Minor Character, Major Song
A minor character in a musical or opera, who only gets one song, but that one song is really, really memorable. When the musical is discussed, he's the one who makes people say, "And what about that one guy who sang..." Sometimes this is a result of Adaptation Distillation
that removes the character's part from other songs (or removes the other songs entirely).
Compare One-Scene Wonder
- 1776: See the theatre section.
- Eddie the (Ex-)Delivery Boy from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He shows up, sings one of the most memorable songs in the movie, and is promptly murdered with a pickaxe. He has one later song (titled "Eddie", in fact), but this verse is a voiceover intended to represent other characters reading a letter he wrote.
- Amos Hart, singing "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago. John C. Reilly's performance of this one song earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
- Likewise, Queen Latifah's one song ("When You're Good to Mama") in the same film. Her character was bigger than Reilly's, however.
- Elton John's "Pinball Wizard" and Tina Turner's "Acid Queen" from Tommy.
- The Don in the "Il Muto" scene in The Phantom of the Opera.
- Julie Brown in Earth Girls Are Easy with "Cause I'm a Blonde".
- The dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. One of those resultant from Adaptation Distillation, as in the stage musical he sang in two other songs (the same ACTOR also sang in a multitude of other songs, And You Were There-style).
- Absolute Beginners has two cases of this, owing to the stature of the performers playing the roles. Vendice is just one of several antagonists in on an evil scheme, but since he's played by David Bowie he gets the Bowie-penned song "That's Motivation" and a Disney Acid Sequence to go with it. Between that, writing/singing the Title Theme Tune for the film's credits, and simply being the biggest name in the cast, Bowie was billed third! (As a bonus, while his character only sings a snatch of the old standard "Volare" in one scene, the soundtrack album includes a full performance of it.) Another minor character, Arthur (the hero's dad), gets the big number "Quiet Life" — he's played by Ray Davies of The Kinks.
- King Gator, who does the so-called Big Lipped Alligator Moment in All Dogs Go to Heaven.
- In The Rundown Ewen Bremen got his own major song that began the film's Crowning Momentof Awesome when he was playing his bagpipes towards the end.
- Afterglow from Bran Nue Dae, sung by the resident hippy of the film, Annie.
- Phantom of the Paradise: The Juicy Fruits/ Beach Bums/ Undeads are rarely on screen, and only one of them has a speaking part, but they sing three of the major songs, "Goodbye, Eddie. Goodbye", "Upholstery" and "Somebody Super Like You", which was released as a single.
- The guy in Singin' in the Rain who sings "Beautiful Girls" isn't even credited. (His name is Jimmy Thompson.)
- In the same movie, Cyd Charise is a minor character with a major dance number.
- Richard Henry Lee, who carries some great big wonderful slabs of roast pork while he's singing "The Lees of Old Virginia." As the next song occurs thirty minutes later, the writers made this number as big and bombastic as possible to carry the audience through. Ron Holgate, the original Lee, even got a Tony despite the fact that his character appears in all of two scenes and disappears before the second act.
- Also the Courier, who exists mainly to walk in with a dispatch from Washington and leave. Near the middle of the play he sings "Momma, Look Sharp," an absolutely gutwrenching song about the death of his friend at Lexington and Concord.
- Fleet, the ship's lookout at the time of the iceberg striking the Titanic gets "No Moon" in Titanic.
- "Miss Marmelstein" from I Can Get It For You Wholesale. This minor piece helped kickstart the career of Barbra Streisand.
- King Herod ("King Herod's Song") and Simon ("Simon Zealotes") from Jesus Christ Superstar.
- The Foreign Woman, from Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Consul. To be fair, she is onstage for more than the one aria she sings, but that aria is her only real point of significance.
- The Steersman from Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" might qualify.
- Nimue, from Camelot, who sings "Follow Me."
- Steve, from Paint Your Wagon, who sings "They Call The Wind Maria."
- The Young Confederate Soldier from Parade.
- In Hamilton, King George III has nothing to do plot-wise, but he does get to sing three major songs (all to the same tune).
- The girl who sings "Somewhere" in West Side Story.
- Depending on the staging, this is usually sung by someone offstage or by Tony and Maria as a duet. The "someone offstage" makes it not just a minor character but a non-character, and the Tony and Maria version ... well, they're the leads.
- In the recent revival and national tour, the song was sung by the actress who plays Anybodys, in costume as Anybodys, but presumably not in character as Anybodys because it isn't in character. It would still qualify, as Anybodys is a minor character.
