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The Development of Musical Theatre from Rogers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim

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Brianne Pantalone

on 14 November 2013

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Transcript of The Development of Musical Theatre from Rogers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim

The Development of Musical Theatre from Rogers & Hammerstein to Sondheim
The Beginning
The Beginning Continued
In 1735 the first show to ever be performed in the what is now known as the United States was a production of "Flora," a ballad opera that had been imported from England.
In 1828 "Hamlet" was performed.
In 1869 "Ixion" was performed. "Ixion" was unique in the fact it was the first show that used nude colored tights, openning the theatre world to more sensuality.
The Burlesque was the most popular type of theatre of the time. Burleqsue show consisted of travesties on or parodies of famous plays, performers or dancers. Burlesque shows were primarily performed using song, dance, pantomine, and dialogue.
Operettas became popular because the combination of singing and acting was less "absurd"- in other words, operettas were taken less seriously
They were still sung, but the music gradually became simpler, and was now in English
Gilbert and Sullivan's works were hits
* Show Boat:
"The history of the American Musical Theatre, quite simply, is divided into two eras: everything before Show Boat, and everything after Show Boat” (Miles Kreuger).
Proved that musical theater and operetta could successfully come together, and also proved that Broadway could deal with serious material.
From the beginning, musical theater has addressed important social issues
Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore was one of the first examples of how musical theater can address social concerns
Story of forbidden love between a common sailor (Ralph) and a captain's daughter (Josephine)
Eventually, they find that Ralph was switched at birth with the Captain. Thus, he is unknowingly of higher rank, and they are free to be together
Musical Theater and Society
Unintentionally, it addressed class: G&S intended the message to be the importance of class
Americans took it to mean that "anything is possible" by way of social classes
Show Boat, one of the next big hits, addressed important themes such as racism, gambling, and marital problems
As time went on, important societal issues continued to be addressed in musical theater
Patriotism for World War 1: Ziegfeld's Follies, all of George M. Cohan's shows
Rodgers and Hammerstein
Rodgers and Hammerstein's time/works were known as a “revolution”
Rodgers and Hammerstein developed the modern musical play
They wrote:
1 Movie musical (Cinderella)
1 Television musical (State Fair)
9 Broadway musicals
All 9 stage works can still be heard today through original cast albums
Based on the novel, "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon about Anna Leonowens, who is actually a true, historical person.
Summary: Considered a "barbarian" in the West, the King of Siam asks for Anna's assistance to rid this image and prove that he and his country are just as civilized and "scientific" as Britain. Both Anna and the King are very stubborn about their cultures but they gradually grow affectionate towards each other... BUT HE DIES!!!!
Preceded by a movie in 1946. Opened on Broadway on March 29, 1951, with Gertrude Lawrence as "Anna" and Yul Brynner as the "King"
The popular Hollywood film adaptation was made with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.
Yul Brynner played the King 4,600 times!!!!
The King and I
The Sound of Music
Stephen Sondheim
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Based off Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night
Originally intended to be fantasy-like, elements of romantic opera
Liebeslieders (the singing "Greek chorus") as an indifferent group in the midst of the chaos
Entire show is written in a waltz, both to create unity and to show nostalgia
Had more "happily ever after" than most of Sondheim's works, which many critics disliked
Many blamed this on Hugh Wheeler's book rather than Sondheim's music
A Little Night Music
As time went on, musical theater changed as life became more complicated:
"...musicals have changed because the country, its culture, and people have changed. The American musical theater cannot return to the carefree days of escapist entertainment because there no longer exists a real concensus among the majority of Americans "(Gordon 18)
Sondhim helps bridge the gap between theater and musical theater, for those who don't take it seriously
Sondheim uses all elements- music, lyrics, dialogue, dance, design, and directions together-to form a show
Melodies/rhythms are influenced by character
Uses American English beautifully in his lyrics
Each one of his works differs so because he writes based on the story and setting, not on a set form
They influenced other composers, but more importantly showed that musicals could be “idea bearing” and introduce complicated social ideas, while still making money and being entertaining.
They put having good stories before easy entertainment, were among the first to do so
Their music was much more expressive than any other musical theatre music at the time.
Rodger's music responded directly to the importance of Hammerstein's words.
Mary Martin and her husband Richard Halliday approached Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1958 about writing one song for their play version of the von Trapp story, but they agreed upon making an entire musical!
This was the first musical that Hammerstein did not write the libretto for. The librettists were Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
The major motion picture starring Julie Andrews was released in 1965.
It earned 7 Tony Awards , including Best Musical!
The musical ran for 1,443 performances! It was the third longest-running musical in the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon.
First opened at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959.
The Sound of Music
When a postulant (the real Maria Kutschera) proves too high-spirited for the religious life, she is dispatched to serve as governess for the seven children of a widowed naval Captain (the real Georg Ritter von Trapp). Her growing rapport with the youngsters, coupled with her generosity of spirit, gradually captures the heart of the stern Captain, and they get married.


