Rodgers and Hammerstein
refers to the duo of composer Richard Rodgers
(1902–1979) and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II
(1895–1960), who together were an influential, innovative and successful American musical theatre
writing team. They created a string of popular Broadway
musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, initiating what is considered the "golden age" of musical theatre.
Five of their Broadway shows, Oklahoma!
, South Pacific
, The King and I
and The Sound of Music
, were outstanding successes, as was the television broadcast of Cinderella
(1957). Of the other four shows that the team produced on Broadway during their lifetimes, Flower Drum Song
was well-received, and none was an outright flop. Most of their shows have received frequent revivals around the world, both professional and amateur. Among the many accolades their shows (and film versions) garnered were thirty-four Tony Awards
fifteen Academy Awards
, two Pulitzer Prizes
, 1944, and South Pacific
, 1950) and two Grammy Awards
Their musical theatre writing partnership has been called the greatest of the 20th century.
Previous work and partnerships
By the early 1940s, Hart had sunk deeper into alcoholism and emotional turmoil, and he became unreliable, prompting Rodgers to approach Hammerstein to ask if he would consider working with him.
Independently of each other, Rodgers and Hammerstein had been attracted to making a musical based on Lynn Riggs' stage play Green Grow the Lilacs
. When Jerome Kern
declined Hammerstein's offer to work on such a project and Hart refused Rodgers' offer to do the same, Rodgers and Hammerstein began their first collaboration. The result, Oklahoma!
(1943), marked a revolution in musical drama. Although not the first musical to tell a story of emotional depth and psychological complexity, Oklahoma!
introduced a number of new storytelling elements and techniques. These included its use of song and dance to convey and advance both plot and character, rather than act as a diversion from the story, and the firm integration of every song into the plot-line.
was originally called Away We Go!
and opened at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven
in March 1943. Only a few changes were made before it opened on Broadway, but three would prove significant: the addition of a show-stopping number
"; the deletion of the musical number "Boys and Girls Like You and Me", which would soon after be replaced with a reprise of "People Will Say We're in Love
"; and the decision to re-title the musical after the song.
The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943, at the St. James Theatre
. Although the typical musical of the time was usually written around the talents of a specific performer, such as Ethel Merman
or Fred Astaire
, no stars were used in the production. Ultimately the original cast included Alfred Drake
(Curly), Joan Roberts
(Laurey), Celeste Holm
(Ado Annie), Howard Da Silva
(Jud Fry), Betty Garde
(Aunt Eller), Lee Dixon
(Will Parker) and Joseph Bulloff (Ali Hakim). Marc Platt
danced the role of "Dream Curly", and Katharine Sergava
danced the part of "Dream Laurey". In Oklahoma!
, the story and the songs were considered more important than sheer star power. Nevertheless, the production ran for a then-unprecedented 2,212 performances, finally closing on May 29, 1948. Many enduring musical standards come from this show, among them "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'
", "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top
", "I Cain't Say No
", the aforementioned "People Will Say We're in Love
", and "Oklahoma!
After their initial success with Oklahoma!
, the pair took a break from working together and Hammerstein concentrated on the musical Carmen Jones
, a Broadway
version of Bizet
with the characters changed to African Americans
in the contemporary South, for which he wrote the book and lyrics. The musical was adapted to the screen in 1954
, and scored a Best Actress
Oscar nomination for leading lady Dorothy Dandridge
. Rodgers and Hammerstein also received a special Pulitzer Prize
in 1944 for Oklahoma!
was also revolutionary for its time – adapted from Ferenc Molnár
's play Liliom
, it was one of the first musicals to contain a tragic plot about an antihero;
it also contained an extended ballet that was crucial to the plot, and several extended musical scenes containing both sung and spoken material, as well as dance. The 1956 film version
, made in CinemaScope 55
, again starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, the same leads as the film version of Oklahoma!
In 1945, a Technicolor musical film version
of Phil Stong
's novel State Fair
, with songs and script by Rodgers and Hammerstein, was released. The film, a remake of a 1933 non-musical Will Rogers
film of the same name
, starred Jeanne Crain
, Dana Andrews
, Dick Haymes
, and Vivian Blaine
. This was the only time the pair ever wrote a score directly for film. It was a great success, winning Rodgers and Hammerstein their lone Oscar
together, for the song "It Might as Well Be Spring
but it was also unadventurous material for them, compared with several of their Broadway shows. In 1962, an unsuccessful remake
of the musical film was released.
South Pacific and important subsequent works
In the original production, Mary Martin
starred as the heroine Nellie Forbush, and opera star Ezio Pinza
starred as Emile de Becque, the French plantation owner. Also in the cast were Juanita Hall
, Myron McCormick
and Betta St. John
. The 1958 film version
, also directed by Logan, starred Mitzi Gaynor
, Rossano Brazzi
, John Kerr
, Ray Walston
, and Juanita Hall
. Brazzi, Kerr, and Hall had their singing dubbed by others.
