Rodgers And Hammerstein Musicals For The Beginner

Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals for those who love American Musical Theater. Take a look at this Rodgers and Hammerstein profile for beginners.

The musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein are more than simply shows; they are landmarks of American history. Here is a small introduction to the men behind the famous works.

Richard Rodgers was born in 1902 into a musical family. From the beginning, he was partnered with the best in the musical biz. His first pairing was with famous lyricist Lorenz Hart in the "Girl Friend," "Babes in Arms" and "Pal Joey," among others. After working with Hammerstein, he moved on to collaborate with Stephen Sondheim. Rodgers is known for his charming melodies and use of orchestration. His music and melodies always remain simple and open, and his thorough scores reflect a highly organized mind.

Oscar Hammerstein was well-known in his day as a playwright. Before meeting Rodgers, he studied law at Colombia University. His early musical lyrics were for Jerome Kern's "Music in the Air," "Three Sisters" and "Showboat," among others. He acted as a mentor to the early Stephen Sondheim, whose works now reflect his lyricism. He was named Poet Laureate in 1985.

Rodgers and Hammerstein began their collaboration in 1943 with "Oklahoma!" "Oklahoma!" opened at the St. James theater in New York City and won them both a Pulitzer Prize. From there the two went on to create pure hits. A key factor in their work is the presence of national values and almost political commentary. "Carousel's" plot concerns domestic violence, and "The King and I" is a moving portrait of slavery and human rights. "The King and I" and "South Pacific" also contain elements of racism, bringing a common American problem to the attention and sympathy of their audience. The partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein spanned 17 years, ending at Hammerstein's death. Their works dominate American theater to this day.

It is interesting to note that while Rodgers and Hammerstein were a perfect pair onstage, offstage they rarely spoke to each other. It's a well-known fact that Hammerstein often typed up lyrics and sent them with messengers to Rodgers' door. Rodgers would then compose the music and send it back to be slipped under the door of Hammerstein. The two publicly acknowledged this; Hammerstein once stated of Rodgers, "I hand him a lyric and get out of his way." This cold association between stage-writing teams is not uncommon. Gilbert and Sullivan were notoriously rude to each other, and even fought and made up in public at certain points. Rodgers and Kern were not on the best of terms, and Rodgers also stated later that working with Sondheim was "not my first impulse, even while at work with him." The most important part of a musical team is camaraderie and willingness to listen to each other. In their own way, Rodgers and Hammerstein communicated very well, and so their shows were individual pieces of good taste.

Rodgers and Hammerstein have a universal appeal, and rarely cease to delight. For the beginning Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, I would recommend a showing of the popular musical "The Sound of Music." For the continuing fan, their other collaborative musicals are as follows: "Oklahoma!," "South Pacific," "The King and I," "Carousel" and "Flower Drum Song." Happy listening!

© High Speed Ventures 2011