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Musical Theater Lecture 3

Rodgers and Hammerstein
by

Jessica López-Barkl

on 22 August 2017

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Transcript of Musical Theater Lecture 3

Musical Theater Lecture 3
The American Musical Comes of Age with Rodgers and Hammerstein

The plot draws from James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales from the South Pacific.

The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical.

Premiered in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.

South Pacific

The second stage musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Premiered in 1945.

Adapted from Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play
Liliom
, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline.

Brooks Atkinson said: “
Carousel
has no comment to make on anything of topical importance. The theme is timeless and universal: the devotion of two people who love each other through thick and thin, complicated in this case by the wayward personality of the man, who cannot fulfill the responsibilities he has assumed. Billy is a bum, but
Carousel
recognizes the decency of his motives and admires his independence. There are no slick solutions in
Carousel
.”
Carousel

Teamed up with Richard Rodgers in 1942 to create some of the most influential musicals.

While Hammerstein’s lyrics have sometimes been criticized for their sentimentality, he made major innovations in the form and subject-matter of the American musical.

Oscar Hammerstein II

Some of these musicals included:
Jumbo
(1935),
On Your Toes
(1936),
Babes in Arms
(1937),
I’d Rather Be Right
(1937),
I Married an Angel
(1938),
The Boys from Syracuse
(1938),
Too Many Girls
(1939), and
By Jupiter
(1942).

Pal Joey
(1940), a musical chronicling the adventures of an amoral nightclub owner, was initially unpopular with critics and audiences, but more successful in its 1952 revival.


Richard Rodgers

Interrupted musical theater experiments in
political and social commentary because audiences wanted escapism in story in song.

The Second World War

Based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

Premiered in 1959.

Hammerstein died of cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere.

Brooks Atkinson said: “The best of
The Sound of Music
is Rodgers and Hammerstein in good form…[However, the libretto] has the hackneyed look of the musical theatre replaced with
Oklahoma!
in 1943. It is disappointing to see the American musical stage succumbing to the clichés of operetta.”

The Sound of Music

Based on the 1944 novel
Anna and the King of Siam
by Margaret Landon and derives from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who became governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

Premiered in 1951.

Rodgers biographer Meryle Secrest summed up the musical: “
The King and I
is really a celebration of love in all its guises, from the love of Anna for her dead husband; the love of the King’s official wife, Lady Thiang, for a man she knows is flawed and also unfaithful; the desperation of forbidden love; and a love that is barely recognized and can never be acted upon.”


The King and I

It portrays the hero or heroine’s dream of the consequence of his/her behavior.

Dream Ballet

1904-1993. Noted modern dancer and influential choreographer of Broadway shows. Had her greatest successes with Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Born into a theatrical family: her father was a playwright and her uncle a noted film director and producer.

Her ballet-inspired choreography for
Oklahoma!
Was narrative in form and revealed characterization and motives in “Laurey’s Dream.

Founded the Heritage Dance Theatre in 1973.


Agnes de Mille

1895-1960. American lyricist and librettist.

His first big success came with the lyrics for
Rose-Marie
(1924), an operetta with music by Rudolf Friml.

In the 1920s he also wrote lyrics for
Sunny
(1925) and
The Desert Song
(1926).

In 1927 he wrote both the lyrics and libretto for the era’s most ambitious musical,
Show Boat
, which had a score written by Jerome Kern.

He wrote several other musicals with Kern before teaming up with Richard Rogers.

Oscar Hammerstein II

From 1942 Rodgers partnered lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II and wrote dramatic, emotionally explosive scores for his ‘musical plays’ of the 1940s and 1950s.

The shows were noted for the care with which the music and dance were integrated with the libretto.

Richard Rodgers

1902-1979. American composer.

Rodgers teamed up with lyricist Lorenz Hart in 1919. After their first successful score for
The Garrick Gaieties
(1925), they created an almost unbroken stream of hit musicals, including
Dearest Enemy
(1925),
The Girl Friend
(1926),
Peggy-Ann
(1926) and
A Connecticut Yankee
(1927).

Rodgers composed bouncy, jazz-influenced music that complemented the clever lyrics of Hart.

In the early 1930s Rodgers and Hart wrote the songs for several Hollywood musical films, then returned to Broadway to create some of the most popular scores of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Richard Rodgers

The unprecedented popularity of
Oklahoma!
, the first musical by the new partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, affirmed the simple values of an earlier America. Based on the Lynn Riggs’ play GREEN GROW THE LILACS, the musical pioneered many firsts for Broadway.

A book that allowed a murder to take
place onstage.

A “dream ballet” choreographed by Agnes de Mille, depicting the heroine’s troubled dream.
There was no opening number.

Set a new standard for integration of story and song and introduced a dramatic ballet to advance the story line.

Oklahoma!

Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music
Full transcript