Back To CourseMusic 101: Help and Review
11 chapters | 355 lessons
Chris has taught music and has a master's degree in music education.
At any given time a piece of musical theatre by Rodgers and Hammerstein is probably being performed. How important is their work? Well, think of it this way: six of their eleven musicals were huge successes! We might consider a pop musician that has more than one hit single on an album a huge success. Here's the thing, though: with Rodgers and Hammerstein, you're looking at a group that wrote some of the most well known pieces of musical theatre in American history, won 34 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. Let's start by checking out the life and music of this dynamic duo.
First, a quick look at the life of Richard Rodgers. Rodgers was born June 28, 1902 in Queens, NYC, and he died on December 30, 1979. He studied music at the Institute of Musical Arts (what is now Julliard). He married Dorothy Feiner and they had three children, though tragically one of whom died at birth. His eldest daughter Mary composed the musical 'Once Upon a Mattress' and Mary's son Adam Guettel won a Tony award for his compositions for 'The Light in the Plazza.' His youngest daughter, Linda, had a son, Peter Melnick, who is the composer for the musical 'Adrift In Macao'. Talk about the family trade!
The other half of the duo, Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II also came from a theatrical family. However, Oscar's father would not allow his son to follow in his footsteps. Instead he pursued a law degree at Columbia University and Columbia Law School. He took part in his first play at 19 after his father died, and subsequently dropped out of law school to pursue the theatre. He married twice and had three children. His eldest son, William, was a talented stage manager and director. Hammerstein died of stomach cancer on August 23, 1960.
Before we jump into the music, let's take a quick look at their hardware. Rodgers was the first person to win what became known as the EGOT: he won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony. He's one of only two people to have also won a Pulitzer Prize! He was the principle composer for more than 900 songs and 43 musicals. As librettist, producer, and director, Hammerstein won two Oscars, eight Tony awards, a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, and two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama.
Wait until you see the list of musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote:
• State Fair
• South Pacific
• The King and I
• Me and Juliet
• Pipe Dream
• Flower Drum Song
• The Sound of Music
Granted, they're not all hits ('Me and Juliet' and 'Pipe Dream' were largely panned, and 'Flower Drum Song' did well, but didn't live up to their first six musicals), but the hits they had were huge. Almost just as important was how they revolutionized the musical theatre genre: using the song and dance numbers to enhance the story, rather than as diversion, bringing musical theatre closer to the classical opera.
Their first collaboration, 'Oklahoma!' ran for an astonishing five years, with an initial run from 1943-1948. It includes such standards as 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,' 'People Say We're in Love,' and the titular 'Oklahoma!'. Over the life of its run, 'Oklahoma!' has won a number of awards, including Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, and Theatre World awards amongst others. The stage musical was later adapted for film in 1955, which won an Academy Award, while the soundtrack reached #1 on the charts.
'Carousel' was unique in that it was one of the first musicals to feature an antihero. It ran for two years, and included the standards 'If I Loved You' and 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' 'State Fair' was the duo's only musical written expressly for film. It was well received, though the stage revival did not fair as well. They won their only Oscar for 'It Might as Well Be Spring'. Their follow up, 'Allegro' was too dark and heavy (moralistic even), and it was a comparative failure. Fortunately, that failure propelled the duo on to their next musical…
Hidden within the beautiful music, 'South Pacific' is a morality musical about racism. The number of standards is rather intense, as the list of songs that have entered the common repertoire is incredible: 'Bali Ha'i,' 'Some Enchanted Evening,' 'I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,' 'There Is Nothing Like A Dame,' 'I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy.' 'South Pacific' ran for five years, and won 10 Tony Awards, including being the only musical to ever win a Tony in all four acting categories.
'The King and I' followed 'South Pacific' and was again quite successful, running for nearly four years. It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Actress, and Actor. The musical was adapted as a TV sitcom, 'Anna and the King'. Again, there were a number of pieces that entered the canon: 'I Whistle a Happy Tune,' 'Getting to Know You,' 'Something Wonderful,' 'Shall We Dance?'.
They can't all be winners, and the next two musicals, 'Me and Juliet' and 'Pipe Dream', didn't measure up. 'Flower Drum Song' was considered okay, but not great. 'Cinderella' was the duo's only musical for TV, and it was definitely a success, and featured Julie Andrews as the lead character. Later revivals featured Whitney Houston, Brandy, and Whoopi Goldberg.
It's also safe to say that 'The Sound of Music' is widely known. The original theatrical production won five Tony Awards, and included 'Do-Re-Mi,' 'My Favorite Things,' 'So Long, Farewell,' and 'Edelweiss' (which was the last song the duo ever wrote together). It was adapted into a film in 1965, which won five Oscars.
Rodgers and Hammerstein were the most successful American musical theatre composer/librettist duo of the 20th century. They won numerous awards, including Rodgers winning the EGOT and a Pulitzer Prize. Their first musical, 'Oklahoma!' was hugely successful and began a long partnership of successful musicals, with six of their eleven musicals a rousing success. So many of their songs are part of the standard canon, including 'It Might as Well Be Spring', which won the group their only Oscar.
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Back To CourseMusic 101: Help and Review
11 chapters | 355 lessons
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