Follow TV Tropes


The Eleven O'Clock Number

Go To

"No, just, 11 o'clock is a significant time. If we were in a musical, this is where I would perform my big 11 o'clock number. [...] An 11 o'clock number is a big showstopping number with some sort of thematic revelation, and it usually happens around 11:00 p.m., because shows used to start at 8:30, but now they start earlier for some reason."
Rebecca, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

So you're almost at the end of the show, and things are looking very uncertain but you know the show's about to end. That's when you know this trope is about to kick in. The Eleven O'Clock Number is a song in a musical placed near the end of the second act, before the plot's loose ends are tied up. The song usually represents an emotional turning point or revelation for the main character(s) and is almost always the last number in the show that isn't a reprise of an earlier song or the absolute final song.


The term is a holdover from the days when all musicals started at 8:30 PM and had to have a climactic song around 11:00, because it was preferable to have audiences out shortly afterwards. In an exception to the anti-rule that musical numbers don't have to be, and usually aren't, written in the order in which they appear in the show, the 11:00 number is very often the last one added to the show.

Largely a Theater trope. Seen in musicals and works that follow the musical format, as well as the odd Concept Album. Compare and contrast Climactic Music. Not to be confused with The Song Before the Storm, which is sung before the climax begins, not to initiate it.



    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • Arlo the Alligator Boy has "Something's Missing", as Arlo meets up with Ansel at the Met Gala and tries one last time to reach out to him and accept him as he is, while the latter has mixed thoughts over how long he should keep his true self suppressed. This is but mere moments before Arlo is captured by Ruff and Stucky, and Ansel reveals his true image as a birdman.
  • Barbie films:
  • The titular song from Sleeping Beauty, as the three good fairies are putting the castle to sleep.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The song "Hold on Me" at the end of episode 13 of Backstage resolves Bianca's Hidden Depths storyline, but sets up the finale's two major conflicts: the growing tension between Miles and Alya, and Vanessa's Career-Ending Injury.
  • Discussed in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Grand Finale. Musical theater superfan talks about how how the eleven o'clock number came to be and then sings about her journey so far in a song full of callbacks aptly titled "Eleven O'Clock". The callbacks are in the form of dresses on mannequins, and at one point she forms an eleven-o'clock with her body.
  • On Roundhouse this is known as the "third act ballad", the song that sums up the episode's themes, typically an Award-Bait Song.

  • "First Dance" in Steeleye Span's Concept Album of Wintersmith. It's the point in the book where Tiffany turns the tables on the wintersmith. After that on the album, there's an instrumental of the Dark Morris itself, a celebratory song about the Summer Lady's return, and two thematic epilogues, one about A'Tuin and one about Sir Terry. But the story itself is resolved.
  • Concept Album Ghost Quartet has "Hero."

