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BWW Blog: Broadway Characters As Songs from Folklore

There’s something so beautiful about that, how music is always the friend that sees and loves us no matter where we are or who we are. ​​​​​​​

BWW Blog: Broadway Characters As Songs from Folklore

Throughout quarantine, music has been a lifeline for me. More specifically, Show Tunes and Taylor Swift. With the unexpected release of Taylor's eighth album and a new BroadwayHD subscription, life has been anything but dull. What else could you need in your ears for approximately 20 hours a day? The constant repetition of an artist and genre can sometimes lead to lines between the two becoming blurry. With this being said, I have reason to believe the "folk tales" from folklore are almost a second extension of musical theatre characters' lives. Today, we'll be matching a number of Broadway characters to their corresponding song from folklore.

  • Track 1: "the 1"

Illona Ritter (She Loves Me)

Oh, Illona. We've all been there, girl. Illona had dreams of a life with Kodaly and thought that their relationship would last. But, she finally realized he was not the man she thought he was. She wished so desperately that he would have changed for her, that things had been different. Despite all of this, their relationship ended for the better, and Illona resolves to be different in the future.

the 1

"We were something, don't you think so?
Rosé flowing with your chosen family
And it would've been sweet
If it could've been me"

I Resolve

"I resolve not to blame the others,
Just because I'm an easy mark,
I wanna know why I never meet their mothers,
Where men are concerned I'm always in the dark,"

  • Track 2: "cardigan"

Eliza Hamilton (Hamilton)

If you're unaware, folklore has three songs within it's seventeen that signify a love triangle between one boy and two girls. "Cardigan" is the first song in that installment. Eliza, resembling Betty, is cheated on by the one she loves the most. This song is practically if "Burn" had a little sister that was in the acceptance stage of a breakup, dissecting the overwhelming emotion that is attached with heartbreak.

Cardigan

"'Cause I knew everything when I was young
I knew I'd curse you for the longest time
Chasing shadows in the grocery line
I knew you'd miss me once the thrill expired
And you'd be standin' in my front porch light
And I knew you'd come back to me"

Burn

"You forfeit all rights to my heart
You forfeit the place in our bed
You sleep in your office instead
With only the memories of when you were mine
I hope that you burn"

  • Track 3: "the last great american dynasty"

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)

While the original Taylor Swift song is based upon the life of Rebekah Harkness, Elle Woods creates a legacy just as she once did. Upon discovering her "dream guy" is breaking up with her to go to Harvard, Elle reinvents herself to become all that he said she could never be. Getting into Law School, standing up for her friends, and finding her way in life creates a reputation that will not soon be forgotten by those who knew Elle Woods.

the last great american dynasty

"And they said "There goes the last great American dynasty"
Who knows, if she never showed up, what could've been
There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvelous time ruining everything"

Find My Way/Finale

"I think this wise statement best applies to a woman--a blonde woman.
Over the past three years, she taught me and showed us
All that being true to yourself never goes out of style."

  • Track 4: "exile" ft. Bon Iver

Jamie Wellerstein x Cathy Hiyatt (The Last Five Years)

Alright, picture this. It's about two years after the last exchange between Jamie and Cathy. Cathy is finally happy again, she's found a new guy (who doesn't cheat on her), and bumps into Jamie randomly at a coffee shop. Jamie, regretful of his infidelity, wishes things had ended differently for them. *Cue "Exile"*. In the entirety of their 5 years together, they never learned how to make things work.

Exile

"All this time (So many signs)
I never learned to read your mind (So many signs)
I couldn't turn things around (I couldn't turn things around)
'Cause you never gave a warning sign (You never gave a warning sign)"

Goodbye Until Tomorrow / I Could Never Rescue You

"I could never rescue you
All you ever wanted
But I could never rescue you
No matter how I tried
All I could do was love you hard
And let you go"

  • Track 5: "my tears ricochet"

Elphaba (Wicked)

Elphaba's fall from grace is "my tears ricochet". There are parallels in this song and "Defying Gravity" that almost make me think Taylor Swift wrote "my tears ricochet" for a 2020 Elphaba. They both find that they must escape from the place that caused them immense pain, their "homes" now being anything but that, but using it to their advantage.

my tears ricochet

"I didn't have it in myself to go with grace
And so the battleships will sink beneath the waves
You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same
Cursing my name"

Defying Gravity

"And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who ground me
Take a message back from me"

  • Track 6: "mirrorball"

Glinda (Wicked)

Following her green counterpart, Glinda from Wicked embodies the next track from folklore. "Mirrorball" tells of someone often feeling like the world puts them on a pedestal, watching their every move while the subject tries desperately to keep their attention. Glinda lives to impress, aiming to dazzle the onlookers in an attempt to remain interesting to them.

