Rodgers and Hammerstein



  • The US composer Richard Rodgers (1902 - 79) and his lyricistOscar Hammerstein II (1895 - 1960), who were the stage's mostsuccessful musical team since Gilbert and Sullivan. Their main contributionto the 20th-century musical was to blend bright strong tunes withsophisticated plots. Beginning in 1949, they became producers of theirown musicals and those of others.

    Hammerstein, who came from a family of theater managers andproducers, began his career as a stage manager on Broadway beforeturning to writing lyrics. His first work on a musical was creatingthe book and lyrics for Always You (1920). Success came withRose Marie (1924; music by Rudolf Friml), The Desert Song(1926; music by Sigmund Romberg), and the epoch-making Show Boat(1927; music by Jerome Kern).

    Rodgers, who began to write songs at an early age, met thewitty lyricist Lorenz Hart (1895 - 1943) at ColumbiaUniversity and the two collaborated on a 1920 varsity show. Laterthey enjoyed success with such offerings as The Garrick Gaieties(1925), A Connecticut Yankee (1927), On Your Toes (1936),which was the first Broadway musical to feature a ballet ('Slaughteron Tenth Avenue' choreographed by George Balanchine), Babes inArms (1937), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and PalJoey (1940), which made Gene Kelly a star.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein's first collaboration was the epoch-makingOklahoma! (1943), which won a Pulitzer Prize and ran for2248 performances on Broadway and 1543 at London's Drury Lane. Itwas followed by Hammerstein's personal favourite Carousel(1945), which has been called their best show musically and dramatically,and the unsuccessful Allegro (1947). South Pacific(1949) took another Pulitzer Prize, and was followed by the exoticThe King and I (1951), starring Yul Brynner and GertrudeLawrence, who died during its run, Flower Drum Song (1958)set in San Francisco's Chinatown, Pipe Dream (1955), a relativefailure that ran for only 246 performances, and, a year before Hammersteindied, The Sound of Music (1959).

    After Hammerstein's death, Rodgers worked on several musicalswith Stephen Sondheim.