Sound of Charlotte Blog

Rodgers & Hammerstein: A to Z

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II ushered in the golden age of Broadway with their revolutionary partnership. In this special A to Z guide, read how their legendary careers impacted musical theatre on both stage and screen. 

Enjoy more than 20 songs from their musical catalog performed live on March 22 & 23, 7:30 p.m. at Knight Theater. Click here for concert information.

 

A

Away We Go! was the original title of Oklahoma! After the addition of the show-stopping song "Oklahoma" during out-of-town tryouts, the decision was made to retitle the musical after that number.

B

Russian-born actor Yul Brynner gave one of the most iconic performances in Broadway history as King Mongkut of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. For the role, he won two Tony Awards and an Academy Award for the film version.

C

Carousel (1945) is the second collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story is about carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, who marries naive millworker, Julie Jordan. After he dies during an ill-conceived robbery attempt to provide money for his wife and unborn child, he is allowed to return to earth for one day to set things straight. Carousel features classics such as "If I Loved You", "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone".

D

Doylestown, Pennsylvania is where the farmhouse stands that Oscar Hammerstein lived in from 1940 until his death in 1960. This is where he wrote his famous lyrics to the shows with Richard Rodgers and where he mentored his young neighbor, Stephen Sondheim, on the art of writing musicals.  

E

"Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music is a song sung by Captain von Trapp as a statement of his Austrian patriotism in the face of Nazi Germany. Named after the edelweiss, a white flower found high in the Alps, many have incorrectly believed that it is an actual Austrian folk song. It is also the last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote together as Hammerstein would die from cancer shortly after The Sound of Music opened on Broadway.

F

The 46th Street Theatre is a Broadway house built in 1925. In 1990, it was renamed The Richard Rodgers Theatre in honor of the composer. Ironically, it has never presented a show by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it was the venue for the 1965 musical Do I Hear A Waltz? written by Rodgers with (Hammerstein protégé) Stephen Sondheim. It is the current home of the smash hit Hamilton

G

Green Grow the Lilacs a 1931 play by Lynn Riggs about settlers in the Oklahoma territory that Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted into their first musical collaboration, Oklahoma!

H

Lorenz Hart was a famous lyricist who was Richard Rodgers' first writing partner. Rodgers and Hart collaborated on shows such as Pal Joey, Boys from Syracuse, and Babes in Arms, and on many popular songs like "Blue Moon", "The Lady is a Tramp", and "My Funny Valentine".

I

"It Might as Well Be Spring" is a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 film musical State Fair. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year. Cinderella, which was written for television, and State Fair are the only musicals by the pair not written for the stage. However, both musicals have since been adapted into stage versions.

J

Julie Andrews has become synonymous with Rodgers and Hammerstein due to her iconic performance in the movie version of The Sound of Music. Prior to that, she originally auditioned for R&H's 1956 musical Pipe Dream but Rodgers advised her to take the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady instead. The following year she starred in R&H's television musical Cinderella which was viewed by more than 100 million people.

K

Jerome Kern was a prolific songwriter and composer of musicals in the 1920s and 30s who Hammerstein worked with prior to his relationship with Rodgers. Their most famous collaboration was on the 1927 musical Show Boat. They also wrote notable songs such as "All The Things You Are" from Very Warm for May and "The Last Time I Saw Paris" which won the 1941 Academy Award for Best Song.

L

Liliom a 1909 play by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár about a Carousel barker who falls in love with a maid named Julie. Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the story, transporting the action from Budapest to Maine, for their second collaboration Carousel.

M

Mary Martin is one of the legendary performers in Broadway history and a three time Tony Award winner. A favorite of Rodgers and Hammerstein, she originated the leading roles of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

N

Nine the number of musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for Broadway. These include the "Big 5" of Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Their other shows include the minor hit Flower Drum Song (1958), as well as the less successful Allegro (1947), Me and Juliet (1953) and Pipe Dream (1955). (Cinderella and State Fair were written for television and film respectively).

O

Oklahoma! (1943) was the first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. It revolutionized the American musical by fully integrating songs, dialogue, and choreography into the story.

P

Paul Robeson, the son of a former slave, was a celebrated American baritone stage and film actor and activist. He is the actor most identified with the role of Joe and song "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat. The song with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Hammerstein. Hammerstein's wife Dorothy, however, remarked that "Jerome Kern wrote 'dum, dum, dum-dum.' My husband wrote 'Ol' Man River'."

Q

Queens, New York: Richard Rodgers was born into a prosperous German Jewish family in Arverne, Queens. Rodgers' father was a prominent physician who had changed the family name to Rodgers from Abrahams.

R

Richard Rodgers is the first person awarded the esteemed "EGOT" or Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. He also was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for South Pacific.

S

"Some Enchanted Evening" tells the love story of the sophisticated Emile Debec, a rich Frenchman who falls for US Army nurse Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific.

T

"There Is Nothing Like a Dame" from South Pacific is a comic song sung by the Navy Seabees, led by the wily Luther Billis, who lament their lack of female companionship while at war.

U

Underwear no seriously! In the early '20s, Richard Rodgers was struggling to make ends meet as a composer. He seriously considered quitting show business altogether to become an underwear salesman. Luckily, he and Hart broke through in 1925 with the hit song "Manhattan" that launched their careers.

V

The Von Trapp Family Singers were the basis for The Sound of Music, the final collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein, debuting on Broadway on November 18, 1955. The musical was an immediate hit, and the show's cast recording, recorded just a week after the debut, went on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide.

W

"The Carousel Waltz" is a symphonic piece by Richard Rodgers that opens the musical Carousel. At the time, it was customary for shows to open with an orchestral overture, however, "The Carousel Waltz" was revolutionary as the music instead underscored a pantomimed opening scene staged by the great Agnes DeMille.

X

Rodgers and Hammerstein took a stand against Xenophobia in their show South Pacific; especially through the lyrics of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song speaks of how racism is not born in people, but they are taught to hate. Defending their stance and inclusion of the song, R&H remarked that "[its message] represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in."

Y

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is the hopeful anthem that concludes the first act of Carousel. In addition to being a Broadway standard it also the anthem of Liverpool Football Club and is sung at soccer games around the world.

Z

Impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, known primarily for his legendary Zeigfeld Follies, produced the original production of Show Boat in his theatre. Jerome Kern composed the score, with Oscar Hammerstein II providing the book, lyrics, and staging.

Posted in Pops.

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