"Can anyone here play the drums? I mean someone good!"Accidents happen. Sometimes, a catastrophe occurs during the production of a creative work that forces it to a halt - the writer quits, the union goes on strike, or an actor gets injured or suffers critical existence failure. In recorded works intended for later consumption, this can be remedied relatively easily - scenes can be rewritten or reshot, actors can be replaced, shooting can be put on hiatus. However, in live entertainment, the show must go on at all costs - unlike with a movie or a TV show, a live performance has an audience of potentially tens of thousands of people, who have all paid to be there, and are rightfully expecting to get their money's worth. This forces the characters into crazy improvisations, costume changes, awkward stealth to avoid further disrupting the show and any number of desperate things to keep the show going. It must also be remembered that for live entertainers, not only is it about making sure people get their money's worth or ensuring a production continues, performing is something they've dedicated their lives to. It's not something they do, it's who they are, and it's a point of professional pride that no matter what, the show must go on. Even for those who take a less high-minded view, they are professionals after all— meaning if the show doesn't go on, nobody gets their paycheck. Note that the full phrase is something like "the show must go on tonight" (i.e. whatever personal tragedy happens during the day, everyone must be in place and ready to perform when the curtain rises). Compare Throw It In!. See also All Part of the Show, Deadline News, Pushed in Front of the Audience. Not to be confused (although it often overlaps) with The Show Must Go Wrong. In the worst-case scenario this can also overlap with Fatal Method Acting— which, it's sometimes been remarked, is about the only acceptable excuse for missing your show.
— Pete Townshend, upon Keith Moon's passing out mid-concert
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Anime and Manga
- When Takako's dress is being ripped off in Otome Wa Boku Ni Koi Shiteru, Mizuho needs to improvise the way to cover her up, and ends up also kissing her.
- Macross examples:
- In Super Dimension Fortress Macross Minmay wanted to interrupt a concert due a sudden Zentraedi attack (that, unbeknownst to her, had actually boarded the ship), but Kaifun convinced her to continue to prevent the fans from panicking... And, she continued even when a group of battlepods showed up and stopped to listen to her concert (she did stop for a moment in shock when they appeared, but as soon as she saw they were just standing there she resumed singing). It wasn't until more combative Zentraedi endangered the public that she stopped her concert.
- In Macross Frontier, the stunt extra aerobatic team messes up at Sheryl Nome's concert, causing Alto to knock Sheryl off her several story high stage. Alto manages to recover and catch her, saving her from a fatal fall. Her reaction? Annoyance, and she tells him to get flying and make it look good while she continues singing, because the show must go on.
- Later in the same concert, an air raid siren sounds ushering everyone to the nearest shelter. Sheryl's reaction: "But I'm not finished singing yet!" The trope is subverted, as Cathy drags her off stage.
- In one episode of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, there was a play called "The Mermaid Princess", which is based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid", took place in the school. Despite Lucia's clumsiness, and a (real) attack from the water demons, the show continued thanks to Rina's quick wit in ad libs. Since part of the ad lib involved the main trio transforming and making a performance (driving away the water demons), the rest of the play had to be improvised.
- Thanks to this trope, in the Slayers universe it is assumed that anything that occurs on stage while a play is being performed is part of the play. That includes spontaneous script rewrites, duels with real swords, and massive explosions. Lina and Co. got an award for their ad-libbed play (which, while completely nonsensical, was much more entertaining than the original story they intended to perform).
- In the Ace Attorney manga, during Turnabout Showtime, after Flip Chambers, who plays Twinklestar in the Sparklestar show for Sparkle Land, is stabbed inside his costume, he comes out on stage as scheduled before collapsing and dying. Toward the end of the trial, Phoenix speculates that "Maybe he thought the show must go on. Or maybe he was asking for help."
- Similar to the Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch example, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 had an incident early on. Urara is chosen to be the MC for a kid's play, but it turns out that the actress playing the rabbit fell ill. Nozomi, not wanting her friend's big day ruined, takes up the role of the rabbit... despite Rin pointing out that she was banned from the Drama Club after only 3 days in. Despite this, they go with it and things start out alright... only for Girinma to arrive and summon the Monster of the Week. The girls are able to blind most everyone to transform and the audience is treated to a Pretty Cure fight... which is a big hit with the crowds. When Urara's manager approaches Urara once more and wants the same thing to happen, the poor girl's left in a bind, while her friends tell the audience their answer.
Nozomi, Rin, Komachi and Karen: Not going to happen.
