Saturday 7th July 2007 to Saturday 7th July 2007
Ware Drill Hall
Rodgers and Hammerstein
Rodgers and Hammerstein were an American song-writing duo whose work in the field of operetta was ground breaking. They are most Famous for creating a string of immensely popular Broadway musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, during what is considered the golden age of the medium. Five of their shows were outstanding successes: Oklahoma! (their first collaboration), Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. Among the many accolades they garnered were thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, two Pulitzer prizes, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards.
The pair wrote nine musicals together and collaborated on a musical film, State Fair. As producers they also brought Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun to the stage leaving a legacy of successes that has never been equalled. Their joint efforts continued over a twenty year period, until Hammerstein's death in 1960.
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 together. 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 focus on emotional empathy; characters and situations far removed from the audience by time and geography; its use of American historical and social materials; and its use of dance and song to convey plot and character rather than act as an intermission or diversion from the story. The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943 at the St.James Theatre. At the time, roles in musicals were usually filled by actors who could sing, but Rodgers and Hammerstein chose the reverse, casting singers who could act. As a result, there were also no stars in the production, another unusual step. Nevertheless the production ran for a then unprecedented 2212 perforrnances, finally closing on May 29, 1948. In 1955 it was adapted to make an Academy Award-winning musical film.
The original production of Carousel was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and opened at Broadway's Majestic Theatre on April lg, 1945, running for 890 performances and closing on May 24, 1947. Carousel was also revolutionary for its time - it was one of the first musicals to contain a tragic plot; the show was adapted from Ferenc Molnar's play Liliom.
South Pacific opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949, and ran for more than five years. A number of its songs, such as Bali Ha'i, Younger than Spingtime, and Some Enchanted Evening, have become world-wide standards. For their adaptation, Rodgers and Hammerstein, along with co-writer Joshua Logan, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950. The play is based on two short stories by James A. Michener from his book Tales of the South pacific, which itself was the winner of the pulitzer prize for Fiction in 1948.
The King and I
Based on Margaret Landon's book Anna and the King of Siam, the biographical story of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s, Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The King and.1 opened on Broadway on March 29, 1951 and starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna, and a mostly unknown Yul Brynner as the King. It was later adapted for fiim, in 1956, with Brynner re-creating his role opposite Deborah Kerr. 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 l9T7 and 1985, and in a short-lived sitcom in 1922, Anna and the King.
The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music was Rodgers and Hammerstein's last work together. It told the story of the von Trapp family. It opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne theatre on November 16, 1959, and starred Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Captain von Trapp. It was later made into a movie starring Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as the Captain. The movie won five Oscars, including best picture and best director, Robert Wise. Hammerstein did not live to see the movie made. When Rodgers wrote two extra songs for the movie, he wrote the lyrics a1so.
These two artists completely re-worked the musical theatre genre. Before they came along musicals were whimsical and usually built around a star. After them, musicals contained thought-provoking plots and every aspect of the p1ay, dance, song and drama were important to the plot. In addition to their enduring work, Rodgers and Hammerstein were honoured in 1999 with a United States Postal Service stamp commemorating their partnership.
The Richard Rodgers Theatre in New york City is named for Rodgers.