  • "Memory" from Cats, where Grizabella wistfully sings about her glamour days. This musing gets her chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer.
  • "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy is the last major song in the show, in which Louise has outgrown Rose's influence and Rose sings about her own desires to be a star instead of her daughters always being in the spotlight, imagining her own name in lights.
  • "The Fire Within Me" from Little Women. Starting as Jo's second BSOD Song after "Astonishing", it culminates with her inspiration for writing Little Women coming from her sisters. It's arguably the best-written song in the show.
  • "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line. When one of the chorus members breaks his leg and can no longer perform, the other chorus members sing about how their love for the art of theater even if it can be taken away at any moment, summarizing the major theme of the musical.
  • The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals:
    • "Show Stoppin Number" is a parody of the trope, a big number Hidgens sings as part of the big reveal that he wants to turn humanity over to the aliens due to his love for musicals. However, it derails quickly into Hidgens just bragging about the musical he's writing.
Professor Hidgens: This is humanity's eleventh hour, and I've prepared something for the occasion.
  • The number for the musical proper is "Let It Out," in which Paul sings for the first time while confronting the alien hub, leading to a crisis about whether it would be a happier life to join the hive than keep living his miserable life.
  • Show Boat originally had an 11:00 song to show off Magnolia's daughter, Kim (here played by the same actress as Magnolia) in a 1920s-type production number. The original 11:00 song, "It's Getting Hotter in the North" (based on Magnolia's Leitmotif), was cut and replaced by a reprise of "Why Do I Love You" with impersonations and a jazz dance. The London production used an entirely new 11:00 song, "Dance Away The Night." The 1936 film version built up an elaborate production number around the Movie Bonus Song "Gallivantin' Around," which fell victim to editing before it was released. The 1946 Broadway revival used yet another newly written song, "Nobody Else But Me," but dropped the number without replacement when it went on tour. The 1994 Broadway revival replaced it with a dance number, "Kim's Charleston."
  • "Get Out and Stay Out" from 9 to 5: The Musical
  • "The I Love You Song" from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the most serious and sad song in an otherwise comical musical. Olive has a fantasy of her physically and emotionally distant parents telling her that they love her.
  • "Your Eyes" from RENT is the song Roger spent the entire musical trying to write, which he sings to a dying Mimi as he realizes he truly loves her.
  • "The Winner Takes It All" from Mamma Mia!, as Donna finally gets to confront Sam over all of the unresolved issues he created within her when he left her the way he did.
  • "So Anyway" leading directly into "I am the One (reprise)" from Next to Normal, featuring Diana deciding to leave the family and Dan admitting that he could see Gabe the whole time. Both songs feature the two adults realizing that they never properly grieved their son's loss and deciding to finally do so in the way they need.
  • "We're Not Sorry" from Urinetown, though the turning point is more for the ensemble and ingenue (who are finally carrying out their rebellion against Cladwell and his lackeys) than for the hero. Hard to have an epiphany when you died two songs ago.
  • "You and Me (But Mostly Me) [Reprise]" from The Book of Mormon features Elder Price, who previously devoted his entire life to converting as many people to Mormonism as possible, finally realizing that Elder Cunningham was right that religion shouldn't be about blindly following scripture, it should be about creating a new community. It's a much more solemn version of this type of song, since it directly follows all of the missionaries getting excommunicated from the church.
  • Legally Blonde The Musical has "Legally Blonde", Elle's BSoD Song which she sings after Callahan sexually assaults and then fires her. It also has Emmett finally realize (or confess, depending on the productionnote ) his love for Elle. It's then followed by the Triumphant Reprise "Legally Blonde Remix" where Vivian and the rest of Elle's friends convince her to get back on the case and support her all the way to the courtroom.
  • Many Verdi operas have one of these, such as "D'amor sull'ali rosee" from Il trovatore and "Tu che le vanità" from Don Carlo. Soprano Leontyne Price was famous for nailing these after the rest of the cast had tired.
  • "The Meek Shall Inherit" from Little Shop of Horrors, which occurs right after Audrey II eats Mushnik and Seymour sacrifices his morals in favor of fame.
  • The murderer's confessions in Drood can vary in content depending on the audience vote, but always serve as the pentulimate song that boisterously explains exactly what happened to Drood.
  • "I Guess I'll Miss The Man" from Pippin is a short and understated variant, with Catherine singing a capella about her love for Pippin (seemingly in defiance of the leading player) before Pippin goes to partake in the finale number.
  • Stephen Sondheim's Follies has not one but four 11 o'clock numbers, one for each of the principal characters: the comic patter song "Buddy's Blues," the torch ballad "Losing My Mind," the Star Lady turn "The Story of Lucy and Jessie," and, finally, the top-hat-and-tails ditty "Live, Laugh, Love," which features a twist ending: as debonair Ben realizes that the cheery words he's singing are a horrible lie, he repeatedly flubs the lyrics and finally has a breakdown onstage.
  • The concert sequence from The Sound of Music, which has "Edelweiss" in between an elaborate reprise of "Do-Re-Mi" and a plain repetition of "So Long, Farewell."
  • "It's Always Love" from Sugar. is the third-to-last song. "When You Meet a Man in Chicago" is the second-to-last, but it doesn't fit the "revelation/turning point" part as well (and was originally a reprise anyway), while "It's Always Love" starts with one of the male leads denouncing love, and ends with him admitting that he's in love.
  • "Always Starting Over" in If/Then, in which Liz, surrounded by nothing but darkness and stars, finally comes to terms with her grief and vows to move on.