Upon returning from their honeymoon they discover that Austria has been invaded by the Nazis, who demand the Captain's immediate service in their navy. The family's narrow escape over the mountains to Switzerland on the eve of World War II provides one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in the theatre.


The story is based on the true story of the von Trapp family in Nazi Austria!
The Demise of
Rodgers and Hammerstein

The show was said to indulge in “the cliches of operetta” and the authors were said to have ‘succumbed to a sort of joint amnesia and forgotten everything that Broadway learned, partly under their tutelage, in the 40s and 50s.”
This concept haunted the second half of their career.
They seemed less inclined toward unusual devices now than to mastering conventions, even those of their own making.
"The Black Crook" was produced in NYC in the fall of 1866 introduced the use of chorus girls ornate production numbers, elaborate costumes, sexual innuendos in music, large dance numbers and beyond.
"The Brook" was the first American Play to connect actual American Experience and brought unity to concepts of play plots.
The Beginning Continued
Harrigan and Hart were the producers and writers for what was known as the "Mulligan Guard" series, producing what was know as "Mulligans Guard's Ball" in 1879
George M. Cohan was considered the father of American Musical Comedy (librettist, lyricist, composer) unmistakenly American due to the elements within the play.
In the 1920s Rodgers and Hart wrote music with Herbert Fields as librettist.
In 1927 the first Musical Play was written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern- "Show Boat."
"Of Thee I Sing!" was the first political satire written by satire George S. Kaufman, Morrie, Ryskinds, and Ira and George Gershwin.
First of Rodgers & Hammerstein were the first major pair of musical writters. R & H's shows included "Oklahoma," Carousel," The King and I," South Pacific," "The Sound of Music."
The Music of
Rodgers and Hammerstein

Rodgers & Hammerstein were later followed by Lerner & Loewe, Frank Loesser, and Leonard Bernstein
Rodger took measured quality to support such genuine expressions of emotion as found in hymn-like numbers such as “Climb Every Mountain."
Such songs required ‘legitimate’ voices. They also required acting singers.
He aimed to evoke in music the specific quality of each character and situation afresh.
The orchestration now became a big part of their musicals.
"message" show: slavery, polygamy, British imperialism, etc.
early 1950's was when U.S. troops fighting Asian despotism in Korea. Cold War... WWII... Fear against Communism.
credited for portraying the East with dignity. HOWEVER, it was banned and never screened in Thailand for being culturally insensitive.
Scene: Small House of Uncle Thomas, based on "Uncle Tom's Cabin"- based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel (1852)
King and I cnt.
Originally opened in 1962 Washington DC at the National Theatre before moving to the Alvin Theatre where "Forum" would have successful Broadway production run of 964 performances between 1962 - 1964.
Music and Lyrics By Stephen Sondheim
Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart
Since "Forum's" originally opening, it has been revived on Broadway twice, nationally toured the U.S., as well as had successful productions in London.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is based off of the plays 'Miles Gloriosus," "Pseudolus," and "Mostellaria" by Plautus (251-183 B.C.)
Set in Sweden in the turn of the 20th century
40 year old lawyer Frederick Egerman has just married a "trophy wife", 18 year old Anne Egerman, who is very immature and innocent. Frederik's 19- year old son Henrik is madly in love with her.
At the theater one evening, the two run into Frederick's old lover, actress Desiree Armfeldt. He sneaks out to see her after the show. She soon invites him and his family to visit her country home, where her mother and daughter, Fredrika, live.
"A Weekend in the Country" is an adventure for all, but everyone eventually finds their rightful lover.
A Little Night Music
Without the music Sondheim wrote for "Forum," the musical would confusing and inconsistant.
Forum Continued...
In creating the score and lyrics for "Forum" Sondheim broke the strict guidelines of Rodgers & Hammerstein tradition, allowing each song to give the audience a better understanding of a character's inner life.
As time passes Musical Theatre adapts with changes in society.
In recent years there have been musicals based on television shows, movies, novels, and controversial issues in society.
Musicals from the past twenty years include: Wicked, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Little Women, Spiderman, In The Heights, Jersey Boys, Etc.
Many musicals have also had their revivals in the past two decades including: Anything Goes, Forum, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Aida, Etc.
Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show on Broadway entering its 26th season since its openning on the West End and 24th season since its openning on Broadway.
Music Theatre in the 20th & 21st Century
It can be said that Sondheim hadn't developed his style of writing yet, because "Forum" did not have the clarity of his later shows.
Filled with a house of courtesans, a warrior, a crazy old man.
Full transcript