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A show tune is a popular song originally written as part of the score of a "show" (or stage musical), especially if the piece in question has become a "standard", more or less detached in most people's minds from the original context. Particular musicals that have yielded "show tunes" include:
- Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Flower Drum Song, The Sound of Music
- Jerome Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat
- Rudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart, Otto Harbach and Hammerstein's Rose-Marie
- Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Pal Joey (musical)
- Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, As Thousands Cheer, Call Me Madam
- Cole Porter's Anything Goes, Kiss Me, Kate, Can-Can
- George and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy, Oh, Kay!
- Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof
- Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Camelot
- Meredith Willson's The Music Man
- Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
- Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story
- Jerry Herman's Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Dear World, Mack & Mabel, La Cage aux Folles
- Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music
- John Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret, Chicago
- Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
- Stephen Schwartz's Pippin, Godspell, and Wicked
- Jonathan Larson's Rent
- Claude-Michel Schonberg's Les Miserables, Miss Saigon
Though show tunes vary in style, they do tend to share common characteristics—they usually fit the context of a story being told in the original musical, they are useful in enhancing and heightening choice moments.
Show tunes were a major venue for popular music before the rock and roll and television era; most of the hits of such songwriters as Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin came from their shows. Although show tunes no longer have such a major role in popular music as they did in their heyday, they maintain somewhat popular, especially among niche audiences.
- Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1976