- It's SprouT's first live concert in The iDOLM@STER 2: The World Is All One!!, and halfway through the lights all go out. The girl's begin to panic but Azusa of fellow idol unit Ryuuguu Komachi immediately begins singing by herself to calm the audience down, followed by the rest of her unit putting on an improved show until everything can get fixed.
- In SD Gundam Force, this is the reason why the Zako Zako Hour is being held even though the Gundamusai is being pulled into a crack in the Minov Boundary Sea. The lead host even names this trope.
- This trope is pretty much Rise's motivational speech when preparing for the concert in Persona 4 Golden: The Animation when she says that a real pro will always arrive to perform, no matter what. And, even though she ends up arriving late to the show, Marie takes her words to heart and sings vocals until Rise makes it and they sing together.
- The Emperor's New Clothes: What's the Emperor to do when it's revealed his marvelous new clothes don't really exist and he's naked? Pretend not to have heard the complaint, hold himself up stiffer and straighter than ever, and continue with the procession, that's what.
- The Marx Brothers A Night at the Opera where the brothers throw an opera into total chaos and the theatre crew and police still bend over backwards to avoid disrupting the show themselves, even when things are bad enough that logically they might as well simply and openly march out on stage to grab the brothers since it would not make any difference.
- Galaxy Quest:
- In Moulin Rouge!, Satine is dying from tuberculosis and everyone's hopes and dreams are falling apart, but they still manage to stage "Spectacular! Spectacular!" Guess what The Song Before the Storm is?
- The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother: Sigerson Holmes and Professor Moriarty (and their minions) engage in a secret contest behind the scenes of an opera performance to get some important papers. Their shenanigans include dropping sleeping pills into the cups the actors are drinking from, firing guns and breaking into song: the actors try desperately to keep the opera going despite the interruptions.
- Lampshaded in Shakespeare in Love, apparently set before the phrase was popularised:
- Henslowe: The show must... you know...William Shakespeare: [prompting him to continue] Go on!
- And played straight when, after the Rose Theater is ordered shut down by the Master of the Revels, rival theater manager Richard Burbage freely allows Shakespeare's company the use of his theater for the premiere of Romeo and Juliet.
- A more tragic case in Stage Door; on opening night of her debut, Terry finds out Kay, an actress she was friends with, had her heart set on the part Terry was about to play, and when she didn't get the part, committed suicide. Upon hearing this, Terry is heartbroken and refuses to go on; Ann Luther, her acting coach, gives a variation of this speech to get Terry to perform.
- In Henrys Crime, Henry goes back on stage and continues his role as if nothing's wrong, immediately after getting shot in the leg. Justified because if he hadn't, it would have aroused suspicion.
- Cosmo invokes this trope for Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain before breaking into "Make 'Em Laugh".
Cosmo: "Come on now, snap out of it. You can't let a little thing like this get you down. Why, you're Don Lockwood, aren't you? And Don Lockwood's an actor, isn't he? Well, what's the first thing an actor learns? "The show must go on!" Come rain, come snow, come sleet, the show must go on!"
- Turning the terrible movie "The Dueling Cavalier" into a musical ("The Dancing Cavalier") also qualifies for this trope.
- Meet the Feebles. More and more of the muppet-like variety show's cast and crew end up missing, incapacitated, or dead on the night of their live TV debut, but the show lurches on even when performers accidentally die on stage. By the end the director is reduced to performing a musical number that he was expressly forbidden ever to do, ever, under an circumstances by the producer.
- Rock Star: In the very beginning of the first song in his first concert with Steel Dragon, Chris Cole slips and falls down the stairs (they were tring to do a Grand Staircase Entrance). Despite a nasty head wound and possible concussion, Chris rallies and finishes the song and the concert.
- Topsy-Turvy opens with Arthur Sullivan suffering from painful kidney disease, only to pull himself out of bed and stagger off to the theatre to conduct the orchestra for the premiere of Princess Ida.
- Black and Tan: "Keep the show on!", cries the MC after Fredi has a heart attack while dancing onstage. He hustles the dancing girls onstage, but the curtain falls soon after anyway.
- The name of a chapter in a The Berenstain Bears book in which Brother and Sister bear attempt to help a horseback riding teacher save her building by means of a fundraiser to pay the mortgage. In the chapter, the villains have been defeated and prevented from sabotaging the fundraiser in their bid to gain control of the building, but despite the problems they have, they still have to hold the event to get the necessary money.
- In Maskerade, this is the philosophy of the Ankh-Morpork Opera House, where a show cannot stop even if the lead singer is dead (they recruit another from the audience, or work the corpse via ventriloquism). When someone actually does stop a show (as it's Discworld) the resulting entropic shockwave physically flings Walter Plinge, a man truly in tune with opera, from his seated position.
