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Setting Introduction Song

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"Oh, I get high when
I saunter by
The mountains of Merano..."
Citizens, Chess, "Merano"

The song usually near the beginning of a musical that describes the main locale of the work. If the song doesn't occur near the beginning of the show, it'll most likely be when a a new setting is introduced or when a character is introduced to a new place.

The song's purpose is to describe and introduce the setting to the viewer, possibly introduce a few (or all) of the characters), and tell you something about how the singer feels about the place — whether it's great, or boring, or oppressive.

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If it occurs a long time after the start of the story, or a long time after the setting has already been established, then it isn't this trope, but may be a Welcoming Song.

Contrast Somewhere Song, about a place the singer wants to be, and Wanderlust Song, expressing that no one place can ever equal the joys of the open road.

Subtrope of Location Song.


Examples:

Theatre

  • Spamalot opens with a big song about Finland, where none of the action in the show takes place. note 
    • There's also "The Knights of the Round Table", although they spend a little more time there than in the movie. It's still a silly place.
  • In the concert version of Chess, the second song of Act I is "Merano", which describes Merano, Italy. In Act II, the first song is "One Night in Bangkok", which describes Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Carmen has one for every act:
    • Act I, "Sur la place" is the soldiers singing about watching the people of Seville
    • Act II, "Les Tringles des Sistres Tintaient" introduces the festive atmosphere at the inn, which was only mentioned in act 1. It also introduces the gypsies and their community in the inn.
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    • Act III, "Écoute, Écoute, compagnons" is the smugglers singing about the mountains.
    • Act IV's chorus of the crowd waiting for the bullfight could also count.
  • Little Shop of Horrors has its first two songs be setting intro songs. The song "Little Shop of Horrors" is a upbeat song performed by the Urchins, the show’s Greek Chorus; it forewarns of the evils that await inside of Mushnik's flower shop. Then "(Downtown) Skid Row" is a depressing Crowd Song sung by the denizens of Skid Row deploring their lives. It gives a good amount of backstory to Seymour and Audrey's lives.
  • The second song in The Music Man is "Iowa Stubborn", which introduces the audience to the small town of River City, Iowa and the attitude of its citizens.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street starts its main action with "There's No Place Like London", which contrasts both the idealistic Anthony's and the cynical Sweeney's views of the title city.
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  • In Wonderful Town, the first song is "Christopher Street", which describes the street in Greenwich Village.
  • The lyrical version of "The Coney Island Waltz" in Love Never Dies describes Coney Island.
  • It happens about halfway through the first act, but Another Hundred People from Company otherwise fits, as it describes the city of New York and the busy lives of the people in it.
  • In Shrek: The Musical, "Big Bright Beautiful World" introduces Shrek and Fiona (and their parents), and explains the role of an Ogre in this fairy-tale world.
  • "Tradition," the prologue to Fiddler on the Roof, introduces us to the townspeople of Anatevka in a slice of their daily lives.
  • The opening number of The Golden Apple is about how people live in the small town Angel's Roost (and how many people now live there), and how much it dissatisfies Helen.
  • In the Heights opens with the lyrics "lights up on Washington Heights," followed by a musical tour of the neighborhood. Usnavi even throws in directions on how to get there.
  • Come From Away begins with "Welcome to the Rock," introducing the audience to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 airplanes were forced to land after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
  • "Good Morning Baltimore," the opening number to the musical version of Hairspray, introduces both the setting and Tracy Turnblad, the main character.
    • Portal 2: The Unauthorized Musical has a parody version of it called "Good Morning Apature", where the audience is introduced to the facility, as well as Wheatley and Chell.
  • "Welcome to the Renaissance" from Something Rotten introduces the time period and setting as England during (you guessed it) the Renaissance era, explaining all the new advancements in art and technology, as well as everyone's obsession with William Shakespeare.
  • Wicked has "One Short Day", which introdues Elphaba and Glinda to Emerald City.
  • Like the below entry, the stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame has "The Bells of Notre Dame" to introduce the focal cathedral, although the song itself isn't very similar to the movie's version: it's sung by a Greek chorus (including the characters themselves) instead of Clopin, and much of it is changed to match the book more closely, including the introduction of Frollo's brother Jehan and detailing Frollo's Start of Darkness.
  • Hadestown opens with "Road to Hell". Hermes, the narrator, shows the audience the dilapidated surface world and the railroad line to Hadestown (the "road to hell") that much of the story involves, and introduces the main characters who gather by it for one reason or another.
  • "Oklahoma" from the musical Oklahoma!. (It's about Oklahoma.)
  • Li'l Abner: Halfway through the first act of the show, "Unnecessary Town" is sung about Dogpatch.

Films - Animated

  • Disney's Aladdin and its first sequel, The Return of Jafar, open with "Arabian Nights". Aladdin and the King of Thieves starts with its own intro song, "There's a Party Here in Agrabah", which describes the preparations and emotions leading up to Aladdin and Jasmine's wedding.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame opens with "The Bells of Notre Dame", which does double-duty both as a introduction to the setting of the movie, but also as an introduction to the movie's main characters, particularly its villain.
  • Oliver & Company opens with "Once Upon a Time in New York City".
  • Beauty and the Beast begins with Belle singing about what a small, provincial town she lives in and how it hasn't changed in all the time she's lived there and the townsfolk singing about how unusual Belle is. All this is interspersed with the bustle of townsfolk in the outdoor marketplace.
  • "Mountain Town" in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, describing the whitebread Colorado town in which the boys live. Reprised at the end of the movie by the whole town.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas starts with "This is Halloween," about Halloweentown and its citizens. The song spends it’s climax describing the film’s protagonist, Jack Skellington, who makes quite a dramatic entrance by disguising himself as a scarecrow, setting himself on fire, and jumping into a well before rising from it, perfectly fine.

Films - Live Action

  • Popeye opens with "Sweethaven" sung by the people of the town, going about their routines as Popeye rows into the harbor.

Live-Action Television

  • The first full song in "My Musical", the Musical Episode of Scrubs, is a song that describes Sacred Heart hospital and welcomes the patient inside to be treated.
  • The Doctor Who story "The Gunfighters" has a song called "Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" that functions as a Greek Chorus. The version performed diagetically by the characters is this, as well as the non-diagetic version performed when we first arrive in Tombstone.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's first song (discounting the theme song) is a soaring Busby Berkeley Number about West Covina, CA, after Rebecca spontaneously decides to relocate there. The series is set in that city.

Literature

Music

  • Queen of the Wave opens with "Queenswave", which establishes the setting in time: the Golden Age "before the ocean won". The first song of act 2, "Temple of Unfed Fire", establishes the place, by describing Atlantis and its technological wonders.
  • The Overture of the Wintersmith Concept Album by Steeleye Span begins "Through the dark the turtle comes/Drifting past a thousand suns/Under the weight of Discworld". The full version of the A'Tuin song, "Ancient Eyes", comes near the end for some reason.

Web Animation

Western Animation

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