Broadway: Works of Rodgers and Hart, Bernstein & Porter

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  • 0:01 Broadway Legends
  • 0:42 Rodgers & Hart
  • 2:03 Bernstein
  • 3:26 Porter
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores the Broadway careers of Rodgers & Hart, Bernstein, and Porter. It highlights famous musicals like 'Anything Goes,' 'Kiss Me Kate,' and 'West Side Story.'

Broadway Legends

Many musicians rocket to fame, but then fizzle out as quickly as legwarmers or New Coke. Still others stand the test of time, delighting audiences even long after their deaths. Rock has Elvis and the Beatles. Jazz has Fitzgerald. Broadway has Rodgers & Hart, Bernstein, and Porter.

To give a nod to the amazing cultural force that is Broadway, today's lesson will focus on the iconic works of these latter four men: the famous partnership of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, the long-enduring works of Leonard Bernstein, and the smash hits of Cole Porter. With so many hits and legends to cover, today's lesson just may read like the 'Who's Who of Broadway Musicals.' With this, let's get going with the renowned partnership of Rodgers & Hart.

Rodgers & Hart

As two college buddies from Columbia University, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart created some of the most famous musical comedies of the 20s and the 30s. With their debut song, 'Any Old Place with You,' the duo kicked off a composing career that included the 1920s musical hits, Betsy, Chee-Chee, Dearest Enemy, and perhaps their most famous, Connecticut Yankee.

Conquering the 1920s Broadway scene, the pair spent the early 30s in Hollywood crafting music for the Silver Screen. However, the mid-30s drew them back to the lights of Broadway. Returning to the Big Apple, they spent the late 30s and into the 40s writing smash hit shows, like Babe in Arms, which contained the famous song, 'The Lady is a Tramp,' and Pal Joey, whose playlist included the catchy tune, 'Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.'

In the early 40s, the famous pair delighted audiences with a revision of their late 20s hit, Connecticut Yankee. Sadly, only a few days after its opening, Lorenzo Hart succumbed to illness. With his death in 1943, the famed team of Rodgers & Hart came to an end. However, Richard Rodgers kept their legacy alive, partnering with Oscar Hammerstein II to create the celebrated Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. Rodgers continued to churn out hits until his death in 1979.


Leaving our famous duo, we come to Leonard Bernstein. Born in 1918 to a hardworking Russian immigrant, Bernstein definitely paid his dues as a struggling musician. Defying the odds, this son of a fish-cleaner attended Harvard University and Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. With the knowledge he gained from these years, he became one of the first American conductors to command world-class orchestras. His resume even included the famed Philharmonic.

Bernstein also took on opera. In the early 50s, his work Trouble in Tahiti hit the stage. Considered one of Bernstein's darkest works, this opera proved the multi-dimensionality of his musical prowess. Now with all this talk of conducting orchestras and operas, you may be wondering why we're talking about Bernstein in a lesson about Broadway?

I'll answer this question with three words: West Side Story. Debuting in 1957, this take-off of Romeo & Juliet cemented Bernstein's place in American musical history. Still performed in theaters from New York City to high school auditoriums everywhere, West Side Story continues to make fingers snap and eyes water. Succumbing to emphysema at the age of 72, this work and his many others rightly place Bernstein in a conversation concerning Broadway.

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