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Best Rodgers and Hammerstein Musicals

Published on: Mar 14, 2023
By: Kathryn Willingham
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Who Are Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II?

Richard Rodgers is an American composer born in 1902. He first partnered with Lorenz Hart, also known as Larry Hart, to write musicals like Pal Joey and Babes in Arms. He then went on to collaborate with Oscar Hammerstein II, writing many of the most popular shows in the American musical theatre canon. Richard Rodgers was the first ever EGOT winner, meaning he won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. Beyond that, he also won the Pulitzer Prize and a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement in the arts. A Broadway Theater, the 46th Street Theatre, was renamed the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1990. It has hosted many popular shows and is the current home of the blockbuster Hamilton

Oscar Hammerstein II is an American lyricist born in 1985. He collaborated with many composers including Jerome Kern on the musical Show Boat, but his longest collaboration was with Richard Rodgers. Together they created some of the most well-known musicals of the genre, many of which are still being performed today. Composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim often referenced Hammerstein’s influence and mentorship, even calling him a surrogate father. Over his career, Hammerstein won two Oscars, eight Tony Awards, a Grammy Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

A Comprehensive List of Rodgers and Hammerstein Musicals:

OKLAHOMA!

OKLAHOMA! marks the first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. With music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, this musical is based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs. Following Laurey Williams and the two men courting her – Curly McClain and Jud Fry – Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943 at the St. James Theatre and ran until May 1948. The original Broadway production starred Alfred Drake as Curly, Joan Roberts as Laurey, Celeste Holm as Ado Annie, and Howard Da Silva as Jud Fry. Popular songs from the musical include “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “I Cain’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and, of course, “Oklahoma.” The film adaptation of the same name was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning two. 

CAROUSEL

CAROUSEL opened on Broadway in 1945 and ran for almost 900 performances at the Majestic Theatre with music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and direction and choreography from Agnes de Mille. The musical follows a romance between carousel barker Billy Bigelow and millworker Julie Jordan, and popular songs include “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which has gone on to become a popular football anthem sung by Liverpool FC.

ALLEGRO

ALLEGRO opened on Broadway in 1947 with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical follows the life of doctor Joseph Taylor Jr. and the temptations he faces at a city hospital. After the huge success of their first two musicals, Allegro received more tempered reviews and closed in 1948.

SOUTH PACIFIC

SOUTH PACIFIC opened on Broadway in 1949 with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on the book Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener, the musical follows a nurse from Arkansas stationed in the South Pacific during World War II and her romance with a French expat. The original production starred Mary Martin as Nellie Forbush and Ezio Pinza as Emile de Becque and ran for over 1,900 performances and won ten Tony Awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical. Popular songs include “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa my Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.” The 1958 film adaptation of the same name went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, winning the award for Best Sound. It was remade again in 2001 starring Glenn Close, Harry Connick Jr, and Rade Sherbedgia.

THE KING AND I

THE KING AND I opened on Broadway in 1951 and ran for more than 1,200 performances at the St. James Theatre with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, this musical follows teacher Anna after she is hired by King Mongkut to be a governess to his children. The musical won five Tony Awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical, and a movie adaptation of the same name was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won five, including Best Actor for Yul Brynner, who also originated the role on Broadway.

ME AND JULIET

ME AND JULIET opened on Broadway in 1953 at the Majestic Theatre with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical follows a love triangle between stage manager Larry, chorus girl Jeanie, and her electrician boyfriend Bob. The show received mixed reviews and closed in 1954 before playing for six weeks in Chicago.

PIPE DREAM

PIPE DREAM opened on Broadway in November 1955 at the Shubert Theatre with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on the book Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck, the musical follows marine biologist Doc and his relationship with a woman named Suzy. It received mixed to negative reviews and closed in June 1956.

CINDERELLA

CINDERELLA was originally written for television, with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, but it eventually came to the stage, playing at the London Coliseum in 1958 before having many US and international productions. It came to Broadway in 2013 with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and starred Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana, and Victoria Clark. The original television production was broadcast by CBS in 1957 and starred Julie Andrews as Cinderella.

FLOWER DRUM SONG

FLOWER DRUM SONG opened on Broadway in 1958 at the St. James Theatre, where it ran for 600 performances. Based on the book The Flower Drum Song by C.Y. Lee, the musical follows Mei Li, an immigrant from China, and her nightclub boss fiancé Sammy Fong, who is interested in another woman, dancer Linda Low. The 1961 film adaptation was nominated for five Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. The show was revived on Broadway in 2002 with a new book by David Henry Hwang and starring Lea Salonga as Mei-Li.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

THE SOUND OF MUSIC opened on Broadway in 1959 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Based on the book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp, the musical is set in 1930s Austria and follows the von Trapp family and their governess Maria. Popular songs include “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Do-Re-Me,” and “Edelweiss.” The Sound of Music won five Tony Awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical, has been revived several times on Broadway and the West End, and has been adapted into a movie of the same name starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film won five Academy Awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture. This show marks the last musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein; Hammerstein died of stomach cancer nine months after the show’s opening night.

