Rodgers and Hammerstein

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Composer/songwriter Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) and writer/lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960) had such a successful collaboration in the creation of musicals that they are recognized by last name alone and usually called simply Rodgers and Hammerstein. They "wrote nine Broadway musicals together in eighteen years [and] revolutionized musical storytelling."[1] At least three of their shows, Oklahoma!, Carousel, and South Pacific, generally turn up, either individually or collectively, in any list of the greatest musicals of all time. Another, The Sound of Music, has been one of biggest grossing movies of all time. In 1966, two of the six longest-running shows in Broadway history were by Rodgers and Hammerstein, while two others were at #12 and #18.[2]

Not every show they created, however, was a smash hit. The lesser known Allegro (1947), Me and Juliet (1953), and Pipe Dream (1955) all ran for between 245 and 358 shows during their original productions on Broadway, a far cry from the lengthy runs of Oklahoma and South Pacific.

Both writers had achieved respectable careers before teaming up, particularly Rodgers, who had already created a name for himself in partnership with Lorenz Hart. But the duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein achieved monumental status; they revolutionized the Broadway musical theatre.

Among their innovations was the perfecting of a style of musicals that were full-fledged dramatic musical plays, in which music, singing and dance were integral, rather than ancillary to the story. Prior to the Rodgers and Hammerstein era, the vast majority of musicals had been a collection of skits, dances, and comic turns, with musical interludes. With the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, music, singing and even dancing helped drive the plot. Their first production, Oklahoma!, introduced recurring musical themes and motifs, a device that has been successfully employed ever since, in everything from Star Wars to Phantom of the Opera.

The duo was awarded a formidable number of Tony Awards, an accomplishment made all the more remarkable by the fact that they began writing and producing before the advent of the Tony Awards.

See catalog of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.

The team's list of hit songs is likewise enviable, and runs the gamut from pop songs and international standards, to the musical education repertory and the repertoire of marching bands.

See catalog of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.

References

  1. The New Yorker, "A Thing Called Hope", by John Lahr, April 24, 2008, at [1]
  2. The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1966, page 137

Sources

The World Almanac and Book of Facts, New York, 1966, New York World-Telegram