Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Men Behind the Magic

Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Men Behind the Magic

The lights are dimming, the audiences shuffle in, and the distant sound of instruments tuning up perfumes the air with their musical scent. From the first downbeat of the conductor’s baton, you are transported to another world—possible destinations include a dusty farm in the Oklahoma territory; the lush, green mountains of Salzburg; and the steamy tropics of the South Pacific.

For more than two decades, the worlds created by Broadway magnates Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have spanned stages across the world, and their enduring legacy lives on even today. The Houston Symphony is delighted to pay homage to the “Fathers of Broadway” as we close out the 2020–21 Bank of America Pops Series with Find Your Dream: The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

As you prepare your passports, check out these 10 facts about the men behind the magic, then be sure to join us via livestream on Saturday, May 29.

  1. Rodgers and Hammerstein first met while the two were in college in the mid-1910s, but they would not work together professionally until several decades after that.
  2. Before becoming an iconic duo, Rodgers actually worked closely with lyricist Lorenz Hart throughout the 1920s and ’30s, penning 40 popular musical comedies and hit songs like “My Funny Valentine;” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered;” “Manhattan;” and more.
  3. After Hart’s death in 1943, Rodgers and Hammerstein finally teamed up for their first musical production—Oklahoma!, which premiered in March of that same year. This show saw the birth of a new style that would come to define the duo—the combination of musical comedy and operetta technique.
  4. Oklahoma! would go on to run for over 2,000 performances, plus 10 revivals and a feature film adaption, as well as win a Pulitzer Prize and two Tony Awards.
  5. After it’s 1945 premiere, Carousel was nominated for a total of 10 awards, of which it won every one! It has been described as the single-best musical of the entire 20th Century and was later revealed by the pair to be the personal favorite of all their collaborations.
  6. While it took several years to conceive the plot structure of South Pacific, in part due to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s limited military knowledge, the actual composition of several of the show’s numbers came almost instantaneously. “Happy Talk” was finished in about 20 minutes, while “Bali Ha’i” was said to be completed in 10 minutes over a single cup of coffee.
  7. The King and I was originally offered to fellow Broadway giant Cole Porter, who declined the work. Hearing of this, Dorothy Hammerstein, Oscar’s wife, urged her husband to take up the show as she was a fan of the novel and of the actress who would eventually play the lead role. Both Rodgers and Hammerstein were initially reluctant to work on the musical for several reasons, but it was met with much acclaim and won three Tony Awards.
  8. Forever canonized by the great Dame Julie Andrews’s 1965 film performance, the Sound of Music was the last musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The preceding stage version saw Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel in the role of Captain von Trapp. The musical would win five Tony Awards.
  9. In total, the Broadway duo’s works have earned 42 Tonys, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer prizes, two Grammys, and two Emmys.
  10. Rodgers was forever memorialized in musical theatre history when the famous 46th Street Theatre was re-christened as the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1990.

Don’t miss the Houston Symphony perform the best of Broadway duo Rodgers and Hammerstein in our final concert of the 2020–21 Bank of America POPS Series, led by Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke. Learn more & get tickets.

Mark Bailes

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