Rodgers & Hammerstein

Rodgers & Hammerstein - One of the greatest collaborations in American musical Theatre of all time.

A Rodgers & Hammerstein Press Conference – March, 1960 – Past Daily Talking Music

Rodgers & Hammerstein
Rodgers & Hammerstein – One of the greatest collaborations in American musical Theatre of all time.

Rodgers & Hammerstein Press Conference – March 1960 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

There is no question – the name Rodgers & Hammerstein have become a solid fixture in American culture, and have been that way since Oklahoma premiered and promptly changed the entire nature of American Music Comedy. Their musical theater writing partnership has been called the greatest of the 20th century.

Rodgers and Hammerstein was a theater-writing team of composer Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960), who together created a series of innovative and influential American musicals. Their popular Broadway productions in the 1940s and 1950s initiated what is considered the “golden age” of musical theater. Five of their Broadway shows, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, were outstanding successes, as was the television broadcast of Cinderella (1957). Of the other four shows that the team produced on Broadway during their lifetimes, Flower Drum Song was well-received, and none was an outright flop. Most of their shows have received frequent revivals around the world, both professional and amateur. Among the many accolades their shows (and film versions) garnered were thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes (for Oklahoma!, 1944, and South Pacific, 1950) and two Grammy Awards.

Rodgers and Hammerstein re-worked the musical theater genre. Early 20th-century musicals, except for the Princess Theatre musicals and a few important examples like Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s Show Boat, were usually whimsical or farcical, and typically built around a star. Because the efforts of Rodgers and Hammerstein were so successful, many musicals that followed contained thought-provoking plots with mature themes, and in which all the aspects of the play, dance, song, and drama, were combined in an integrated whole. Stephen Sondheim has cited Rodgers and Hammerstein as having had a crucial influence on his work.

Rodgers and Hammerstein also use the technique of what some call the “formula musical”. While some hail this approach, others criticize it for its predictability. The term “formula musical” may refer to a musical with a predictable plot, but it also refers to the casting requirements of Rodgers & Hammerstein characters. Typically, any musical from this team will have the casting of a strong baritone lead, a dainty and light soprano lead, a supporting lead tenor, and a supporting alto lead. Although there are exceptions to this generalization, it simplifies the audition process and gives audiences an idea of what to expect vocally from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. However, this formula had been used in Viennese operetta, such as The Merry Widow.

This press conference takes place just ahead of the opening of the London production of Flower Drum Song and much of the questions and answers surround that. But the questions also cover a wide rang of topics including the partnership itself and the nature of the American Musical.

A nice piece of history featuring two of the most revered and treasured figures in mid-century American Music.

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