The King and I
Based on Margaret Landon
's Anna and the King of Siam
—the story of Anna Leonowens
, governess to the children of King Mongkut
in the early 1860s—Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The King and I
opened on Broadway
on March 29, 1951, starring Gertrude Lawrence
as Anna and the mostly unknown Yul Brynner
as the king. This musical featured the hit songs "I Whistle a Happy Tune
", "Hello, Young Lovers
", "Getting to Know You
", "We Kiss in a Shadow
", "Something Wonderful
", "I Have Dreamed
", and "Shall We Dance?"
It was adapted for film in 1956
with Brynner re-creating his role opposite Deborah Kerr
(whose singing was largely dubbed by Marni Nixon
). Brynner won an Oscar
as Best Actor
for his portrayal, and Kerr was nominated as Best Actress
. Brynner reprised the role twice on Broadway in 1977 and 1985 and in a short-lived TV sitcom in 1972, Anna and the King
Based on the fairytale character and story of Cinderella
, Rodgers and Hammerstein created their only collaborative effort written for television. Cinderella
aired on March 31, 1957, on CBS
. More than 107 million viewers saw the broadcast, and Julie Andrews
was nominated for an Emmy Award
for her performance in the title role.
Rodgers and Hammerstein originally signed to work with NBC
, but CBS approached them, offering the chance to work with Julie Andrews, and the two quickly agreed. Rodgers stated, "What won us over was the chance to work with Julie." Andrews played Cinderella, with Edith Adams
as the Fairy Godmother, Kaye Ballard
and Alice Ghostley
as stepsisters Joy and Portia, and Jon Cypher
as Prince Christopher. Though it was broadcast in color, and the major networks all had the new (B&W) videotape recorders from Ampex, a black and white kinescope
is all that remains. It featured songs still treasured today, "In My Own Little Corner", "Ten Minutes Ago" and "Impossible: It's Possible." After the success of the 1957 production, another version was presented in 1965 and shown annually on CBS, starring Lesley Ann Warren
, Celeste Holm
and Walter Pidgeon
, and yet another television version in 1997
, produced by Walt Disney Television
, starring Brandy
, Whitney Houston
, Bernadette Peters
, and Whoopi Goldberg
. Stage versions were also presented in London and elsewhere, and the musical finally was given a Broadway production, with a revised book by Douglas Carter Beane
, and incorporating four songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalogue, in 2013.
Flower Drum Song
Based on a 1957 novel by C. Y. Lee
, Flower Drum Song
takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown
in the late 1950s. The original 1958 production was directed by dancer/singer/actor Gene Kelly
. The story deals with a young Chinese woman who illegally comes to America in hopes of marrying a wealthy young Chinese-American man, who is already in love with a Chinatown nightclub dancer. The young man's parents are traditional Chinese and want him to marry the new Chinese immigrant, but he is hesitant until he falls in love with her. Though this musical did not achieve the popularity of the team's five most famous musicals, it was nevertheless a success and broke new ground by using a mostly Asian cast. The 1961 film adaptation
was a lavish, but much criticized, Ross Hunter
production released by Universal Studios
A Broadway revival in 2002 starring Lea Salonga
had a rewritten plot by playwright David Henry Hwang
but retained the inter-generational and immigrant themes as well as most of the original songs.
The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music
, Rodgers and Hammerstein's last work together, is based on the story of the Austrian Von Trapp Family
. Starring Mary Martin
as Maria and Theodore Bikel
as Captain von Trapp, it opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
on November 16, 1959, garnering much praise and numerous awards. It has been frequently revived ever since. The show was made into a film
in 1965 starring Julie Andrews
as Maria and Christopher Plummer
as the Captain. It won five Oscars
, including Best Picture
and Best Director
, Robert Wise
. Hammerstein died in August 1960, before the film was made, so when Rodgers was asked to create two new songs for the film ("I Have Confidence" and "Something Good"), he wrote the lyrics as well as the music. The Sound of Music
contains more hit songs than any other Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, and the film version was the most financially successful film adaptation of a Broadway musical ever made. The most enduring of these include the title song
", "My Favorite Things
", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain
", "So Long, Farewell" and "Sixteen Going on Seventeen
" was the last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together.
Rodgers and Hammerstein re-worked the musical theatre genre. Early 20th-century musicals, except for the Princess Theatre
musicals and a few important examples like Hammerstein and Jerome Kern
's Show Boat
, were usually whimsical or farcical, and typically built around a star. Because the efforts of Rodgers and Hammerstein were so successful, many musicals that followed contained thought-provoking plots with mature themes, and in which all the aspects of the play, dance, song, and drama, were combined in an integrated whole. Stephen Sondheim
has cited Rodgers and Hammerstein as having had a crucial influence on his work.
Rodgers and Hammerstein also use the technique of what some call the "formula musical". While some hail this approach, others criticize it for its predictability. The term "formula musical" may refer to a musical with a predictable plot, but it also refers to the casting requirements of Rodgers & Hammerstein characters. Typically, any musical from this team will have the casting of a strong baritone lead, a dainty and light soprano lead, a supporting lead tenor, and a supporting alto lead. Although there are exceptions to this generalization, it simplifies the audition process and gives audiences an idea of what to expect vocally from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. However, this formula had been used in Viennese operetta
, such as The Merry Widow
William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird wrote that Oklahoma!
