You’ve probably heard of “Rodgers and Hammerstein” – but who were those guys and why do their names matter? It’s as simple as this: when composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II joined forces, they became the most consistently fruitful and successful partnership in the American musical theatre.
Prior to his work with Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers collaborated with lyricist Lorenz Hart on a series of musical comedies that epitomized the wit and sophistication of Broadway in its heyday; among their greatest were On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, and Pal Joey.
Throughout the same era, Oscar Hammerstein II brought new life to a dying art form: the operetta. With Jerome Kern he wrote Show Boat, the 1927 operetta that changed the course of modern musical theatre. His last musical before embarking on an exclusive partnership with Richard Rodgers was Carmen Jones, the highly-acclaimed 1943 all-black revision of Georges Bizet's tragic opera Carmen.
Oklahoma!, the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, was also the first of a new genre, the musical play, representing a unique fusion of Rodgers' musical comedy and Hammerstein's operetta. A milestone in the development of the American musical, it also marked the beginning of the most successful partnership in Broadway musical history, and was followed by Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote one musical specifically for the big screen, State Fair, and one for television, Cinderella.
Astoundingly, the musicals of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II earned 42 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards and 2 Emmy Awards. In 1998 Rodgers & Hammerstein were cited by Time Magazine and CBS News as among the 20 most influential artists of the 20th century, and in 1999 they were jointly commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp.
In the 21st century, the Rodgers & Hammerstein legacy continues to flourish. Their musicals remain successful in revivals, winning Tonys and enthralling new audiences. In fact, Oklahoma! is about to open on Broadway again in April!
Your chance to hear the Cape Symphony perform all your favorite Rodgers & Hammerstein songs is coming up in June. Don’t miss The Very Best of Rodgers & Hammerstein, June 8 and 9. Get tickets at capesymphony.org or call 508.362.1111.
With thanks to The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.