Once in a while, a show will shake things up and do Something Completely Different. One way of doing that is by turning the show into a The Musical for an episode.
A Musical Episode is structured around the cast breaking into song (and possibly dance) throughout the episode. It might use an in-universe justification, such as a Battle of the Bands, some sort of weirdness, or a new character causingall this cheery singing. Alternately, it can play like a Broadway show where it's just taken for granted that some events will be dramatized through song and dance.
Opinions on a Musical Episode can differ wildly. Many will enjoy the up-beat, unexpected change of pace, while many will dis-like it for that very reason. Also, like any premise, the songs and choreography have to be good, or else you're doomed from the start.
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One episode of Kure-nai depicts the characters' attempts to rehearse a musical for a local festival, which eventually leads them to come up with their own material from scratch. It turns out that it is a ploy by Benika to keep Murasaki entertained - which by and far succeeds.
Kanamemo's fourth episode would be an amusing little story about the Fuhshin News employees attempting to get to the pool on its own, but the anime takes it a step further and adds song and dance numbers to the mix. No explanation is given for the singing.
If it helps, Kana is as confused as the rest of us.
One Piece: The TV Special Dance Carnival could be considered a dance episode (Dance special?). It starts on the aptly called Mirrorball Island. While trying to escape the Marines, Jango hypnotizes everyone to dance 'till they drop. Including the Straw Hats. Hilarity Issues.
The English dub of Duel Masters randomly has Shobu and Kokujo be forced to come up with an inspirational song before they can duel.
The ninth issue of Tomorrow Stories featured a Greyshirt musical, as in a literal stage production; Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset later established that the man himself took the title role at one showing. Critics are astounded at Greyshirt's singing and dancing, claiming that he could've been another Gene Kelly.
Spellsinger, the fifth book of Avalon: Web of Magic. A benefit concert and singing contest insert about three songs into the book...through just printing the lyrics in the text. Some of the songs were Defictionalized and released on CD to promote the book.
The Dragonriders of Pern novels Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and (to a lesser extent) Dragondrums, by Anne McCaffrey all are about harpers, so it's justified that she presents the lyrics to many of their songs. (This happens to a lesser extent in her previous Pern books too.)
Xena: Warrior Princess had two, actually. The funny one that parodied the "battle of the bands" type trope, and the (in some ways) more serious "Bitter Suite" episode.
That's So Raven did one in which Raven discovers that a talent scout is visiting her school, and thus everyone is breaking into song to impress the scout, whom they all mistakenly believe is the janitor.
Even Stevens did an episode titled Influenza in which Ren has a fever induced dream in which the whole school would randomly burst into song, and Ren herself had to sing a song in the climax.
Scrubs did a musical episode (from the musicians of Avenue Q) based on the premise that a patient had an aneurysm that was making her hear singing when people talked. All the musical sequences were from her point of view, and after she goes into surgery, the music stops.
X-Play, a video game review show, did a surprisingly not horrible musical episode.
Eli Stone has musical numbers in most of its episodes.
Malcolm in the Middle had an episode in which Dewey turns his parents fight into an opera. The episode is appropriately entitled "Dewey's Opera".
Lexx had its musical episode in Brigadoom. In it the crew of Lexx encounters a mysterious theater floating in space and ends up performing Kai's backstory on stage. Of particular interest is the use of theater-grade special effects, so that a fleet of spaceships is represented by people waving miniatures on poles instead of the show's usual computer-generated effects.
Actually, as the behind-the-scenes DVD material shows, some of the show's VFX were produced cheaply by manipulating miniatures on poles in front of a green screen, so the play version might be more of a self-referential parody.
That '70s Show's 100th episode was a musical called, quite predictably, That '70s Musical, only instead of singing songs written specially for the show, the characters sang some of the most famous seventies' songs, as well as The Turtles' "Happy Together" from the sixties. The singing scenes take place in Fez's imagination.
Grey's Anatomy had one. Similarly to the Scrubs example, it was from the point of view of a patient; though the patient was one of the doctors in the main cast. She is played by Sara Ramirez, an actress/singer who was in Monty Python's Spamalot. The episode wasn't very well recieved by fans.
Once in a while, in The Seventies, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood would invite an opera singer friend of Mr. Rogers named John Reardon, and the episode, entirely set in the Land of Make-Believe and featuring a lofty plot line, would resemble a musical or light opera, with all of the characters singing their lines.
The Kamen Rider Faiz Hyper Battle Video, where the characters suddenly break out into song and dance for no apparent reason as part of Smart Brain's latest plot. They lampshade the fact that they're singing, and in the end Takumi ends up defeating the Orphenocs with a sonic blast from a radio which was causing the whole thing. And then Takumi wakes up.
Chicago Hope had the fourth-season episode "Brain Salad Surgery". Dr. Aaron Shutt suffered a brain aneurysm that caused him to hallucinate the rest of the hospital staff singing and dancing.
Good Times had two. One doubled as a Christmas Episode while the plot of the other was a talent show to raise money for a daycare center in their building.
Every episode of Glee. Justified because it IS show choir.
Ally McBeal had one at the end of season 3. Randy Newman wrote part of the music for this.
Oz has one of sorts. Series 5, episode 3 'Variety' has a central theme about variety shows and each of the narrator segments, usually occupied by Hill's musings about the theme is instead one of the characters singing in various different musical styles.
Every episode of Cop Rock; justified what with it being, you know, a musical.
