Over the weekend, I drifted to my nearest local EZY video shop.
While waiting to be served, I drifted to the comedy, musicals, and the
crime sections. It was the musicals that greatly attracted my interest.
I’ve always loved musicals, something amiss nowadays, replaced by films
with much violence, sexual overtones, political, science fiction and
other action-packed Hollywood offerings. Slowly, my thoughts lingered
to refreshing movies with music – The Sound of Music, Carousel, South Pacific, Camelot, My Fair Lady, and Mary Poppins among others. Yes, I particularly mean movie musicals!
enough my memories wafted to the greatest musical collaboration of all
time, that of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the most
successful legendary songwriting team in musical theatre history.
Rodgers wrote the music, and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics. Most of the
stage musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein were made into movies, also
with phenomenal success, in particular, The Sound of Music.
16, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) initially wrote a number of successful
songs with Lorenz Hart, a partnership that lasted for over twenty
years. Hart died in 1943. The same year Rodgers and Hammerstein
(1895-1960) teamed up and started their first musical collaboration
with Oklahoma! based on a play called ‘Green Grow the Lilacs’ by Lynn
Riggs. Oklahoma! is very different from most musicals written
up to that time where they were mainly songs and comedy, with little
plot. Usually, the songs had little to do with the story. Oklahoma!
has a plot. The songs either help move the plot along or help the
audience understand the characters. The story is partly fun, and has a
serious side too. This is because Rodgers’s background was mostly in
the old-style, "fun" musicals, while Hammerstein’s background was in
opera and operetta—more "serious" types of music. When Rodgers worked
with Hart, he wrote the music first, and then Hart wrote the lyrics.
But in this new team, Hammerstein wrote the lyrics first and Rodgers
created the music to fit.
Audiences loved Oklahoma!. It
played on Broadway for 2,248 performances, breaking all Broadway box
office records for shows until that time. It also won the Pulitzer
Prize for drama in 1944, which changed the face of stage musicals – an
emotional story told through music, dance and lyrics as never before.
After Oklahoma! Rodgers and Hammerstein went on to create Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.
The impact on these shows for Broadway and amateur stage, both in terms
of popular appeal and their influence on other writers, was
Carousel, the duo’s next big hit in 1945, had an even more dramatic plot than Oklahoma!.
Instead of the usual overture before the show begins, the show opens
with the whole cast performing a ballet as the orchestra plays.
written in 1949, and based on ‘Tales from the South Pacific’ by
novelist James A. Michener, is set during World War II. It has the most
serious plot of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show because it confronts
both war and racism. South Pacific also won the Pulitzer Prize.
The King and I
is about conflicts between cultures. It is based on a true story about
Anna Leonowens, a British governess who went to Siam (now Thailand) to
teach the king’s children. Anna finds life in Siam very different from
what she is accustomed to, but she and the king come to like each other
despite their differences.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final collaboration was The Sound of Music,
in 1959. It is also based on a true story, about a young novice nun who
becomes the governess for seven children of a widower, Captain Von
Trapp. This musical also has a serious side—it is set in the days of
Nazi Germany, and the Von Trapp family’s freedom is at stake. The
beautiful song "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music was the last
song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together. Hammerstein died of cancer
on August 23, 1960. After Hammerstein's death, Rodgers wrote other
shows with other lyricists, including Stephen Sondheim, but none
reached the heights of his work with Hammerstein.
For always, I
will relish the most beautiful and poignant legacy of their
partnership. How can I forget such immortal, refreshing, and most
wonderful hit songs on stage and film history as these:
- "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "People Will Say We're in Love,"
"Many a New Day," "I Can't Say No," and the final rousing chorus of
Carousel – "You’ll Never Walk alone" and "If I loved You."
South Pacific – "There is Nothin' Like a Dame," "This Nearly was Mine," "Younger Than Springtime" and "Some Enchanted Evening."
The King and I – "Getting to Know You," "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Something Wonderful" and "Hello, Young Lovers."
The Sound of Music – "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "The Lonely Goatherd", as well as the title song.
knows, we might yet have another Rodgers and Hammerstein in the making,
an anodyne to all these turbulence and disarray in our world today. As
I write this, nearby, my sound system is playing Carousel,
softly beckoning me to join in. That I never cease listening to their
music and at times singing their songs is a privilege. I’m at it now, "
… how I loved you… if I loved you."
Asiado is an Information Technology professional turned writer, author
and consultant. Employed by multi-national organizations in information
technology, computing and consulting, she has several years of varied
experience as project manager, business solution manager, process and
information analyst, and as a business writer. Her writings also
reflect her passions for inspirational/motivational and Christian
insights, and classical music. Visit one of her websites: http://inspiredpen.4t.com