Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
A beautiful day in Mister Rodgers’ The Smith Center neighborhood is certain when famed composer Richard Rodgers and his partner, eminent lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, are once again in the spotlight for The Sound of Music, August 2-14.
Rodgers’ June 28th birthday precedes The Smith Center’s engagement, but it is an annual marker, nonetheless, for recognizing excellence in American musical theater. While both Rodgers & Hammerstein had successful individual careers in the theater, as well as other partnerships (for example, Rogers and Lorenz Hart), their collaboration resulted in a blossoming and enduring group of musicals that continue to entertain audiences around the world.
Oklahoma! was the first product of their partnership and the first of a new genre: the musical play. It was a synthesis of Rodgers’ musical comedy and Hammerstein’s operetta.
Other hits followed: Carousel (1945); Allegro (1947); South Pacific (1949); The King and I (1951); Me and Juliet (1953); Pipe Dream (1955); Flower Drum Song (1958); and The Sound of Music (1959).
An insight into the chemistry of the duo comes from the composer’s daughter, Mary Rodgers, in an interview with the late John Ardoin for “Great Performances Online”: “What Oscar did was to bring out the deep-seated, perfectly beautiful sounds of German Romanticism that were latent in daddy’s writing. These enabled him to reach a new dimension in moments like the death scene in Carousel or the opening of South Pacific, when Nellie and Emile first meet. There had been no opportunity to write anything like that in a Rodgers and Hart musical.”
The Sound of Music is clearly a dimension that incorporates sentimentally, pathos, memorable characters and unforgettable songs. It is a great representation of the genius and craftsmanship of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Rodgers’ birthday is a good reason to remember and enjoy this musical in The Smith Center neighborhood one time...or two…or sixteen going on seventeen.
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