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 MusicJerome Kern and Hammerstein's Show BoatRudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart, Otto Harbach and Hammerstein's Rose-MarieRichard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Pal JoeyIrving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, As Thousands Cheer, Call Me MadamCole Porter's Anything Goes, Kiss Me, Kate, Can-CanGeorge and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy, Oh, Kay!Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's Fiddler on the RoofAlan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Gigi, CamelotMeredith Willson's The Music ManFrank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really TryingLeonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side StoryLeslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the CrowdLin-Manuel Miranda's HamiltonBricusse, Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden's Jekyll & HydeJerry Herman's Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Dear World, Mack & Mabel, La Cage aux FollesStephen 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 and Into The WoodsJohn Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret, and ChicagoAndrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatStephen Schwartz's Pippin, Godspell, and WickedJonathan Larson's RentClaude-Michel Schonberg's Les Misérables, 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 remain somewhat popular, especially among niche audiences.