Musicals in the Media: the SCRUBS Musical

Musicals in the Media: the SCRUBS Musical

By Kathryn Harris on March 09, 2010
This article is part of a series looking at musical theatre in movies and on television.

The hospital show that's not a hospital show, SCRUBS seems a natural choice for a musical episode. The first eight seasons of the show are almost entirely seen from J.D.'s point of view, as the medical intern played by Zach Braff transitions to resident and full attending physician. J.D.'s fantasy sequences provide an off-kilter, somewhat surreal foundation for the show's tone and establish a greater suspension of disbelief than what typical sitcoms require.

Unexpectedly, the musical episode ("My Musical") isn't told from J.D.'s perspective, but from a patient's. Patti Miller, played by AVENUE Q's Tony nominated Stephanie D'Abruzzo, suffers from a brain aneurysm that causes her to hallucinate that everyone around her is singing. While this solves the problem of creating musical numbers that rise organically from the story, it means the audience's grounding point is a character they've never met before. Fortunately, D'Abruzzo is given enough to act - and witnesses enough of the other characters' personal storylines - for this to be more of an advantage. Particularly since the episode occurs in the show's sixth season, slightly removing the audience from characters they've grown to love helps keep the show fresh.

With this concept, the structure of the episode is brilliantly done. Each musical number references a musical genre or a Broadway-style number in some way, but without falling into obvious parody. The humor in the episode - and, despite its many funny moments, the episode is actually fairly serious - doesn't stem from the fact that the characters are singing, but from the characters themselves. Along those lines, the episode isn't gimmicky, and there are clear plot developments. The episode's integrity is probably due to SCRUBS writer Deb Fordham writing the script and majority of the lyrics, as well as the participation of AVENUE Q's Tony winning songwriting team, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.

"My Musical" opens with a traditional, introductory-style number, in the vein of "Tradition" from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and "Belle," the opening number from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The biggest production number in the episode, "Welcome to Sacred Heart" makes the hallucination concept clear and serves as an entertaining introduction to any first-time watchers.

"The Rant Song" is possibly the best number J.D.'s acerbic "mentor" Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) could have. The businesslike, Gilbert and Sullivan style patter song perfectly captures his sarcastically funny rapid-fire insults and elaborate angry rants. D'Abruzzo's involvement at the song's end makes it even funnier.

One of the most popular songs from "My Musical," "Guy Love" is an ode to the "bromance" between J.D. and his best friend, surgeon Chris Turk (Donald Faison). Modeled after power ballads from musicals such as JEKYLL AND HYDE, "Guy Love" contains many references to previous episodes and perfectly captures the hilarity and sincerity of their closeness.

"Friends Forever/Finale" is clearly based on "We Go Together" from GREASE. The buoyancy of the number expresses the characters' optimism perfectly, as well as the upbeat feel of the show overall. More importantly, the song gives the audience a much-needed release after the more serious plot points regarding Elliot and J.D.'s relationship and Patti's medical condition. This is especially necessary since the episode ends fairly ambiguously. While Patti's surgery is successful, she finds herself missing the songs in her head - just as the other characters miss the things their decisions caused them to leave behind.