- This is Rachel's motto in No More Dead Dogs, even as early back as kindergarten. At the end of the book she convinces everyone to remain performing the play with these words after the Old Shep dog is blown up with a cherry bomb.
- In the Rainbow Magic series, this happens in Paige the Christmas Play Fairy's book. Jack Frost interfering with a performance of Cinderella forces the girls to improvise.
- Actor Lorenzo Smith's only real principle is this trope. As the plot thickens he sits down and thinks about why the show must go on ('because some shows are pretty awful') and realizes the basic principle is applicable to more than acting.
Live Action TV
- A standard trope in The Muppet Show whether it is using a petrified Ms. Piggy as a prop or shoving a wardrobe on stage with the guest star, Chris Langham, trapped inside to sing "Hawaiian Cowboy" (complete with a cowboy hat on top of the wardrobe).
- One exception is when during the Glenda Jackson episode when Kermit can't take anymore and goes on stage to say "They say the show must go on, but they never explain why. The show's been taken over by pirates, the theater's sailing out to sea and I'm losing my mind..."
- The entire show Dark Shadows. What is that lurking in the dark shadows of Collinwood manor? Is it a ghost? A vampire? or is it just the sound man again?
- The British soap Crossroads. Someone flub a line in dialogue? Did the other person flub a line right back? Did a piece of the ceiling fall down during a scene? Is that a boom microphone two inches from Sue Hanson's hair? There's no time for editing!
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? of course typically plays through any missteps but the show also has a game built on this trope where the players are in a theater production and all but one of them (typically Colin) have dropped dead leaving the one living player desperately trying to continue the show dragging around the corpses of the other players.
- On the American edition, during a game of "Party Quirks", Ryan Stiles' character was "Carol Channing whose head keeps getting stuck to things", and towards the end of the game, Ryan was putting his head on Drew Carey's desk, but accidentally hit his head against the neon sign, breaking the glass. Drew tried to stop the game, but Ryan insisted Kathy Greenwood, who was playing party host, still try to guess who he was before ending the game.
- "Ham Radio," one of the funniest episodes of Frasier, is all about this trope. Frasier tries to do a live radio drama, and his tyrannical direction leaves him with a cast of Bulldog, stricken with stage fright; Roz, who has an emergency root canal just before the performance; Gil, who is determined by hook or by crook to say his character's big speech when Frasier decides to cut it; Bulldog's dyslexic girlfriend; and Niles as the rest of the characters, which Frasier neglects to tell him until the show has already started. Add in some rather unfortunate sound effects and you've got one whopping Funny Moment.
- In the pilot of 30 Rock, a TGS sketch went south while Liz was away meeting with Tracy. When they arrived in the middle of the fiasco, Liz told him to go onstage and talk about "anything", which he did.
- In Glee, during the sectionals, they find that someone leaked their setlist and that the other two teams, who were performing before them, had copied their songs. They realised that if they went with that setlist they'd be accused of cheating, so they end up having to pick, practice and choreograph four new songs in an hour. Of course, they still win.
- One story arc on Schloss Einstein had the sixth-graders putting on a production of Die Räuber. The kid who's playing Karl gets sick right before the performance, which leads to the brainstorming of increasingly ridiculous ideas to save the play (the replacement Karl has no time to learn the lines, so they try pinning a copy of the script to another kid's back, for instance). They finally realise that Lilly, the prompter, knows the entire text by heart, so she goes on as Karl and saves the play in spite of her incredible shyness.
- This was also subverted in a later episode. We don't get to see it, but apparently a similar thing happened at Liz and Annika's old school:
Feli: What's this [picture]?Liz: A theatre performance. I was the circus princess.Feli: And Annika?Liz: The prompter. The clown had broken his leg. Annika was the only one who knew all his lines by heart.Feli: So she took on the role and saved the performance!Liz: (shakes head) She totally panicked. She actually got sick!
- This was also subverted in a later episode. We don't get to see it, but apparently a similar thing happened at Liz and Annika's old school:
- In the Parks and Recreation episode "Telethon", Detlef Schrempf was supposed to appear on a diabetes telethon, but he and Tom ended up getting sidetracked at a bar. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang had to come up with alternative forms of entertainment, which included Leslie performing a riveting game of flip the coin:
Leslie: Heads. Oh boy, what is going to happen next?! (33 heads to 35 tails, later 95 heads to 94 tails)
- The Daily Show:
- In a June 2011 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart accidentally cut his hand during a sketch (though not badly).
