one bit. I told her how to get there. Then she drove into the theater parking deck- “I was like only those seeing “Newsies can park there, this is not allowed”. She kept on saying “show me the theatre”. I directed her to Halton Theatre, but nothing seemed unusual to me. Then we were in Will Call line, and she just kept saying to me “I just want to see the theatre “I was like only those seeing the show can see the theatre, and if you want to see the theatre so badly just talk to an usher”. Guess what happens- we were in the Will Call for Sydney to pick up the tickets for Newsies that Sydney ordered in June for the two of us- that was her Graduation Present for me. For some reason, one of my best friends, my parents and my sister managed to keep that a secret from me.
Turns out Sydney had not seen a musical for a number of years- so at intermission- she thought the show was over because the lights went on so I had to tell her they did that to tell us it was the end of act I, and had to tell her there was one more act to go. We had the best seats, which was in the orchestra. I ended up seeing a meaningful musical with a best friend- that makes Newsies more meaningful. They still had the towers- glad that was there. Loved the dancing. Not only did I love the show, Sydney loved it as well. After thinking Newsies wasn’t going to happen, it did happen.
2018: Lion King (Tour: Charlotte)- I only wanted to see Lion King because I don’t remember seeing it elementary school. I had understudies as Rafiki and Pumba. I saw it with my mom and my sister. We were in the orchestra at the aisle. That was so cool. To be able to be right there as the animals are walking down the aisle during “Circle of Life”- we got the side with the Rhino. We had a strong Simba and Nala and loved their younger versions. Our Rafiki was hilarious (no joke) and wise. I loved all the dance. Just like 2015, it ended up with a childhood musical. I loved their use of Puppets: to see both the person and the puppet is incredible. How they staged the stampede. Songs that are fun, terrifying and emotional.