, "like Show Boat
, became a milestone, so that later historians writing about important moments in twentieth-century theatre would begin to identify eras according to their relationship to Oklahoma!
In The Complete Book of Light Opera
, Mark Lubbock adds, "After Oklahoma!
, Rodgers and Hammerstein were the most important contributors to the musical-play form – with such masterworks as Carousel
, The King and I
and South Pacific
. The examples they set in creating vital plays, often rich with social thought, provided the necessary encouragement for other gifted writers to create musical plays of their own."
On television and film
The pair made a rare feature film appearance in MGM's 1953 production Main Street to Broadway
, in which Rodgers played the piano and Hammerstein sang a song they had written.
They also appeared in the trailer for the film version of South Pacific
in 1958.
While Rodgers and Hammerstein's work contains cheerful and often uplifting songs, they departed from the comic and sentimental tone of early 20th century musicals by seriously addressing issues such as racism
in many of their works.
For example, Carousel
concerns domestic violence,
while South Pacific
Based on the true story of the von Trapp family, The Sound of Music
explores the views of Austrians on the takeover of Austria by the Third Reich
- ^ Gordon, John Steele. Oklahoma'!' Archived 2010-08-04 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 13, 2010
- ^ Rodgers and Hammerstein began writing together before the era of the Tonys. Oklahoma! opened in 1943 and Carousel in 1945, but the first Tonys were not awarded until 1947.
- ^ a b Lubbock, Mark. "American Musical Theatre: An Introduction", theatrehistory.com, republished from The Complete Book of Light Opera. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962, pp. 753–56, accessed December 3, 2008
- ^ Rodgers and Hart Biography Guide to Musical Theatre, accessed April 5, 2009
- ^ "Show Boat", theatrehistory.com, excerpted from The Complete Book of Light Opera. Lubbock, Mark. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 807–08.
- ^ Wilson, Jeremy. "All the Things You Are (1939)". jazzstandards.com, accessed March 15, 2010
- ^ Layne, Joslyn. Lorenz Hart Biography at Allmusic, accessed September 23, 2009
- ^ Oklahoma! (MCA/Capitol) at AllMusic
- ^ The film was shot in two versions, the Todd-AO one, distributed by Mike Todd's Magna productions, and a Cinemascope version for theatres that were not, at that time, able to handle Todd-AO. The Cinemascope version was released by RKO a year after the Todd-AO version and is the one that most audiences have seen.
- ^ "Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Oklahoma!", Pulitzer.org, 1944, accessed November 16, 2019
- ^ Hyland, p. 158
- ^ "Richard Rodgers Conducts Richard Rodgers, Columbia Odyssey, ASIN B000WZKCLA amazon.com, accessed December 20, 2012
- ^ "Oscar Hammerstein II", Search Results – Academy Awards Database, accessed April 29, 2019
- ^ "Dorothy Manners" Toledo Blade, June 5, 1969
- ^ Gans, Andrew. "Lost Cinderella Footage On View at NYC's Museum of TV & Radio"Archived 2014-02-01 at the Wayback Machine, Playbill.com, June 20, 2002, accessed December 22, 2012
- ^ Julie Andrews: Awards & Nominees, Emmys.com, accessed December 22, 2012
- ^ The Nielsen TV rating for the program was 18,864,000 "homes reached during an average minute" of the broadcast. "Ratings", Broadcasting-Telecasting, 6 May 1957, p. 51
- ^ Lewis, David (2006). Flower Drum Songs: The Story of Two Musicals (illustrated ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co. pp. 208–209. ISBN 978-0-7864-2246-3.
- ^ Hischak, p. 170
- ^ "Oscar Hammerstein II", rnh.com, Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, accessed October 28, 2014
- ^ Hammerstein biography on PBS, pbs.org, accessed November 29, 2008
- ^ Everett, p. 124
- ^ Miller, Matthew. "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities", Forbes.com, October 27, 2009
- ^ :Proms 2010: Prom 49: A celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein, review", The Telegraph, October 27, 2016
- ^ "Episode #298", What's My Line, season 7, episode 25, TV.com, February 19, 1956, accessed August 23, 2017
- ^ Main Street to Broadway overview
- ^ Hischak, p. 54
- ^ Rousuck, J. Wynn. "Rodgers and Hammerstein remembered for their art and their emotional impact: The Sound of Their Music", Baltimore Sun, December 18, 1994, accessed August 15, 2015
- ^ Billington, Michael. [url=https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/aug/21/carousel-musical-review "Carousel – review"], The Guardian, August 21, 2012, accessed August 5, 2015
- ^ Rockwell, John. "Music: A new South Pacific by the City Opera", The New York Times, March 2, 1987, accessed June 5, 2013
- ^ Gearin, Joan. "Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family", Prologue magazine, National Archives and Records Administration, Winter 2005, Vol. 37, Issue No. 4, accessed April 2, 2008
Last edited on 27 May 2021, at 22:35
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