- Jon's successor, Trevor Noah, has shown similar dedication on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. On November 4, 2015, he had to undergo an emergency appendectomy, so there was no show that day. But the very next day, November 5, he was back on air, even though he'd been given as much time as he wanted to recover from Comedy Central. Trevor started that show mocking the American healthcare system.
- Jim Henson had an American Bullfrog urinate on him during a Sesame Street lecture. Jim was not unseated; he was controlling Kermit the Frog at the time, and only lost enough control of Kermit to make him snicker. Kermit said that the frog had "told a funny joke."
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sunnydale High School holds a talent show...while a horrible demon looks for organs to become fully human. The curtain happens to open just after the demon is decapitated by a guillotine while the main characters are all gathered round. The crowd is dead silent...
Principal Snyder: I don't get it. What is it, Avant Garde?
- In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the station pledges to do an all-nighter live broadcast about the mayoral election until the decision is made. Unfortunately, a blizzard cuts off their connection to the voting booths after the first set of numbers come in, leaving everyone to flounder desperately for something to do until they can somehow get word of who won. The best part comes when Ted completely runs out of ideas and just stands in the studio, doing and saying nothing. "I don't believe I've ever seen that before."
- Family Feud host Richard Dawson said in an interview that he absolutely hated stopdowns, and would demand that the staff work around anything that they possibly could. This led to such oddities as the Fast Money round being played on cue cards because the electronic board went on the fritz.
- A Jeopardy! contestant once fainted during Final Jeopardy! Because stopping tape might have affected the outcome of the game, the contestant was roused and asked to write down his response. The entire incident was left in. This did not end up affecting the outcome, as another contestant already had a "lock" game and gave the correct response.
- Subverted by Wheel of Fortune on November 28, 2012. In previous cases, if a contestant spun the Wheel just as the Speed-Up bells sounded, they were allowed to complete their turn. In this case, a contestant began the round in this fashion, only to be interrupted by a 10-minute stopdown so that the Wheel can be reset for Pat to do the Final Spin.
- The 1990 revival of To Tell the Truth got hit hard with this. First, NBC accidentally aired the pilot, which was hosted by Richard Kline, on the East Coast instead of the true first episode. The show went to series with Gordon Elliott as host, but he got fired over a salary dispute, so Lynn Swann moved from the celebrity panel to the host's seat. However, Swann often had schedule conflicts, so he quit and Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! fame took over. Trebek then had to miss two episodes because his wife went into labor, so show creator Mark Goodson guest-hosted.
- Match Game on CBS had an incident where Joyce Bulifant's microphone stand broke. Instead of stopping tape to repair it, host Gene Rayburn called for a screwdriver as he repaired it right then and there.
- Concentration was originally live on NBC, so whenever the board malfunctioned, the host had to do something to stall for time. Norm Blumenthal, the producer even said that if a light blew, a tech would appear on camera with a ladder and repair it with no stoppage of tape (when the show went to tape) and he'd pop for the tech's appearance.
- A 1988 episode of The Price Is Right was taped during a major storm in Los Angeles, so nearly 2/3 of the audience was empty. The cameramen did their best to show only the middle portion of the audience and give the impression that the studio was still full.
- In the sixth episode of Saturday Night Live's second season, Buck Henry and John Belushi were doing a sketch entitled "Samurai Stockbroker." Belushi's samurai sword was not a blunt prop but rather was an authentically sharp weapon. Henry was standing too close to Belushi when the latter was slashing at a wall, and Henry's forehead was opened up to the bone. Rather than stop the show, Henry stayed in character and finished the sketch, and later appeared in the show with a bandage over the wound.
- In fact, the entire cast wore bandaids on their foreheads for the rest of the show.
- In the Australian series Police Rescue, a theatre group convinces the Police Rescue Squad to quietly retrieve an injured backstage crewmember on the lighting catwalk. The crewmember is also hiding the extent of his injuries. They have a reason for this, as a theatre critic is watching and they're worried if his review of their play is too harsh, the government will cancel their upcoming funding.
- Due to budget and time constraints, the Classic era of Doctor Who is riddled with this, with individual mishaps ranging from William Hartnell flubbing his lines to Tom Baker breaking his shoulder to Sylvester McCoy burning his back while walking away from an explosion.
- Re-takes in the 1960s were extremely rare. William Hartnell's advice to his co-stars was to swear if they wanted to force the director to start again.
- British television channel ITV Play went on with the premiere of its phone-in game show The Debbie King Show, even though it was announced earlier in the day that the channel would be suspended as part of an audit over premium-rate phone line usage. It ended up becoming a One-Episode Wonder.
- Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury contracted AIDS and was in increasingly poor health through the last few years of his career. He kept recording though, as, well you know. The band lampshaded it with an absolute Tear Jerker of a song named, unsurprisingly, "The Show Must Go On". Also qualifies as a Real Life example.
- FooFighters lead singer Dave Grohl broke his leg during a tour, but instead of stopping the concert, he just kept playing and singing, even while a paramedic was putting bandages on his broken leg, even if fans might have accepted if he stopped the song while his leg was being treated. The next several concerts, he played while sitting on Gibson's Guitar-Throne he had borrowed.
- Axl Rose recently did the same as the above-mentioned Dave Grohl when he broke a leg during a show. Instead of canceling the concert or the remainder of the tour, he just continued singing sitting down.
- Averted by Emilie Autumn, who would pause shows if something went wrong on stage.
- Played for Laughs by P.D.Q. Bach. Many compositions include something going very wrong (The bassoonist's accompanist is running late! The trumpeter is missing most of their instrument! The lead females are cattily trying to one-up each other!) and then continuing anyhow.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic was on tour when he heard that his parents were found dead from carbon-monoxide poisoning. He continued with the tour, later commenting that doing that (along with the support he received from fans) helped him to get through it.
- The Wall has a song by this name, where Pink, after having a long personal journey through is past is injected with drugs and forced onstage, despite not being sure if he would even remember the songs. This goes badly, with him emerging as a neo-Nazi when the show goes on.
- Judas Priest singer Rob Halford once crashed his motorcycle into a drum riser while riding it on stage during a concert in 1990, breaking his nose. He got back up and finished the rest of the set list before going to the hospital, despite the fact that he would have been in severe pain.
- "The Show Must Go On", a song first written and performed by Leo Sayer, then covered by Three Dog Night, is all about this.
- Rammstein had a rather scary incident of this trope when a burning metal prop melted its riggings and fell into the crowd, severely injuring several people. The guitarists immediately stopped playing, though the keyboardist, drummer, and bass player continued with the song. Flake, the keyboardist, eventually ran forward and grabbed a guitar, prompting cheers from the crowd, and the concert resumed even as roadies frantically attempted to extinguish the burning prop and tend to the injured. This incident eventually resulted in Rammstein completely rewriting their policies around pyrotechnics.
- The WWF suffered this trope in 1999 during their Over The Edge pay-per-view event, due to the death of Owen Hart happening as he was making his ring entrance.
- This actually happens often in professional wrestling. The most common causes are legit injuries and/or botched moves, or in rarer cases, botched use of props, weapons or equipment.
- We'll say that professional wrestling is like this in general. As a Cracked article put it, a wrestler is supposed to stay in character no matter what happens. Your opponent is legitimately trying to injure you? Ignore it and stay in character. You tore your ACL? Broke your ribs? Don't break character. One of the competitors died during the match? You can't even let that break kayfabe.
- This happened on Raw once with Jerry Lawler, who, in the middle of a tag team match he was calling, suffered a heart attack. There were several things amiss. The commentary had fallen silent, the crowd (along with one Kane, one of the wrestlers involved in the tag team match and the referee) was looking at the announce table and something was clearly happening. The heart attack was later announced by Michael Cole, who seemed visibly shaken up. The show continued, but there was no commentary throughout the rest of the show, other than Cole providing updates on his condition. The rest of the show felt so... cold after this.
- LuFisto had to compete for the WSU Championship after the former hold Jessicka Havok was banned(read, working for TNA) from the promotion even though she had food poisoning. They had to give her the strap because Athena got a concussion the very same night.
- This is the entire plot of Noises Off.
- The plot of Curtains kicks off when the star of a musical in tryouts in Boston is murdered after a performance. The rest of the cast plan to go back to New York, and one of the producers tries to get them to stay for the rest of the preview period by singing "The Show Must Go On," but the actors are not convinced. It isn't until the detective on the case reminds them that they're "Show People" that they decide to stay (not to mention the detective sequestered the building so they couldn't leave anyway).
- Defied in Pippin. When Pippin refuses to perform the final scene of the show (which has No Fourth Wall), the Players try to exhort him to continue, with remarks like, "Hey, you're not going to disappoint all these people at $25 a seat, are you?" But when they see that Pippin is firmly determined not to commit Self Immolation, they retaliate by taking away the lights, costumes, and makeup. The Leading Player apologizes to the audience that the promised finale cannot be presented, offers the part to anyone in the audience, and then orders everybody out, including the orchestra, leaving Pippin, Catherine and Theo to end the show on a denuded dark stage.
