Pre-prise YKTTW Discussion

A shortened version of a song occurs prior to the main song
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(permanent link) added: 2012-08-04 14:29:32 sponsor: Polarbear2217 (last reply: 2012-08-07 19:43:19)

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A reprise in a play is when a song is repeated at some point, usually in a shortened form. A pre-prise is when a shortened version of a song occurs before the main song. It may get confusing whether two songs with the same melody are pre-prise and main song or main song and reprise. The longer, more general version (as opposed to a song referring to a specific) is more likely to be the main song. Another way to differentiate between main song and pre-prise/reprise is that the main song will likely repeat the chorus and make the title more apparent.

A pre-prise can be instrumental or vocal, but it must take place within the story. Thus, overtures and entr'acts don't count.

There are several reasons for pre-prises.

It could make sense within the story. For example, if a song is a song In-Universe that the characters are performing, showing one of their rehearsal would be a justified use of a pre-prise of the song. When they actually perform the song in front of an In-Universe audience, then that is the main song.

It could make sense thematically. A situation arises earlier in the play that is similar to the situation that triggers the main song, and the director or someone else decides to put a pre-prise during that moment. Very often an instrumental pre-prise.

A more cynical theory as to why a certain play uses pre-prises is because the main song is Award Bait, and they want the song repeated as many times as possible. Maybe the song comes at the end of the play, and they want it to come earlier.

Can also be used in other media with audio.

Contrast Dark Reprise, Triumphant Reprise, Reprise Medley


  • Aspects of Love does this a lot, considering that almost every melody is used over and over. For example, in the first act when George and Alex are both trying to impress Rose (George by showing her his artwork and Alex by criticizing George, they sing to the tune of "She'd Be Far Better Off With You", which comes in the second act and has the opposite intention. (Both Alex and George try to convince each other that Rose would be better off with the other person.)

  • In Love Never Dies, Meg and the other Oo-La-La girls do a short rehearsal of "Bathing Beauty" in the first act before the show in the second act. Also, Gustave plays the title song on the piano and Christine hums it in the first act before she performs it in the second act.

  • In Sunset Boulevard, the title song plays during the car chase. Norma sings a short piece to the tune of the title song right before "With One Look".

  • In Whistle Down the Wind, Amos sings a few lines of "Wrestle With The Devil" in the first act before the full song in the second act.

  • In Jesus Christ Superstar, the crowd sings the chorus of "Superstar" during "Jesus Must Die" in the first act before the main song at the end. They also sing parts of "Hosanna" during "Jesus Must Die", although that song comes immediately after.

  • In By Jeeves, Wooster sings the first few lines of In-Universe song "Banjo Boy" with a frying pan instead of a banjo at the beginning of the play. The full "Banjo Boy" song with accompaniment comes at the end of the play. (Although the banjo he uses is broken.)

  • In Phantom of the Opera, there are a few lines of "Don Juan Triumphant" during the rehearsal. The longer version comes during the In-Universe opera performance.

  • Obviously, Andrew Lloyd Webber is a fan of the technique. "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" is preprised SO MANY times in Evita.

  • In The Last Five Years, the opening tune and the music Jamie and Cathy dance to is the melody of "I Could Never Rescue You", which is Jamie's last song.

  • Done forward and backward in Merrily We Roll Along, since all of Frank's in-universe music (which will eventually become "Good Thing Going") is based on "The Hills of Tomorrow", the song he wrote for his graduation, and later we hear earlier versions of the song. Also, a jazzy snatch of "Our Time" (the finale) is in "That Frank" (an opening number).

  • In Into the Woods,, the opening of "Stay With Me" is a minor key version of "Children Will Listen".

  • In Kiss of the Spider Woman, Aurora sings some phrases from the title song (the second to last song) in the Prologue.

  • In Sweeney Todd, the introduction to "Pretty Woman" uses the melody of the "Wigmaker Sequence"

  • Les MisÚrables, similar to Aspects of Love, reuses most of its melodies. Most notably, "Fantine's Death" in the first act is a musical match to "On My Own" in the second, which are the match to the finale. Similarly, while "Who Am I?" is a Valjean solo in its own right, it shares a melody with "One Day More", the Act One finale, and the opening bars to both are used in the earlier transition to "At The End of The Day".


  • In The Fellowship of the Ring, when Boromir speaks of Gondor at the Council of Elrond, there is a brief French horn solo of the main Gondor theme, which turns up in full orchestral form either in the extended cut of The Two Towers before becoming a dominant leitmotif of Return of the King.

  • In the film "Three Little Words" about the writing team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, the title song is pre-prised many times throughout as they spend years trying to find the right lyrics to go with the melody.

  • In Footloose, an instrumental version of "Almost Paradise" plays over Ren and Ariel's first kiss, though the actual song doesn't play until near the end.

Web Original

  • In the abridged series Friendship Is Witchcraft, there is often a brief instrumental pre-prise of a song which is sung later in the episode, such as "The Gypsy Bard" in episode seven.

Video Games

  • The radios in Portal play a jazzy, shortened version of Still Alive long before the song is played in the end credits.
    • Portal 2 also has several incidental pieces set to the melody of Cara Mia Addio , the "turret opera" in the finale. It can be found at least as early as the Companion Cube stage by waiting next to one.

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