"We've gotta have a great show, with a million laughs... and color... and a lot of lights to make it sparkle! And songs - wonderful songs! And after we get the people in that hall, we've gotta start em in laughing right away! Oh, can't you just see it... ?"
So the orphanage is in trouble
. Big, costly trouble. How are those orphans going to raise all that money? It's simple: put on a show! We'll use the modest singing talents of the secretary corps, and we can put a stage in that old barn out back, and surely it won't be too hard to rig up a spotlight or two...
This trope was made popular by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in the 1930s, but saving the unfortunate through musical theater is a surprisingly resilient Stock Plot. It can even work when there's no orphanage to save, as Taxi
demonstrated by giving a whole show, in which the main cast performed song and dance numbers.
This trope causes no end
of frustration for those who work in theater, especially when they have to explain just how long it takes and how much it costs to "just put on a show."
Anime and Manga
- Ciel and crew from Black Butler hire some actors to put on a play for a bunch of orphans (for publicity rather than money, they already have plenty of that). When the actors get delayed, guess who has to fill in the cast...
- In the Jimmy Olsen story "The Boy Olympics", Jimmy is bothered by how it will affect the staff if a rival newspaper folds and comes up with the idea of a show to raise money.
- Babes In Arms, with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, of course. And it's hardly the only one they did.
- In fact, one of the That's Entertainment! films did a Fully Automatic Clip Show where Rooney's characters from his films suggested they put on a show.
- The The Blues Brothers put on a show to get money to save the Catholic orphanage. However, they were already a successful and good band before the orphanage needed saving, were forced to blackmail their manager to actually get a gig on such short notice, and let's not even get into how much trouble Putting the Band Back Together was...
- A form of...er...show is the one that forms the end of The Full Monty...
- Kevin Smith deals with this trope with his typical taste and refinement in Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
- In Hamlet 2 the titular play is put on to save the drama class from budget cuts.
- In Be Kind Rewind, two video store clerks make short parody movies, first to cover up for their destruction of the store's tapes, but then in an effort to save the store from demolition. Eventually the whole neighborhood joins in on making one final video.
- The main plot of the Hannah Montana movie.
- The Young Ones, the 1961 Cliff Richard movie, had exactly this plot, except they were trying to save a youth club.
- White Christmas was like this, but for their old Army commander's ski lodge.
- This forms the basis for It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppets. Sure, they had two TV shows about putting on a show, but in these films they're doing it to save the theater.
- In Madagascar 3, it's a case of "Let's put on a better show" to save the circus and boy, do they ever!
- The Little Rascals did it all the time.
- Shakespeare in Love at some points seems to invoke this trope as a Whole Plot Reference to the above-mentioned Mickey Rooney / Judy Garland musicals. Notably in one scene where Shakespeare's production of Romeo and Juliet seems doomed(the Master of the Revels orders the Rose Theater closed for casting a woman in the lead role), and a surprise benefactor saves the play(Richard Burbage offers the use of his Curtain Theater) for the stated reason that The Show Must Go On.
- The Anne of Avonlea miniseries.
- Played with in the Hive Series. Before the first book starts, St. Sebastian's orphanage is falling apart, putting it at risk of being shut down due to no longer being safe. Otto makes up a fake television reality series called Please, Think of the Children and convinces local contractors to lend a hand in fixing the orphanage for free, with the promise of them making it on television. Obviously, they don't.
- Parodied in the Scrubs episode "My Life in Four Cameras", in which JD treats a former writer of the sitcom Cheers and imagines what life would be like as a sitcom. One subplot had Dr. Cox try to keep Dr. Kelso from firing Nice Guy Kenny, the newest employee, since the hospital couldn't afford to keep him. There turns out to be a talent show and the prize money is the exact amount of money needed. Kenny (played by Clay Aiken) is a talented singer and wins the talent show. In the real world, Kenny just got fired.
- The Brady Bunch did this more than once, including the episode in which the family stages "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" in the backyard to raise money for a gift for a teacher.
- In One Day At A Time the cast saved their building and in following seasons put on a show as a charitable gesture meant to entertain the people at the local Senior Citizens' center every New Year's Eve.
- This was a popular trope in the Land of Norman Lear. Good Times and Maude did similar charity amateur-hour episodes.
- Are You Being Served? did this quite a few times, usually for Mr. Grace's birthday.
- In later seasons they seemed to happen more often, seemingly as an excuse to get Mrs Slocombe and Mr Humphries into ridiculous outfits and flamboyant dresses, even if it made no sense in context of the show.
- The Drew Carey Show did an epsiode that parodied The Full Monty where the boys decide to put on a strip show in order to raise money to replace a pedigree dog they accidentally had neutered.
- Benefit shows in general would fit under this trope. Specifically, not as much the planned "global relief" concerts such as Live Aid or Farm Aid, but the usually smaller shows bands perform to get fast money for something (jailed/sued/evicted/etc friends needing bail/lawyers, the relatives of a late bandmate need money or a show done in memory of a late bandmate, someone sick needing money for medical bills, someone's gear got stolen or trashed, etc...).
- One of the possible plot examples given in Adeptus Evangelion is to put on a show, either a dance contest or an advert ...
- Babes in Arms. Note that, although it shares this trope with the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movie it inspired, it's got a completely different score, plot and set of characters.
- Parodied heavily in an article at The Onion, in which a ragtag bunch of kids band together to save their clubhouse by putting on an incredibly dark, sexual, angsty and incomprehensible avant-garde art play, including a "whore" squatting out filthy young and pre-teen boys nude with body-painted penises.
- The Battle for Barthis story arc in Dominic Deegan is mostly about putting on a concert to raise money for the ruined town.
- In the South Park episode "Chef Aid," the boys enlist several of Chef's famous musician friends to put on a concert and help raise money to cover his legal fees and hire Johnny Cochrane. They fail, but Cochrane is moved by their efforts and takes on the case pro bono.
- Futurama has an episode centered on this trope (trying to save Earth from the TV-addicted Omicronians); Fry even used the trope name directly. In a variation, the purpose of the show isn't to raise money, but to convince the Omicronians to spare the Earth by giving them a satisfactory finale to a sitcom.
- Done in Spongebob Squarepants, but they weren't trying to save anything. Mr. Krabs just wanted to earn even more money.
- Brak and his family put on a presentation of "Psychoklahoma" to save Seņor Science from the disastrous results of his latest science experiment. By the time they get the money together, he's managed to save himself. This is Seņor Science's SOP; every episode of his show-within-a-show ends with him desperately needing funds from the audience if he is ever to survive. Just send cash, check, or money order to...