- Molière's last performance was the leading role for 'The Imaginary Invalid'. He incorporated a coughing fit and hemorrhage into his performance, and managed to complete the play before collapsing and dieing hours later.
- The climax of the first act of La Cage aux folles emerges from this trope. Backstage, professional Drag Queen Albin has just been told by his partner Georges that he must not be around when their "son" Jean-Michel's prospective and highly conservative in-laws come to dinner tomorrow night, as Jean-Michel has lied to them and claimed he comes from a "normal" family. Albin tries to be casual in the face of rejection as he heads out on stage as his alter ego Zaza to perform the evening's finale, but then he almost breaks down in tears...before pulling himself together and delivering a dazzling, emotionally-charged performance via one of the most famous Act One finales in Broadway history, "I Am What I Am".
- This is what triggers the climax in Pagliacci, as the first act concludes with Canio having to prepare to put on the show just after finding out about his wife's affair, and eventually devolves into All Part of the Show when he can no longer contain himself.
- The Play That Goes Wrong and its spiritual successor Peter Pan Goes Wrong can be considered homages to this trope. Lines are fluffed, cues are missed, props are destroyed, the lighting fails and the wrong music plays, but the (fictional) cast and crew soldier on to the end as the set collapses around them.
- The opera in Final Fantasy VI gets completely derailed when the party and an enemy end up crashing down on it from above. They end up improvising completely non sequitur roles on the spot. Hilarity Ensues when the theater owner decides to Throw It In! and has the orchestra cue up the appropriate music.
- By completely derailing, we mean a treasure hunter and two companions which may include the king, a feral teenager, a ninja, and a samurai, fighting an octopus, using powers believed to have vanished a thousand years ago, in the middle of a tragic love story, concluding with the female lead (played by a general of a rival nation's army) being abducted by the pilot of a zeppelin.
- Final Fantasy IX features a circumstance VERY similar to the FFVI example above in the opening sequence, when the main character's Thieves' Guild disguise themselves as an acting troupe performing the most popular play in the world as a guise to kidnap Princess Garnet. When Zidane, Garnet, and Captain of the Guard Steiner find themselves on stage in the midst of the production, Hilarity Ensues as they take the plot Off the Rails entirely in their bid to escape. And the Queen still loves it!
- Baldurs Gate 2 featured the start of a character recruitment quest happen at a theater where a recruitable NPC was kidnapped prior to the show. True to the trope, Biff the Understudy steps up to fill the role and delivers a wooden, stuttering, uninspired and all-around dreadful performance.
- Played for laughs in the King of the Hill episode where Bobby inherits a famous ventriloquist's dummy that was modeled after a stereotypical football-playing high school A-student... only to become dismayed when his father likes the dummy's "antics" more than Bobby's own. Bobby grows to hate this new attention, but mutters "the show must go on" when he realizes that being at the edge of the spotlight is better than not having attention at all. (Luckily, the trope is kinda subverted in the end when Hank isn't a total bastard - after the first dummy is destroyed, he decides to nurture Bobby by building him a new dummy that far more resembles the boy himself.)
- Happens a few times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- In the episode "The Show Stoppers", even though the show is falling apart, the CMC continue the show.
- During the episode "Filli Vanilli", Big Mac loses his voice, and Fluttershy, whos' terrified of singing publically, decides to down a potion made from poison joke to make her have a deep baritone, and sing his lines backstage while he lip-synchs, just so The ponytones will sing at her fundraiser.
- Coloratura says this word for word after her manager quits in "The Mane Attraction." Next shot is her pacing and panicking while Rarity tries to get her dressed for the show.
- In the Animated Adaptation of Madeline and the Gypsies, this is the reason the Gypsy Mama gives for putting Madeline and Pepito in a lion costume (as the real lion is sick).
- The Simpsons: In "Million Dollar Maybe", Marge and Homer are supposed to perform a singing toast at her cousin's wedding. When Homer doesn't show at the wedding reception because he is buying a lottery ticket, Marge attempts to perform the toast on her own, despite the fact that it is a duet.
- This trope is prevalent in the Classic Disney Shorts The Band Concert and Symphony Hour. No matter what's going on, Mickey Mouse does his gosh-darn best to keep the music playing, even pulling a gun on Donald Duck when he tries to bail out of the latter short when things keep going wrong.
- Quoted by Robin in Young Justice, while the team is infiltrating a circus where everyone is coming down with a particularly debilitating flu and he's the latest victim. He insists on performing a difficult trapeze routine that involves dodging hazards in mid-air, all without a safety net. What he doesn't tell his friends is that he grew up performing in the same circus.