Mirrorball

"I want you to know
I'm a mirrorball
I'll show you every version of yourself tonight
I'll get you out on the floor
Shimmering beautiful
And when I break it's in a million pieces"

Popular

"Please, it's all about popular
It's not about aptitude, it's the way you're viewed
So it's very shrewd to be
Very, very popular like me"

  • Track 7: "seven"

Evan Hansen (Dear Evan Hansen)

As we know, Evan tends to overthink his life. Be it the past, present, or even the future, the gears in his brain are ever turning. This being said, he seemingly can be described as a nostalgic person. Often throughout the show, Evan is caught replaying moments from his life, just as this song portrays. "seven" puts music to the feeling of innocence and friendship, two concepts that Evan struggles to find in his current life.

seven

"Please, picture me in the trees
I hit my peak at seven
Feet in the swing over the creek
I was too scared to jump in
But I, I was high in the sky
With Pennsylvania under me
Are there still beautiful things?"

For Forever

"And there he goes
Racing toward the tallest tree
From far across the yellow field I hear him calling, "follow me" there we go
Wondering how the world might look from up so high"

  • Track 8: "august"

Donna Sheridan (Mamma Mia!)

There's always that girl we're supposed to hate, but end up loving instead. She's the "other woman" perse, but how could she know her partner was never hers to begin with? When young Sam travels to Kalokairi, Donna becomes the girl in that narrative. Not knowing Sam was already engaged to another woman across the sea, Donna falls for him, getting her heart broken in the end.

August

"Back when we were still changing for the better
Wanting was enough
For me, it was enough
To live for the hope of it all
Cancel plans just in case you'd call
And say "Meet me behind the mall"
So much for summer love, and saying "Us"
'Cause you weren't mine to lose"

The Winner Takes It All

"But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say
Rules must be obeyed"

  • Track 9: "this is me trying"

Liz/Beth (If/Then)

Freshly 40, divorced, and back in New York City - Elizabeth Vaughn is having a hard time navigating her life. After losing the surprise new love brought to her, Liz is at a standstill. Just like "this is me trying" describes, she doesn't truly know where to go from the present. Choosing to spend each day starting over, the word "trying" becomes tattooed on her sleeve.

this is me trying

"I've been having a hard time adjusting
I had the shiniest wheels, now they're rusting
I didn't know if you'd care if I came back
I have a lot of regrets about that
Pulled the car off the road to the lookout
Could've followed my fears all the way down
And maybe I don't quite know what to say
But I'm here in your doorway"

Always Starting Over

"Am I always starting over?
In a brand new story
Am I always back at one
After all I've done?
'Cause I've burned all of my bridges
And learned every last lesson too
So how can I start new?"

  • Track 10: "illicit affairs"

Maria Reynolds (Hamilton)

Remember that love triangle we talked about eight songs ago? For Taylor, it continues with "august". But, for me, it continues with "illicit affairs". Both of these songs display the sides of all parties involved in an affair. Maria Reynolds, the mistress and one of Hamilton's antagonists, deserved to sing the bridge of this song to Alexander. After discovering his wife's affair, Maria's husband blackmails Hamilton for money. This sends all involved into a tailspin, resulting in Hamilton taking his fury out on Maria.

illicit affairs

"And you wanna scream
Don't call me kid
Don't call me baby
Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me
You showed me colors you know
I can't see with anyone else"

Say No To This

"[She said],
No, sir
Please don't go, sir
I don't know about any letter
I didn't know any better
Please don't leave me with him helpless
Just give him what he wants and you can have me"

  • Track 11: "invisible string"

Roger Davis (Rent)

Roger is a character that likes to think he has control over fate. After his girlfriend dies, he closes his heart off to everyone, including the new girl that stumbles into his apartment one night asking him to light her candle. Roger can't help but fall in love with Mimi, despite both of their pasts, he knows he is meant to be with her in the end.

invisible string

"Something wrapped all of my past mistakes in barbed wire
Chains around my demons, wool to brave the seasons
One single thread of gold tied me to you"

Your Eyes

"When I looked into your eyes
Why does distance make us wise?
You were the song all along"

  • Track 12: "mad woman"

Carrie White (Carrie)

While Broadway has many mad women to choose from, one fuming lady took the crown. Carrie White from Carrie has every right to be mad. At her high school, she's "Scary White", taunted and bullied each day without fail. After being doused in pig blood, something in her finally snaps. Now, she's unhinged and on the hunt for revenge. I mean, who can blame her?

mad woman

"And there's nothin' like a mad woman
What a shame she went mad
No one likes a mad woman
You made her like that
And you'll poke that bear 'til her claws come out"

The Destruction

"They'll make fun of you
They will break your heart
Then they'll laugh at you watching you fall apart
Doesn't anybody ever get it right?
Doesn't anybody think that I hear?"

