So the Orphanage of Love 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. Nothing like a show to bring out The Cast Showoff and showcase their lesser-known talents. 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 actually do 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."
Compare Charity Workplace Calendar.
- 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 Daily Life with Monster Girl, Miia and Rachnera help Ils Nineta the ninetailed fox put on a super sentai show to help draw visitors to the shrine where she works. Rachnee uses her webs to provide Ils with some Wire Fu and new clothes when she transforms, while Miia ends up playing the villain, much to her resentment.
- In Love Live!, the storied (read: old) Otonokizaka High School is unable to compete with newer, fancier schools for prospective students. To prevent their school from being shut down, Honoka and her friends form a School Idol group to attract new students to their school.
- In the sequel, Love Live! Sunshine!!, Chika is inspired to do the same thing to save her failing school. It ends up failing, as there simply aren't enough prospective students in their rural sea-side village.
- Action Heroine Cheer Fruits has this as the show's basic premise. Set in a Japanese town with a failing economy, the Student Council President (who's also the mayor's niece) joins with a group of her classmates to put on Tokusatsu stage shows and become the town's mascots; their goal is to revive the town's dying tourist trade within six months and save it from being absorbed by a nearby city.
- In Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, it's a case of "Let's put on a better show" to save the circus and boy, do they ever!
- Cats Don't Dance does this with its finale number "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", a Batman Gambit pulled off by Danny in an attempt to finally show that animals can be just as awesome as humans on stage and they show it with flair... and a little help with Darla Dimple's Fantastic Racism.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Legend of Everfree: The movie concludes with the campers deciding to invite the camp's alumni to a gala in the Crystal Cave, including a concert by the Rainbooms. They use it as a fundraiser to pay for Camp Everfree's debts to Filthy Rich.
- In Sing, Buster Moon the koala puts together a singing competition to save his theater, which is in disrepair and about to be foreclosed on.
- 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.
- In Follow the Fleet, "Bake" and Sherry put on a benefit show so that Sherry's sister Connie can pay off the renovations to her father's ship (and so that nice old Captain Hickey, who guaranteed the loan, won't lose his job). Slightly more realistic than some versions of this trope, in that they arranged to borrow sets and costumes from a professional theatrical agency.
- 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 Young Ones (1961), the Cliff Richard movie, had exactly this plot, except they were trying to save a youth club.
- White Christmas is like this, but for their old Army commander's ski lodge.
- This forms the basis for both 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.
- 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 title band from The Country Bears reunites to save their old theater from demolition.
- 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. They basically did this in The Movie too.
- 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 episode 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.
- From 1994—2001, General Hospital presented the Nurses Ball, a talent show featuring the staff of the hospital and the cast of the show, a fundraiser for AIDS research.
- Schitt's Creek has Moira Rose directing a community theatre production of Cabaret, a storyline which takes up much of Season 5 and allows cast members Noah Reid and Emily Hampshire to show off their musical theatre talents.
- 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.
- In Nunsense (1985), the Little Sisters of Hoboken, having fallen on hard times, put on a show to pay for a series of funerals. Most of the congregation fell victim to a tainted vichyssoisse, and due to a lack of funds several of the bodies are still in the freezer.
- 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 aren't trying to save anything. Mr. Krabs just wants to earn even more money.
- The Brak Show: Brak and his family put on a presentation of "Psychoklahoma" to save Señor 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 Señor 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...
- In the Trollhunters episode "The Glory of Merlin", the adults all pretend to put on a play - essentially playing a goofy dramatization of a Trollhunters adventure (with Dictatious and Strickler in his true form framed as elaborate costumes) - in hopes of keeping Detective Scott from suspecting the truth.