- In an episode of Dr. Dimensionpants, the director of a school play a Kyle's school has this attitude. Not even the fact that the whole stage gets transported to a slimy dimension and the actors get eaten by giant snails will stop him from continuing the show. He even forces both Kyle and his enemy Glass Skull to step in as understudies for the lead roles after the main actors are taken out.
- Part of the core conceit to The New Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show, as it's a variety show that the duo are recording live from their apartment, things almost never go as planned but the duo press on, even through things like a black hole opening on set or a flu outbreak causing the set to be quarantined.
- A 1962 Paramount cartoon called "The Shoe Must Go On" dealt with a symphony orchestra rehearsal being disrupted by a blacksmith next door hammering a horseshoe on an anvil. After numerous attempts to stop the blacksmith, the orchestra manager simply has the blacksmith and his hammering in the show as part of the orchestra.
- In the Milo Murphy's Law episode "Smooth Opera-tor," Milo says this early on, and then spends most of the episode trying to keep his curse from ruining the opera, especially since his crush really wants to see it. Naturally this leads to him taking the place of one of the performers.
Opera Singer: I believe we've gone off-book, now/I believe this scene we're botching!Milo: But I feel we should go on/Because there's all these people watching! (motions to audience with forced smile)
- During a 1973 concert in San Francisco, drummer Keith Moon of The Who passed out due to a drug reaction. Rather than stop the show, the band recruited an amateur drummer (the late Scott Halpin) from the audience to replace him and finish the show.
- Similarly, a 2002 performance by Counting Crows in Los Angeles saw drummer Ben Mize fall ill mid-show, requiring his hospitalization. After a brief intermission, the band switched to acoustic instruments and performed several songs without a drummer, before drummers Randy Guss of Toad the Wet Sprocket (their opening band) and Todd Roper of CAKE (who was in the audience) were persuaded to appear onstage to finish the show.
- Naturally, anybody who has appeared in live performances can testify to problems involved in cast members, problems with props or any number of unforeseen difficulties. The universal rallying cry is, in all circumstances, the Trope Title.
- Comic Red Skelton, on a live 1950s show, was doing a sketch with a cow, which started defecating, for a very long time. Needless to say, the audience was in stitches, and Red spent the interval pulling faces, holding his nose, and telling the cow "No ad-libbing!"
- On an episode of The Honeymooners, recorded live, Jackie Gleason was supposed to enter the scene but, for some reason, didn't for a couple of minutes. Art Carney, alone on stage, filled the time getting an orange from the refrigerator, peeling it, and managing to make it funny.
- Reportedly, when recording "The Show Must Go On" (mentioned above), Freddie Mercury was in seriously bad shape because of his battle with AIDS. One of the other band members approached him and asked him if he wanted to take a break. What Mercury did was down a glass of vodka and say "I'll fucking do it, darling!" before proceeding to nail the song in one take in what Brian May considers one of Freddie's greatest performances.
- Before opening night of RENT, composer Jonathan Larson collapsed and died. Needless to say, the cast moved on to perform the next night.
- What's more, when the cast was told, they decided to pay their respects by just singing through it seated around a table. By the time they got to "La Vie Boheme", everyone simultaneously agreed that Jonathan would want to see the show as it was meant to be, got up, and did the entire rest of the show, sans costumes.
- When a member of one of the Big Name Bands headlining at the Download musical festival fell ill on the night, members of several other bands performing at the festival stepped in to take his place for the set list, to prevent a possible riot if one of the bands that almost everyone wanted to see didn't perform as scheduled.
- In 1976, Bob Marley, his wife and his manager were attacked by gunmen in his home two days before a scheduled concert, "Smile Jamaica," organized by then-Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley to cool tensions between two rival political factions. Despite being injured in the attack, Marley went right ahead and performed in the concert two days later—"The people who are trying to make this world worse arenít taking a day off. How can I?"
- Another concert in Africa was disrupted when the police released tear gas to tame the increasingly wild crowd. While his backup singers and most of the musicians fled the stage, Bob kept singing, somehow able to shake off the effects of the gas.
- His final concert, where he performed flawlessly for several hours, including two encores, despite being riddled with cancer.
- In 1994, The Jesus Lizard were playing a show in Texas, when an unknown audience member threw a beer bottle at David Yow's head. After several minutes spent sweeping glass off the stage, getting Yow to his feet, and making sure he was okay, they started the same song over again and continued with the show. Yow even tried to taunt his attacker into doing it again before moving on.
