It's A Grand Night For Singing! BWW Rounds Up the Rodgers & Hammerstein Canon
After NBC's foray into musical theatre with last week's live broadcast of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, starring Carrie Underwood, and with Laura Osnes' CINDERELLA sashaying on the Great White Way, the continued sway of Broadway composer-lyricist duo Rodgers & Hammerstein is unmistakable.
Rodgers & Hammerstein first collaborated on the musical play OKLAHOMA! in 1943, which melded Richard Rodgers' musical comedy with Oscar Hammerstein's love for operetta. Now, from CAROUSEL in the West to SOUTH PACIFIC and THE KING AND I in the East, from ALLEGRO to THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the works of Rodgers & Hammerstein are often considered the fruits of the most successful partnership in Broadway musical history. Together, the duo has earned 35 Tony Awards, 15 Oscars, two Pulitzers, two Grammys and two Emmy Awards.
In honor of their legacy, BroadwayWorld has rounded up some of the highlights of the Rodgers & Hammerstein cannon. Scroll down for clips, and tell us your favorite R&H show or tune in the comments!
In a Nutshell: Set in a Western Indian territory just after the turn of the century, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story. Although the road to true love never runs smooth, with these two headstrong romantics holding the reins, love's journey is as bumpy as a surrey ride down a country road.
Memorable Songs: "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'," "People Will Say We're in Love," "The Farmer and the Cowman," and "Oklahoma"
In a Nutshell: In a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century, the swaggering, carefree carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, captivates and marries the naive millworker, Julie Jordan. Billy loses his job just as he learns that Julie is pregnant and, desperately intent upon providing a decent life for his family, he is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent 'up there.' Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day fifteen years later, and he encounters the daughter he never knew. She is a lonely, friendless teenager, her father's reputation as a thief and bully having haunted her throughout her young life. How Billy instills in both the child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity is a dramatic testimony to the power of love.
Memorable Songs: "If I Loved You," "June is Bustin' Out All Over," "Sililoquy," and "You'll Never Walk Alone"
State Fair (1945)
In a Nutshell: Set against the colorful backdrop of an American heartland tradition, STATE FAIR travels with the Frake family as they leave behind the routine of The Farm for three days of adventure at the annual Iowa State Fair. Mom and Pop have their hearts set on blue ribbons while their daughter and son find romance and heartbreak on the midway.
Memorable Songs: "It Might as Well Be Spring," "It's a Grand Night for Singing," and "Isn't It Kinda Fun?"
In a Nutshell: This ensemble musical chronicles nearly four decades in the life of an Everyman, Joseph Taylor, Jr., from cradle through a mid-life discovery of who he is and what his life is truly about. The unique structural format allows the saga to whisk us from Joe's birth through his childhood, from college dorm to marriage altar, and on to his career; from the tranquility of his small Midwestern hometown to the hectic din of big city life, in a series of vignettes and musical sequences.
Memorable Songs: "So Far," "A Fellow Needs a Girl," "You Are Never Away," and "The Gentleman Is a Dope"
South Pacific (1949)
In a Nutshell: Set in an island paradise during World War II, two parallel love stories are threatened by the dangers of prejudice and war. Nellie, a spunky nurse from Arkansas, falls in love with a mature French planter, Emile. Nellie learns that the mother of his children was an island native and, unable to turn her back on the prejudices with which she was raised, refuses Emile's proposal of marriage. Meanwhile, the strapping Lt. Joe Cable denies himself the fulfillment of a future with an innocent Tonkinese girl with whom he's fallen in love out of the same fears that haunt Nellie. When Emile is recruited to accompany Joe on a dangerous mission that claims Joe's life, Nellie realizes that life is too short not to seize her own chance for happiness, thus confronting and conquering her prejudices.
Memorable Songs: "Some Enchanted Evening," "Honey Bun," "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," and "Bali Ha'i"
The King and I (1951)
In a Nutshell: East versus West makes for a dramatic, richly textured and ultimately uplifting tale of enormous fascination. It is 1862 in Siam when an English widow, Anna Leonowens, and her young son arrive at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, having been summoned by the King to serve as tutor to his many children and wives. The King is largely considered to be a barbarian by those in the West, and he seeks Anna's assistance in changing his image, if not his ways. With both keeping a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the King grow to understand and, eventually, respect one another, in a truly unique love story.
Memorable Songs: "Whistle a Happy Tune," "Shall We Dance," "Hello, Young Lovers," and "Getting to Know You"
Me and Juliet (1953)
In a Nutshell: This show-within-a-show follows the romance between a chorus girl and an assistant stage manager leading to their secret marriage. Their happy union is threatened by the electrician who still carries a torch for the girl and, in a drunken rage, tries to kill them both. A contrasting romance involves the stage manager, whose credo never to fall for a girl in a show he's working on is complicated when a dancer he's been wooing is suddenly thrown into the cast of 'Me and Juliet.'
Memorable Songs: "No Other Love," "It's Me," "That's the Way It Happens," "A Very Special Day"
Pipe Dream (1955)
In a Nutshell: From the pages of Steinbeck, the drifters and dropouts along Cannery Row spring to life in this uncommon story of love and hope. When Suzy, a homeless girl, is picked up for stealing food, she's taken in by Fauna, the big-hearted Madam of the Bear Flag Café (which is no café at all). Here she meets Doc, a carefree marine biologist, and soon romance is in the air.
Memorable Songs: "The Man I Used to Be," "The Next Time It Happens," "All At Once You Love Her," and "The Next Time It Happens"
In a Nutshell: Originally presented on television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews, Rodgers & Hammerstein's CINDERELLA was the most widely viewed program in the history of the medium. Its recreation in 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren was no less successful in transporting a new generation to the miraculous kingdom of dreams-come-true, and so was a second remake in 1997, which starred Brandy as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as her Fairy Godmother.
Memorable Songs: "In My Own Little Corner," "Ten Minutes Ago," "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?," and "Impossible/It's Possible"
Flower Drum Song (1958)
In a Nutshell: In San Francisco's Chinatown of the late '50s, nightclub owner Sammy Fong's traditional family has ordered him a picture-bride from China, hoping to end his pursuit of an enticing dancer. Mei Li arrives, shy and at sea in a world she doesn't understand, and it's clear that she's the wrong gal for the totally assimilated Sammy. However, she may be just the ticket for Sammy's buddy, whose traditionalist father is fighting a losing battle with his kids against rock `n' roll, baseball, sports cars and the typical trappings of the modern American life-style. By turns raucous and heartfelt, the solution to this delightful Chinese puzzle of properly matching the young people while reconciling the old is a celebration of American ingenuity.
Memorable Songs: "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "A Hundred Million Miracles," "Love, Look Away," and "Grant Avenue"
The Sound of Music (1959)
In a Nutshell: When a postulant proves too high-spirited for the religious life, she is dispatched to serve as governess for the seven children of a widowed naval Captain. Her growing rapport with the youngsters, coupled with her generosity of spirit, gradually captures the heart of the stern Captain, and they marry. Upon returning from their honeymoon they discover that Austria has been invaded by the Nazis, who demand the Captain's immediate service in their navy. The family's narrow escape over the mountains to Switzerland on the eve of World War II provides one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in the theatre.
Memorable Songs: "Do-Re-Mi," "Maria," "Climb Every Mountain," and "Edelweiss"