  • "Keeping Cool with Coolidge" in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes literally jazzes up the show when the characters and audience are getting tired of Gay Paree.
  • Les Misérables has "Javert's Suicide" at the eleventh hour, where Javert finally realizes he was wrong to label Jean Valjean as a criminal all this time and has a crisis of faith.
  • "Something Just Broke" from Assassins — the most emotional song of the show, and one for the ensemble, to boot.
  • "Revolting Children" from Matilda, when the students finally stand up and declare independence from Trunchbull.
  • The Wiz: "Believe in Yourself" (aka "If You Believe") has Dorothy and her friends realize they had what they wanted all along.
  • Fun Home has three examples, set one after the other at the end of Act II: "Days and Days", "Telephone Wire" and "Edges of The World", leading up to Bruce Bechdel's suicide.
  • Robert's "It All Fades Away" from The Bridges of Madison County is the second-to-last number in the show and is a sweeping declaration of how, at the end of his life, the only thing that has never faded from memory is his and Francesca's love.
  • Hamilton: "Your Obedient Servant", where Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr finally agree to participate in the infamous duel that will kill Hamilton after Burr becomes furious with Hamilton for endorsing Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800.
  • The stage musical of The Little Mermaid has the Distant Quartet "If Only".
  • My Fair Lady features "I've Grown Accustomed to her Face," in which Professor Higgins finally realizes that, while arguably not romantically, but platonically has come to care about Eliza, and will genuinely miss her.
  • "Freak Flag" from Shrek, where the fairy tale creatures declare their pride and plan their rebellion against Farquaad.
  • Subverted with "If I Can't Love Her," from Beauty and the Beast. Though it fits the thematic criteria, it takes place as the Act 1 finale, not near the end of the show, although there is a Triumphant Reprise during the finale ultimo. Played straight however with Belle's "A Change in Me".
  • According to the creators, the Eleven O'Clock Number for Hairspray is "I Know Where I've Been," where Motormouth Maybelle sings a slow number about the fight for racial justice and equality. The film, however, moves this up to the Act 1 finale, so "Without Love" (where Link and Seaweed rescue Tracy and Penny respectively, and they sing about their love for one another) serves as the eleven o'clock number instead.
  • "Betrayed" from The Producers is not only a classic 11 o'clock number, but also a five-minute, one-man summary of the entire show to that point. Not to be confused with the other 11 o'clock mentioned in the song itself.
  • Dear Evan Hansen has "Words Fail," which serves as Evan's Liar Revealed moment and has him apologize for everything he's done and open up about his anxiety.
  • Der Glockner Von Notre Dame the Darker and Edgier adaptation of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame features "Wie aus Stein/Made of Stone," for Quasimodo and "Einmal/Someday," for Esmerelda and Phoebus.
  • Cirque du Soleil's Volta has "Battle of the Man", where Waz is initiated into the Freespirits in the Hall of Equals, followed by "Inside Me", to which Waz celebrates his newfound freedom with a contemporary dance routine.
  • During "Whispering" from Spring Awakening, nothing looks like it's going well. Moritz has died, Wendla has just discovered her pregnancy, and Melchior has been expelled. However, there are only about 15 minutes left in the show.
  • "Unruly Heart" from The Prom, the song Emma sings about her love and pride that goes viral.
  • From Amazing Grace, "Testimony" in which John has a revelation, culminating in his renewal of faith in God, and vowing to end the slave trade in England to the Lord.
  • From the musical adaptation ofYoung Frankenstein has either Elizabeth's "Deep Love" or "Fredrick's Soliloquy".
  • Hadestown has "Doubt Comes In," featuring the climax of Orpheus's quest to rescue Eurydice.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians has "The Last Day of Summer," in which Percy reflects on his quest and Luke reveals he has been working with Kronos.
  • Austen's Pride has "What If Lydia Ran Away?", in which Lydia elopes with Wickham, followed by Jane and Bingley's Final Love Duet Triumphant Reprise of "Isn't She Wonderful?" as "I Think You're Wonderful", and Darcy's solo song "Fine Eyes".
  • From the Stage Adaptation of Beetlejuice is Lydia's "Home," where she finally reconciles with her feelings of grief and lack of belonging while stuck in the Netherworld.
  • The musical version of Tootsie has "Talk To Me Dorothy," where Michael debates what to do about the Dorothy persona he's kept up the entire musical.
  • The Lion King for the stage to screen adaptation has Rafiki's "He Lives In You", the Triumphant Reprise of Mufasa's "They Live in You". Many people have compared it's power to that of "The Circle of Life" so much so the song served as the Parallel opening song in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
  • Starlight Express: "Starlight Sequence" in which Rusty finally realizes he is the "Starlight Express".
  • The Spongebob Musical: "Best Day Ever", in which Spongebob, Patrick and Sandy gets the entirety of Bikini Bottom to forget about the volcano and the aborted concert, and come together as a town and be grateful for what they do have: each other.

    Western Animation 
  • "It Won't Be Long" in the Littlest Pet Shop (2012) season finale "Summertime Blues", sung as a farewell song for Blythe leaving over the summer.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The episode "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey" had "Freedom Beef," a song sung by Professor Utonium where he tells the girls that there is still evil in the world because the gnome has robbed the people of their free will and encourages them to fight for freedom.
  • Steven Universe: The episode "Mr. Greg" had "Both of You", a song sung by Steven to help Pearl and Greg make up.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Eleven O Clock Number


Something's Missing

The second-to-last song in Arlo the Alligator Boy, as Arlo makes one last attempt to reach out to Ansel, who begins to struggle with whether he needs to keep hiding a secret of his own.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / TheElevenOClockNumber

Media sources:

Main / TheElevenOClockNumber