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BWW Blog: Rating Rodgers & Hammerstein's Musical Collaborations

Let’s see where your favorite R&H musicals end up on my list!

The collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein has created some of the best musicals in musical theatre history, as well as written some of the most iconic go to audition songs. On my podcast, Thespian Thoughts with Brenton & Mark, we tend to have some bonus episodes having lists of some of our favorite facets within the musical theatre genre. So, I thought it would be an interesting and entertaining task to create a list ranking all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations from my least favorite, to my absolute favorite. Remember, these are just my opinions, everyone is open to having their favorite R&H musicals. So, let's see where your favorite R&H musicals end up on my list!

#11 Me and Juliet (1953)

One of R&H's least known musicals takes the spot for being my least favorite. While a majority of R&H's early pieces were hits, Me and Juliet was a big miss. It was a critical and commercial flop, only surviving for 358 performances, which isn't too bad considering some other shows from renowned composers and lyricists have lasted for very fewer performances (I'm looking at you, Stephen Sondheim!). The ultimate reason this show ends up last on my list is because it just lacks the magic and sense of story other R&H collaborations provide. Another aspect that didn't work out for this show was the "play within a play" aspect. It can be extremely difficult to pull off that type of show, especially when most of the writing within R&H collaborations are so grounded and have strong structure. While I commemorate them for taking on a challenge like this, it did not work out to how they would have imagined it would be.

#10 Pipe Dream (1955)

Another one of R&H's least known shows takes the spot for number 10. Pipe Dream was the biggest financial flop of R&H's careers. One reason why this show is so low on my list is because of how different it is from other R&H collaborations. It seems as if this was not a work of R&H, but a different team of writers. Pipe Dream can be interesting in some spots, but overall, the musical is not as exciting and has a small range of a plot, which just makes this a somewhat forgettable musical.

#9 State Fair (1996)

State Fair was first a movie musical released in 1945, with the musical not being released until 1996. While State Fair has its moment of that R&H "feel", it lacks memorable characters and music. My biggest issue with State Fair is how outdated it feels. I feel like this show can have so much potential with the right vision, but overall, State Fair seems to be an "out of place" R&H musical.

#8 Allegro (1947)

Out of all of R&H's collaborations, Allegro, received the most mixed reviews. While this is the most stylistically different musical from the rest of their collaborations, I believe Allegro provides strong moments of a good plot. But, where the show hits the most bumps is within fleshing out its characters and how they fit within the actual show. The music itself can be very fun, however, it can fall flat due to the overall pacing and storytelling.

#7 Cinderella (1957 TV film/2013)

This one is a little complicated. The first project that was released as a TV movie, which doesn't really count as one of their stage shows. However, the music that was used in the 1957 TV film was also used in the 2013 Broadway production, with additional music and some rewriting of the book. While most everyone enjoys the classic fairy tale of Cinderella, adding those musical elements, in my opinion, adds more to the story and makes the characters seem two dimensional. I find the music to be very fitting to the source material and a great musical for the whole family!

#6 The Flower Drum Song (1958)

During the time of this musical's release, it was revolutionary, having the lead protagonist be a young woman from China. Flower Drum Song was ahead of its time, but also was very necessary when the time it made its broadway debut in 1958. The Flower Drum Song offers a story of a protagonist audience have never seen on Broadway, and encompasses that experience to a perspective that I believe was vital to where we are now as accepting stories and seeing events from a different perspective. R&H were very keen to create stories that were worth telling and characters that were worth telling that story. The Flower Drum Song is a prime example of that notion. While this musical is not as popular as some of the other R&H musicals, I think that it needs more attention because the music is just lovely and the characters pair very well with this story.

#5 The Sound of Music (1959)

Probably known as the most known movie musical, The Sound of Music provides a stark contrast to other R&H musicals, but also paid homage to some of their more well-received shows. The Sound of Music is mostly more well known as a film, but like many collaborations between the two, sparked conversation and created situations between vastly different characters. The music within The Sound of Music is absolutely gorgeous! There are so many wonderful songs within The Sound of Music that just makes you want to sing along. One of my favorite aspects of this show is the idea of family and how those relationships within a family have more to them than meets the eye. I truly appreciate the vision R&H went for this musical and how it plays out for the audience.

#4 The King and I (1951)

R&H are known for musicals with the theme of love and what characters will do for the person they love, or won't do. The King and I is a beautiful story of love, with an even more beautiful score and overall plot. R&H do a fabulous job, once again, of developing strong characters and placing them in situations you'd never imagined them to be in. The King and I knows exactly where it's going, and how those characters fit within that story. The way R&H approach the storytelling aspect of this musical is just breathtaking. It adds so much depth to the show and provides the audience with an unforgettable experience.

#3 South Pacific (1949)

R&H's fourth musical takes my number 3 spot on the list. South Pacific has a very energizing and yet melancholy score full of passion and heart. With the lush song, "Some Enchanted Evening", or the relaxed upbeat style of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair", R&H provide their speciality of unique love by centering strong character motivations throughout the songs. Characters within each R&H musical seem to fall in love in the simplest of ways, but what's unique is the story that unfolds from that love. South Pacific does a remarkable job of it's balance of love with some confliction, but yet provides key stand out moments for secondary and ensemble characters that make them vital to this extraordinarily beautiful musical.

#2 Oklahoma! (1943)

Now, I bet you were all thinking that this was going to be in the number 1 spot. Well, I actually believe that while Oklahoma puts up a good fight, in my opinion, it belongs in the number 2 spot. This was the first collaboration of R&H and became their most iconic work connected to their names. Oklahoma, to me, serves as a catalyst for the future of the musical theatre genre. One of the reasons Oklahoma is so special is because of its originality. It was uncommon, at the time (and still today) for musicals to be set in such a unique location. Oklahoma opened the doors to the many possibilities musical theatre could express to audiences. It became a moment to not only entertain, but to go on a journey with the characters and enter that world. It became the definition of musical theatre for a long period of time, making R&H one of the most successful collaborations in Broadway history.

#1 Carousel (1945)

If you're a true R&H fan, you knew that Carousel was the only musical I haven't placed on the list yet. Carousel is R&H's second collaboration together, and after the unanimous praise for Oklahoma! They knew this was going to be a challenge to come close to the success of Oklahoma! However, they did, and Carousel became one of the most iconic and beloved musicals of all time. With an enchanting and devastating score, R&H provide audiences a chance to be swept away in a story of love, abuse, hopefulness, and being the person you have always wanted to be. R&H do a fabulous job of developing such fascinating and intricate characters with a basic background, but actually have so much meaning and depth that develops as an aspect within the musical. Carousel exceeds at that and goes beyond much more. Carousel, like a merry go round, starts at one point introducing the audience to the curious and loving Julie Jordan, and the gruff but yet soft, Billy Bigelow. Once the audience goes through the missteps of these characters' romantic relationship, we end up at the end of the musical, where Billy has finally mend his peace with not only Julie, but himself. It's a tear jerking moment and makes for just a very simple, yet symbolic scene full of heart and grounded emotion.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Brenton Kniess