- During a 1991 Judas Priest concert, lead vocalist Rob Halford collided with a drum riser while riding his motorcycle onto the stage, falling off his bike and breaking his nose. After regaining consciousness he returned to the stage and performed the remainder of the show despite the fact that he was in severe pain at the time. Halford didn't go to the hospital until after the concert was over.
- In 1986 James Hetfield of Metallica broke his wrist in a skateboarding accident, rendering him unable to play rythym guitar. Hetfield's guitar tech, John Marshall, filled in on rythym guitar until the injury healed (James still sang, being the band's lead vocalist in addition to the rythym guitarist). This incident prompted Hetfield's record company to include a clause in his contract forbidding him from riding a skateboard while the band was on tour.
- Despite a ruptured appendix, American magician and escape artist Harry Houdini did his final performance at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan on October 24, 1926; he died on October 31st.
- In the summer of 2012, Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer was informed of the suicide of his younger brother who he was close to. Although he had every reason to, he did not miss his next scheduled start, an interleague game in Pittsburgh.
- Lou Costello, of Abbott and Costello fame, lost his son, Lou Jr. (nicknamed Butch), to an accidental drowning on the day that Butch was supposed to stay up and listen to his father's radio show for the first time. Lou continued with the show anyways, saying "Wherever he is tonight, I want him to hear me." The stress of performing under those conditions was so great that he fainted as soon as the broadcast was over.
- 75 minutes into the 1956 FA Cup Final, Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann was injured in a collision. There were no substitutes allowed in those days, so Trautmann played on, making crucial saves to ensure City's victory in spite of being in severe pain. He even attended the post match banquet in that state. Eventually, he sought medical help: it turned out that Trautmann had broken his neck.
- While on tour to promote the band's latest album, Animals, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters was suffering from what he though was stomach cramps (it later turned out to be hepatitis), so the band doctor injected him with a powerful muscle relaxant so he could go onstage. He said that he could have played through the pain, but whatever the doctor injected him with caused him to be barely able to lift his arm, causing him to go through "the longest two hours of my life" playing that concert. This experience inspired the classic song "Comfortably Numb."
- During the TV play Underground, broadcast live on the BBC in 1958, actor Gareth Jones collapsed and died backstage. Actors hurriedly improvised lines along the lines of, "I'm sure if X was here, he would say..." and the writer used an ad break to cobble together an ending to the play.
- After losing his wife, Bob Barker continued to host The Price Is Right, even though he had every reason to take a break.
- During a concert in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June 2015, Foo Fighters guitarist Dave Grohl fell off the stage and broke one of his legs. He excused himself for a short period while the other Foo Fighters kept playing, then returned to the stage, carried by paramedics who put him in a chair. He kept playing for over two hours - even while the paramedics were putting his leg in a cast.
- He then had a totally bitchin' throne made for him to sit in on stage so he could still play the rest of the tour dates. He loved the throne so much, he continued to use it even after his leg was healed enough to walk on.
- In 1994, in spite of the severe injuries suffered by Ayrton Senna, Formula One decided to restart the San Marino Grand Prix after cleaning up his wreckage and taking him to the hospital. He would be declared dead a few hours later.
- During the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, driver Allan Simonsen was killed on the third lap in a one car crash. The organizers let the race continue even after his death, and, at Allan's family's request, the Aston Martin team (which he raced for) stayed in the race.
- During a performance of The Barber of Seville, American mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato fell onstage and broke her fibula. Ignoring the pain, she finished the rest of the act hobbling around the stage and used crutches for the rest of the opera. And as if this wasn't enough, Di Donato refused to let her injury prevent her from singing in the rest of her scheduled performances and sang the role of Rosina from a wheelchair for the five remaining shows in her schedule. If one is familiar with the insane difficulty that is inherent to singing the works of Gioacchino Rossini, even while standing upright and in no pain whatever, the respect level for Di Donato's dedication can't help but go higher.
- The great French actor and playwright Moliere was in the middle of a performance when he collapsed in a fit of coughing and haemhorrhaging. He recovered, completed the show, and died a few hours later. Ironically, the play he was performing was The Imaginary Invalid, in which he played a hypochondriac.
- Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy performed an entire 3+ hour concert while suffering from a mixture of exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, and stress, collapsing once the show was over. Said concert was recorded and released as a live album, Live Scenes from New York.
- In the 2005 remake of Fun with Dick and Jane, Dick and Jane steal from a coffee shop in one scene. According to the DVD commentary, Tea Leoni, who played Jane, dislocated her shoulder while shooting the part where she slides on the counter, but kept going anyway. You'll see that when the scene ends that she's struggling to hold the things they steal.