“Once More With Feeling” is one of the few episodes to break the six year tradition and reject the Buffy branded opening sequence for another, scene-setting musical intro. A substantial chunk of the dialog is given in terrifyingly good song and dance numbers, as the team battles a demon hell-bent on driving the world to song. The campy nature of the musical gives the freedom to bounce from cinematographic style to style with reckless abandon.
If you can imagine your friends bursting into song, deeper than the occasional embarrassing yodel of Nickleback lyrics in the car, you can understand why this is truly a horrific ordeal. They went to great lengths to make sure the singing sounded honest, and to great effect. Some of the cast clearly can sing, like the biggest surprise, Amber Benson, singing “Under Your Spell,” while others are merely serviceable.
Homage is paid in full to several big names through various pastiche sequences. Disney had more than simply an honorable mention, represented in not just song and dance, but in special effects as well. West-side Story’s mention added a surprising level complexity as several groups sang intertwined versions of the same song together in a montage of different scenes.
Truth is revealed to the characters using an elaborate combination of song and dance routines in place of the standard dialog, while a palpable tension between characters is revealed through their compulsory honesty. Xander and Anya express their uncertainty while Willow and Tara battle about Willow’s addiction to magic. In addition to directly enhancing the dialog, the extras are also deeply embroiled in their own song and dance numbers, telling various frivolous and amusing stories, and ultimately adding to the awesome ambiance and believability of the episode’s story arch. Which is to say: A strange believability was gained by making a musical episode.