How can you Tell if a Musical Character is Complex

In musical theatre, there are two types of characters. There are either simple or complex characters. That concept may not make sense to some people, but there is a way to tell the difference. How exactly can you tell if a musical character is complex?

Songs

The complex characters tend to sing the hardest songs that exist. They have a higher chance of singing emotional songs- that does not include romance. When I mean emotional for a complex characters, I am talking about sad and heartbreaking songs. The complex characters’ sad or heartbreaking songs have a strong emotional capability so there is a higher chance of being hit like a pile of bricks. So their sad songs start beyond mild- but start like at moderate. Goes from songs starting at “Santa Fe” all the way to “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, two sad songs: one is moderately sad and the other is devastating. Get the picture.

Backstory

Where does this come into play? Backstories of characters are why they become the character they are on stage. Usually, complex characters have an emotional backstory- it does not necessarily mean a heartbreaking one. Their backstories shape them and shape the emotions we are feeling. Some complex characters do have heartbreaking backstories and some don’t- just strong enough to have all the layers of a character to exist.

Portrayal:

This one is easy to explain. When you first see a musical, the characters are literally a black box. This means you know NOTHING about the character. When you first see a character, they create the beginning of who a character is. If you keep on seeing the same musical, and keep on finding something new, that does mean a complex character. This is why you question other actors/actresses- you do wonder does that fit or does it not. It is why you easily can be taken off guard.

Flaws and Strengths:

We know what it means to be human. In real life, everyone is filled with flaws and strengths. The complex characters have strong characteristics and are flawed. They feel the most “human” so it give a stronger chance of emotionally connected because we see ourselves in them.

What else do you think makes a character complex?

4 thoughts on “How can you Tell if a Musical Character is Complex

  1. I agree with this so much! I think you can definitely tell a lot about a character and how they’re meant to be perceived from their portrayals and from their songs. The aspect of being flawed is definitely important, as well. With simpler characters, it’s often harder to find flaws in them–if they’re the protagonist–since they’re usually more generically good.

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    • The complex characters usually are also some to the best musical characters in existence. They are extremely fun to get to know as something new keeps on being added to them.

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  2. I Like to disagree in one point, the portrayal. I think even when musicals are more standardized than theatre plays every good actor and every good director can alter a character with gestures and the voice even when there is not much information for that one. Especially then there is more space to find an own interpretation and backstory of the character. So when a character is always characterized the same way it’s because director and actor didn’t had any own ideas or didn’t care enough. But I like the rest of your explanation very much. 🙂

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    • It is always the same character. New things keep on being added – there is just a higher chance in a complex character to have a lot of layers, etc.

      What I know about a character is a combo of who I have seen. We might not notice something in one actor but in another. We see different sides to the same character

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