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The warden said, "Hey, buddy, don't you be no squareIf you can't find a partner use a wooden chair"
—Elvis Presley, "Jailhouse Rock"
Just because something is nonliving doesn't mean it can't be part of a song. This trope happens mostly in musicals and operas, when a character interacts with an inanimate object during a musical number. It exists partially to make a scene look more realistic. For instance, which would be more effective: a character who is carrying a broom and instantly stops using it just to sing a song, or a character who is carrying a broom, starts singing and incorporates the broom into the song? Most musicals would choose the latter.
This trope exists in two forms:
- The character uses, say, a broom for its intended purpose, but doing it to the beat or rhythm of the music.
- The character dances with or plays with the broom during the song.
Note: This trope incorporates inanimate objects as part of the choreography of a musical number. If a number uses such objects as musical instruments or use them for percussive reasons, it is not this trope, it is an example of Everything Is an Instrument.
- This trope is basically the premise of "Happy Working Song" from Enchanted. Think about it.
- The Hollywood interpretation of "The Telephone Hour" in Bye Bye Birdie is particularly fond of having the teenagers dance with their telephones. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Doesn't Angela Lansbury do something like this with dresses in Bedknobs and Broomsticks?
- Played with in Beauty and the Beast. Of course the household objects all have rhythm. They're all *alive*.
- Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly also like to play with this. You name it, one of them has done a full dance number with it.
- Yay! Teenage council members spraying showers of hairspray!
Amber: You sprayed my eye! I told you not to do that!
Link: *sprays in her face*
- And don't forget the first part of "Good Morning Baltimore", when Tracy gets ready for school to a drum rhythm that she's apparently hearing in her head.
- Let's face it, Hairspray does this a *lot*.
- The dentist song from Little Shop of Horrors. You figure it out.
- At least in the movie, The Music Man has "Marian the Librarian", which features people reading books and dancing at the same time.
- Scrubs pulled this in the intro to the second episode - as JD finds his feet, everything "clicks" in time with his music. And yes, there is a broom.
- This video of Kristin Chenoweth's "Glitter and Be Gay" in Candide shows you that you can never do too much with your jewelry.
- There's also a number where Patti Lupone and three men toss a money bag to each other to the rhythm of the song.
- During the "Consider Yourself" number in Oliver!, most prominently in the film, everyone does this with whatever it is they happen to be doing. Except maybe Dodger and Oliver.
- In the musical Chicago, Velma Kelly apparently loves to dance with chairs.
- Stephen Sondheim loves this trope. He uses it in most of his shows, you just have to look for it.
- Sunday in The Park With George does this. George paints to the rhythm of "Color and Light". Dot puts on makeup to the rhythm of same.
- In some productions of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the final note of the show is punctuated by the slamming of a door. Probably one of the most epic moments in the whole play.
- Mrs. Lovett also kneads dough to the rhythm of "The Worst Pies in London".
- Subverted in the revival of Company. When the actors aren't engaging in musical number, they make other uses of the orchestral instruments they carry around. Including the piano. Especially the piano.
- Well, any Encores production of a show will do something similar, given that they have to carry those black binders around everywhere.
- Into the Woods does this twice in the prologue. Once when some cookies get passed from Red Riding Hood to the Baker to his wife to the basket and back to Red, or something along those lines, all to the tempo of the music (and then Red makes real use of the cookies in the middle of a line). The second time happens when Cinderella is twisting her stepsister's hair to the beat. She keeps following the beat, thus making the hair too tight. Her stepsister, needless to say, is less than pleased.
- Kiss Me Kate's "I Hate Men" involves Kate smashing something at the end of almost every line. Observe.
- The Crapshooters' Dance from Guys and Dolls is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a bunch of gamblers shooting dice, set to music.
- In South Pacific, Nellie Forbush dances with a hat at one point.
- Linus and his blanket from The Musical version of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
- "One Boy" in Bye Bye Birdie has Rosie dancing with Albert's baggage.
- This video has a man dancing with a metal hoop. It somehow manages to be one of the most bizarrely romantic modern dances in the history of modern dance.
- The Simpsons: In the episode 'Bart After Dark', the musical number 'We Keep The Spring in Springfield' includes such effects as Moe banging bin lids together, someone 'boing'ing Bumblebee Man's antenna and Lenny smacking someone in the head (accidentally) with a sledgehammer.
- On the Classic Disney Short "How To Dance", Goofy uses a dresser's mannequin to practice dancing. Being Goofy, the mannequin proves less than cooperative.
- In the Tom and Jerry short "Mouse in Manhatten", Jerry dances with a placecard holder shaped like a doll. When their dancing carries them to another one, he tosses the first one aside and starts dancing with the next, then does the exact same thing again upon encountering a third.
- Phineas and Ferb try this while cleaning the bathroom with their toothbrushes after getting sent to reform school in "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted". They're interrupted mid-jam by the drill-sergeant, who bellows "NO FUNKY RHYTHMS!" An even bigger example would be in "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together", while they were recruiting the drummer of their parent's favorite band. He insisted he'd lost his sense of rhythm after falling asleep in a metronome factory, but Phineas and Ferb broke out into song to show him he still had it.