Rodgers and Hammerstein Cast Recordings:

Cinderella-Cast-Recording

CINDERELLA ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING

RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING features Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana, and Victoria Clark. Songs include: “In My Own Little Corner,” “A Lovely Night,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”

CAROUSEL: 2018 CAST RECORDING

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S CAROUSEL: 2018 CAST RECORDING features Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, and Renée Fleming. Songs include: “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” “Mister Snow,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

South-Pacific-Cast-Album

SOUTH PACIFIC: 2008 CAST RECORDING

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S SOUTH PACIFIC: 2008 CAST RECORDING features Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot, Danny Burstein, Matthew Morrison, and Loretta Ables Sayre. Songs include: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “This Nearly Was Mine,” “A Wonderful Guy,” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.”

Even More Information about Rodgers & Hammerstein:

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution by Todd S. Purdum: Even before they joined forces, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had written dozens of Broadway shows, but together they pioneered a new art form: the serious musical play. Their songs and dance numbers served to advance the drama and reveal character, a sharp break from the past and the template on which all future musicals would be built. Though different in personality and often emotionally distant from each other, Rodgers and Hammerstein presented an unbroken front to the world and forged much more than a songwriting team; their partnership was also one of the most profitable and powerful entertainment businesses of their era. They were cultural powerhouses whose work came to define postwar America on stage, screen, television, and radio. But they also had their failures and flops, and more than once they feared they had lost their touch. Todd S. Purdum's portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations will captivate lovers of musical theatre, lovers of the classic American songbook, and lovers in general. He shows that what Rodgers and Hammerstein wrought was truly something wonderful. 

The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution

The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution by Frederick Nolan: The greatest partnership in the history of the musical, captured in print, wonderfully illustrated. For this new edition, the book has been completely rewritten and substantially expanded to include material on Rodgers' early career with Lorenz Hart as well as his later work, and also features recollections from such theatrical titans as Sheldon Harnick, Martin Charnin, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. Also, a completely new appendix reveals the details of the continuing worldwide phenomenon of Rodgers and Hammerstein's work up to and including the 2002 centennial year for Rodgers.

The Letters of Oscar Hammerstein II

The Letters of Oscar Hammerstein II: Oscar Hammerstein II virtually invented the modern American musical, first with Show Boat and then in his celebrated collaborations with composer Richard Rodgers on Broadway musical classics like Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The King and I that continue to fascinate audiences today. A brilliant lyricist and playwright, Hammerstein innovated the American musical with his sophisticated storytelling that single-handedly elevated musical theater to a serious art form. But there were many more sides to Hammerstein: He was also a canny businessman, a successful producer, a mentor to Stephen Sondheim, and a social activist. This rich collection edited by Mark Eden Horowitz features hundreds of previously unpublished letters that show off all facets of Hammerstein's many engagements and his personality. Hammerstein's correspondence with major Broadway figures like Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Kern, and Josh Logan tells the history of twentieth-century American show business while his exchanges with politicians and activists shed light on social issues of the period. What unites these letters across their vast range of themes is Hammerstein's compelling voice that reveals a man who was sharp, opinionated, and funny but also cared deeply about addressing the social ills that his musicals explored beyond the stage.

Musical Stages: An Autobiography by Richard Rodgers

Musical Stages: An Autobiography by Richard Rodgers: Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) was sixteen when he formed his famous partnership with Lorenz Hart. The ensuing years of toil and disappointment nearly convinced the young composer to abandon the theater for the security of a salesman's job in the clothing industry, but the overnight success of The Garrick Gaieties in 1925 determined his career. Ultimately, Rodgers wrote the scores for over forty Broadway musicals and collaborated with two of the world's greatest lyricists, the brilliantly talented but tormented Hart, and the sturdier but equally inspired Oscar Hammerstein II. These partnerships contributed a tremendous legacy to the musical theater, including Babes in Arms, On Your Toes, Pal Joey, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music . Musical Stages is more than the inside story behind Rodgers's prodigious successes; it is an honest, astute meditation on the influences and people who encouraged him. Filled with revealing glimpses of celebrities and packed with Broadway and Hollywood anecdotes, it also contains fascinating passages on the art of lyric writing and composing, and insights into the troubles and triumphs of collaboration. Through his songs Richard Rodgers has given pleasure to millions of people; Musical Stages is one more gift in that tradition.

Musicals Currently on Broadway

Want to know what’s playing on Broadway right now? Check out our article on Top Broadway Shows to find what shows are playing in New York today!

Kander & Ebb, Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Want to know more about other great theater-makers? Check out our articles on Kander and Ebb (known for musicals like Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and Carousel), Stephen Sondheim (known for Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Company, and Into the Woods), and Andrew Lloyd Webber (known for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, and School of Rock).

Kathryn Willingham

Head of Creative Development at Jean Doumanian Productions

Kathryn Willingham has worked in entertainment for over ten years, and recent credits include: Co-producer of SHRINK currently streaming on Peacock, Associate Producer of the independent film UNA, and Creative Executive on multiple theatrical productions including HANGMEN by Martin McDonagh on Broadway, NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour Off-broadway and Associate on productions EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble. She was Producer of Todd Almond’s musical travelogue “Wyoming and Parts of Kansas” and Production Coordinator for Karen O and KK Barrett's “Stop the Virgens.”

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Education: B.A. in English, Literature & Creative Writing from Rhodes College
Knowledge: Theatrical Production

Published

Mar 14, 2023

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