Smash; see above, plus it's set in the world of musical theatre.
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil has a metal musical episode every season and straddles the line between playing it straight and justifying it. "The Phantom of Crowley High" had one inexplicable love song alongside an actual musical in the school. "2 Girls, 1 Tongue" justifies the singing as a side-effect of one of the Book's spells, but the cast does an unplanned number after the spell ends. Both feature a girl who hates musicals.
Mega64! (Also the 2011 commentary for "Summer Semester".)
Raising Hope. The episode about Burt turning out to be Jewish.
Many episodes of Sesame Street featuring a number of original songs. One notable example is "Music Magic" from 2010, where the story is told mostly through song as a result of a magic spell gone wrong by Elmo.
Episode three of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama "Doctor Who and the Pirates". As the story is being told through the framing device of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn telling the story to one of Evelyn's students, it already contains a bit of storytelling silliness (Evelyn doesn't remember all the pirates' names, so she makes up obviously fake ones for the less-important characters), but when the Doctor takes his turn at telling the story, he decides, for Large Ham reasons, to deliver it in the form of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. You could say that he's the very model of a Gallifreyan buccaneer.
As far as Cliff Hangers go, this one is one of the most interesting:
Every single Live Event in AdventureQuest Worlds has been a musical episode. Especially Friday the 13th, when Voltaire performs. Alternatively, a story is written based only on a certain singer's work.
Fans!! did this — complete with fully-voiced MP3s linked beneath the panels — mostly as a homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Again, there is Character Development as the cast is forced to sing their hearts out; in contrast to the generally painful revelations in Buffy, however, this mostly helps restore the characters' spirits, reminding them why they do what they do. The arc's title, "Makin' 'Em Sing", hints at the fact that the entire thing was orchestrated by people eager to learn what the cast have been hiding recently.
Last Exile Abridged gives us this beauty, which is not terribly surprising given that Unwardil is a musician. She Who Must Be Obeyed later makes him summarize the episodes properly.
Princess Tutu Abridged did this for Episode 12. Everyone was going out of their vocal range and/or having trouble with character voices and still manages to be enjoyable. Particularly a song about the famed reveal and ensuing results.
The Twilight Chronicles: "The Premonition" is considered a musical episode; however, only one musical number ("All Out of Love") is featured. Spenser Doherty's song "Cup of Coffee" was overdubbed with the real song due to his off-key singing and Gen Borg just danced to her song.
Except for possibly a few sentences, the entire episode "See Me Feel Me Gnomey" of The Powerpuff Girls is completely in song.
Which in this case makes it a Rock Opera. In fact, the title of the episode is a reference to The Who's Tommy.
Same with the Evil Con Carne episode "The Pie Who Loved Me" (though it was a significantly shorter episode)
Same with The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Little Rock of Horrors", which incidentally aired together with the above Evil Con Carne episode. It features a very catchy swing-type tune sung by a brain eating alien.
Rocko writers Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh noted that with every episode they wrote (including the above "Zanzibar") they tried to work in a musical number, even when there didn't need to be one. Guess what they ended up creating later.
Codename: Kids Next Door did two musical episodes: F.O.O.D.F.I.T.E. (A heavy metal opera) and L.O.V.E. (A West Side Story-ish musical).
Pepper Ann had one. Pepper Ann was auditioning for a musical at school, fell off the stage, and blacked out; when she came to her life was a musical. It turned out to be a dream when she came to for real.
Arthur did a music video episode: just a series of musical numbers performed by the cast. It goes on about how wonderful libraries are. The songs range from the slightly embarrassing pseudo-rap "Library Card" to Brain's Crowning Moment of Awesome...
Kim Possible's "Rappin' Drakken" comes close to being a musical episode.
Danny Phantom includes an episode told mostly in rhymes, like a Dr. Seuss story.
Ruby Gloom did an hour-long episode called "Hair(less): The Musical".
The Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister" is notable for having somewhat of an in-story justification: the story is about a villain with a hypnotic voice controlling the world through music. Probably the show's most audacious use of Refuge in Audacity.
Although that doesn't explain Black Canary (and later, Green Arrow), breaking out into song on their own. Maybe they're just musical theatre fans.
I remember seeing one theory of some sort that the Music Meister's singing had a sub-conscious effect on people afterwards that would make them sing
"Rollercoaster: The Musical" is a full musical episode based off the plot of the first episode, where most of the catch-phrases and running gags get their own songs.
The movie "Across The Second Dimension" would probably also qualify, with eight songs, not counting the deleted one ("Mysterious Force").
Rugrats had an episode where the rest of the babies try to teach Dil to appreciate music. To do so, they sing their own renditions (complete with reworked lyrics) of classic songs such as "Bicycle Built For Two," "You Make Me Love You," and "Pack Up Your Troubles."
In one episode of Animalia a core spore blows and all the animals start singing everything they say.
In one episode of Curious George called "Sock Opera Monkey", George does a puppet show of the opera Hansel and Gretel to a recording of the music. In another, "Go West, Young Monkey", although he doesn't sing, several other characters do. (Most of this is a dream sequence.)
My Gym Partner's a Monkey has a rather unique variation known as "Animal School Musical". The episode is justified in-universe as the result of a magic wish gone wrong and the characters are literally forced to sing whenever the universe finds it appropriate.
The Popeye cartoon "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" has almost all the music and words played to the tune of the song.