- Gigi from Miss Saigon.
- The Street Singer from The Threepenny Opera, who sings "Mack the Knife."
- The Proprietor from Assassins. He sings "Everybody's Got the Right" at the beginning of the show. Though he does show up at various points, as a background character, an announcer, or even the President of the United States. And in some productions, he does sing part of "Another National Anthem."
- Parpignol from La Bohème, who sings about two lines.
- The lover from Evita, who sings "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" and is quickly dismissed. In the film version, Evita herself sings it because, y'know... Madonna.
- Pirelli in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- Kiss Me Kate: Those Two Bad Guys who sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
- Catch Me If You Can: "Fly, Fly Away", sung by Brenda Strong, Frank Abagnale Jr's love interest. The fact that this is just a major song is the understatement of the year, because this song is pretty much the hit of the show.
- Joe in Show Boat. It helps that he has one of the best Broadway songs ever written, "Ol' Man River."
- The Piragua guy in In the Heights. He gets a reprise too.
- Petra of A Little Night Music with "The Miller's Son." She does have a relatively small part in the "A Weekend In The Country" musical sequence, but she is the only non-central character to get a song all to herself which ends up having little to no bearing on the plot.
- Martha from Spring Awakening is a minor character whose only major song is "The Dark I Know Well," a duet with Ilse about their physically and sexually Abusive Parents. The actresses frequently get thanked by fans who were also abuse victims.
- Pan in Bat Boy The Musical qualifies with "Children Children". He shows up randomly and sings a song that is memorable for not fitting in with any of the rest of the show; particularly due to a bunch of animals that proceed to have an 'interspecies orgy' during said song. He is also never named.
- Vanderdendur in the Final Revised Version of Candide is only in one scene (and is mentioned as having been killed, off-stage, in another), and yet he gets the show's big spectacular Villain Song. Averted in earlier versions of the show, where the Governor gets to sing it.
- Helen Chao from Flower Drum Song has "Love, Look Away."
- Pippin's grandmother Berthe is in only one scene, but in that scene she sings "No Time At All", an extremely catchy tune she turns into an Audience Participation Song.
- The Book of Mormon uses Mafala Hatimbi to introduce the missionaries (and the audience) to Uganda and their philosophy of life through the song "Hasa Diga Eebowai" which ends up meaning "Fuck you, God". The rest of the show then shifts its focus to Mafala's daughter, Nabulungi, and he becomes a background character.
- Company has Marta and Another Hundred People. She and Joanne are the only characters aside from Bobby that get songs entirely to themselves, and she is significantly less important to the plot (such as it is) than Joanne. The song was included to showcase Pamela Myers in the original production.
- Man of La Mancha has one of its most beautiful songs, "To Each His Dulcinea", sung by a priest who has no other lines; he's presented as a mute inmate of an insane asylum during the Show Within a Show portions.
- In Girl Crazy, Kate Fothergill, aside from three songs tailored for Ethel Merman's prodigious voice, adds little more to the show than comic banter. One of those three songs is "I Got Rhythm."
- In Allegro, Beulah, Joe's friend's girlfriend's friend who has a tryst with him in one scene and never appears again, gets to sing one of the score's most appealing tunes, "So Far."
- In Carousel, Nettie Fowler, a secondary character with no real involvement in the plot, takes the lead in singing "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."
- Follies has many old-fashioned showtunes sung by minor characters who do very little else outside their one number. "Beautiful Girls" (Roscoe) and "Who's That Woman?" (Stella) are ostentatious production numbers, but "I'm Still Here" (Carlotta) may be more of a fan favorite.
- Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls, who gets one of the greatest Eleven O'Clock Numbers in theatre - "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat".
- Li'l Abner assigns Marryin' Sam singing duties out of proportion to his part in the plot, including the incredibly catchy "Jubilation T. Cornpone." (With both this and the previous example, when the play was adapted into a film, Stubby Kaye got this as his moment to shine, and seized it with both hands.)
- Porgy and Bess all but begins with Clara singing "Summertime" to her baby. Despite being the first character to appear, even her dramatic exit at the end of the second act (and the chorus mourning her at the start of the third) doesn't elevate her role to much importance.
- The Wolf in Into the Woods sings most of "Hello, Little Girl", a song about how he hungers for Little Red Riding Hood.
- "Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed" from Street Scene, a highly catchy song-and-jitterbug number, is sung by a drunken young couple who make only one other very brief appearance.