As much as we love to see our favorite characters happy, there is something in sad moments in movies or plays that touch us as well. It’s called empathy. No, we have never been in front of a wizard begging him to help us get home to our family while he just laughs and jeers. We can relate to how frightening that situation would be for any of us, especially a little girl.
These sad moments of disappointment – or sometimes death – enable us to put ourselves into the shoes of the character and experience their pain for just a moment. We listen to them sing and cry, and we cry along with them. And we enjoy it. Why? Because we are human and that’s what we do.
That is why this blog is dedicated to some of the saddest moments in musicals.
1. When Miss Gulch took Toto away.
We can’t remember the first time we saw this scene, and odds are that we were all small children, but we have no doubt that this could make some out there cry. Whether or not you shed tears at this part of the movie doesn’t matter, we can all agree that taking a little girl’s dog away is pretty sad. Miss Gulch doesn’t care though, and she pops that little dog into her unlocked basket.
Still, if we can shoot back somehow, to when you first saw The Wizard of Oz, and remember not knowing that he would escape, we may be able to remember the sadness we felt. Either way, the idea behind it is heartbreaking.
Yet, the saddest thing about this is Miss Gulch’s need to hurt a young girl from such a poor family.
2. When Tony dies in Maria’s arms.
This next example takes the last idea of sad and amps it up greatly. Considered to be one of the saddest moments in musicals’ history, this tale, in its entirety, is devastating. Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story‘s Maria and Tony are not from opposing families like the Bard’s plot – they are related to members of rival gangs in New York.
(Sidenote: have you been following the latest regarding Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story? We’re very excited about it! If you haven’t heard about any of this, catch up here.)
The couple meets for the first time at a dance, and it is love at first sight, which is the oxymoron of sad, but this story only lifts us up to let us down like a sack of stones. Since they are related to opposing gangs, their love is forbidden. They plan to escape but contention has a way of seeping in, and Tony kills Maria’s brother for killing his best friend.
Just when you think Maria would hate him forever, she doesn’t and their love is safe. Tony, on the other hand, is in serious trouble, as you see at the end, when Chino, comes out and avenges the death of Bernardo, Maria’s brother. Maria holds her love as he dies from a gunshot wound. It’s difficult to beat that level of sadness. Until…
3. When Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream.”
There is no other character in musical history, that we know of, that is more devastating or sadder than the storyline of Fantine in Les Misérables. When she sings this song right after prostituting herself and laments about how badly her life has turned out, for us, the tears start to fall in buckets. All Fantine’s problems and afflictions were thrust upon her, which makes it all the sadder.
She was left pregnant by the father of her child and was forced to put her up in a “foster” home while she paid them to keep her. Fantine slaved in Jean Valjean’s factory with women who hated her and reveal that she was an unwed mother. For that offense, she loses her job. Yet she needs to make money so the family will keep her daughter Cosette, who, by the way, is being treated without hostility.
Fantine sells her hair. And her teeth. She finally has no other mean to make a living other than lying down for money. It is at this moment when she begins to sing about how she once dreams about a life worth living and how life itself killed the dream she “once dreamed” that leaves even the most heartless viewer sobbing. Gladly, all turns out well for her child, but Fantine’s story is sad from beginning to end.
Les Misérables is one of the musical we’ve listed in our political musicals article. Tab your next read here.
4. When the Captain tells the Baroness he is in love with Maria.
Of course, the threat of Nazi oppression is the underlying sadness in this musical, yet, that, to us, is more frightening than sad. The sad part in The Sound of Music was when the Baroness, who was pretty decent, other than that whole boarding school thing, lost the love of her life. Sure, she wasn’t as warm or childlike as Maria but she was kind and she adored her boyfriend.
The Baroness dreamed a dream too. She wished of having this handsome man in her home with his children far away and out of her hair. Unfortunately for the Baroness, Maria came along and stole not only the children’s hearts but their father’s as well. We give her kudos for trying to scare the young Maria back to being a nun but the Baroness, nor anyone else, can fight true love.
With the class of a million royals, the Baroness bows out gracefully when the Captain breaks the bad news. And sure, we are very happy for the Captain and Maria, who we like more than the Baroness anyway. Still, it is a touch sad that she leaves with her heart broken.
5. When Frank N. Furter kills Eddie.
Our last sad moment also deals with death: the death of Columbia’s love in The Rocky Horror Show. If you don’t remember her, she was the gal with the short red hair who fell into a frenzy when Furter murders the biker.
Frank uses half of Eddie’s brain for his creation, Rocky, and then seals him up in a vault, which he eventually escapes during Frank’s party. Frank N. Furter is a drama queen and can’t handle when anyone gets more attention than he does. So, because Columbia and everyone else loved Eddie so much, Furter decided it was best to kill him.
This act is what finally sends the other Transylvanians into mutiny mode and incites their murder of Frank N. Furter. Brad and Janet escape, and “good” wins over “evil” yet again. Everyone at the end of this musical is happy about the outcome. Everyone except Columbia, of course.
This musical is basically a comedy and a lone sad moment in the middle of the show doesn’t come off as tragic as, say, Fantine’s story. However, losing a loved one is tough and watching Columbia cry over Eddie’s death, in the middle of all the cool songs and funny lines, is truly sad.
In your opinion, what is the saddest moment in musicals? Which sad moment in musical theater is your favorite (if that makes any sense)? Let us know in the comments section below!