  • Track 13: "epiphany"

Marius Pontmercy (Les Misérables)

The thirteenth track on Taylor's folklore finds the words for what many can never mutter aloud. epiphany reminiscences on a world where wars and pandemics have made their home. As a result of such events, there is a silent understanding of shared trauma, but sometimes those affected happen to stumble upon the words. Marius Pontmercy, one of the only survivors of a bloody battle in which his friends sacrificed their lives for nothing, sings of a tomorrow that never came.

epiphany

"Crawling up the beaches now
Sir, I think he's bleedin' out
And some things you just can't speak about"

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

"There's a grief that can't be spoken,
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Now my friends are dead and gone."

  • Track 14: "betty"

Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton)

Ending my comparison of the Hamilton love triangle to parallel the folklore love triangle, "betty" is the one song from a male perspective. Alexander Hamilton is the James in this narrative, the foolish boy who ruins a perfectly good relationship with cheating and desperately tries to glue it back together.

betty

"I was walking home on broken cobblestones
Just thinking of you when she pulled up
Like a figment of my worst intentions
She said "James, get in, let's drive"
Those days turned into nights
Slept next to her but
I dreamt of you all summer long"

Say No To This

"I hadn't slept in a week
I was weak, I was awake
You've never seen a bastard orphan more in need of a break
Longing for Angelica
Missing my wife
That's when Miss Maria Reynolds walked into my life"

  • Track 15: "peace"

Benny (In The Heights)

Centered around the intimidating question, "am I enough?", "peace" encapsulates the feeling of doubting yourself in a relationship. Benny from In The Heights adores Nina, but knows that her parents don't feel the same way about him. He spends his time wondering if his love for Nina is enough to overpower the obstacles that threaten their relationship together.

peace

"All these people think love's for show
But I would die for you in secret
The devil's in the details
But you got a friend in me
Would it be enough
If I could never give you peace?"

Sunrise

"I don't know
What to do
Now that I've found you
What will he say?
When he sees me around you?
So how do you say help me?
And how do you say promise me?
Promise me you'll stay beyond the sunrise
I don't care at all what people say beyond the sunrise"

  • Track 16: "hoax"

Lola (Kinky Boots)

From a young age, Lola wanted to be a star. She quickly realized the realities of that dream, being beaten down by her father and those who didn't understand the path she chose. Despite trials and tribulations, she chose to never lose her sparkle, even when it meant sacrificing so much along the way.

hoax

"You knew it still hurts underneath my scars
From when they pulled me apart
But what you did was just as dark
Darling, this was just as hard
As when they pulled me apart"

Hold Me in Your Heart

"Well you took my hand, taught me how to be strong
That's where I picked up when we went all wrong
I know that I hurt you, and you hurt me too
But you mean more to me, I must mean more to you"

  • Track 17: "the lakes"

Jack Kelly (Newsies)

From the beginning of the show, Newsies' Jack Kelly dreams of a different life. The New York City streets have taken a toll on him, and he dreams of a new place to escape to. While Jack dreams of a private life in Santa Fe and Taylor Swift dreams of a private life in England, they both can agree that there comes a time to retire from their big city ways.

the lakes

"Take me to the lakes, where all the poets went to die
I don't belong, and my beloved, neither do you
Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry
I'm settin' off, but not without my muse"

Santa Fe (Prologue)

"You keep your small life in the big city. Give me a big life in a small town
They say folks is dyin' to get here
Me, I'm dyin' to get away
To a little town out west
That's spankin' new
And while I ain't never been there
I can see it clear as day
If you want, I bet'cha you could see it, too"

Thank you, Taylor Swift's folklore for having a song that everyone can resonate to and find themselves within. Thank you, Show Tunes for putting the tales of our beloved Broadway characters into words. There's something so beautiful about that, how music is always the friend that sees and loves us no matter where we are or who we are.


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