The Beginning Of An Era
March 31, 1943
For those of us who love musical theater, there is no greater duo than Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. But, prior to March 31, 1943, the pair had never collaborated. It was on that date when their first co-written musical hit Broadway.
Oklahoma! was a smashing success as both a stage production and also as a 1955 movie. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Oscar-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions. Rodgers and Hammerstein won a special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma! in 1944.
This musical, building on the innovations of the earlier Show Boat, epitomized the development of the ‘book musical’, a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that are able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter. In addition, Oklahoma! features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story. A fifteen-minute ‘dream ballet’ reflects Laurey’s (the heroine) struggle with her feelings about two men, Curly and Jud.”
A string of successful musicals followed followed for Rogers and Hammerstein including their most well known: Carousel, State Fair, South Pacific, The King and I, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music.
The death of lyricist Hammerstein in 1960 ended the partnership.
By the time I was a teenager the American Musical, in the form perfected by Rogers and Hammerstein, had passed its apex. But that did not stop me from loving musicals. Occasionally, one would be shown on television so that by the time I was an adult, I had seen a great many of them.
It was, however, the VCR and the DVD which made it possible to explore this genre in depth and contributd to somewhat of a revival.
When my kids were somewhere around ages 11 and 8, we set up a ‘home theater’ complete with a 8 foot by 8 foot screen, a projector which could connect to a DVD player, and a sound system. I would request movies through the King County Library. It was always a mystery as to which musical we would watch because we never knew when one might become available. Most every weekend for a couple of years we experienced all of the old musicals.
My daughter and I, especially, became de facto critics, evaluating each musical for its songs and story line.
It was the night we were watching the film version of the musical Carousel when I knew that she had truly become a qualified critic. Certainly You Never Walk Alone is an incredible piece, but on the other end of the spectrum is a ridiculous song titled, This Was A Real Nice Clambake. Yet we endured and watched the entire musical. When the lights came on my daughter turned to me and said, “Worst. Musical. Ever.”
For me personally, it’s hard to choose a favorite musical. Of the classics, I love The Music Man, The Sound of Music, and Fiddler on the Roof especially. On the other end of the spectrum I agree with my daughter, Carousel is without question the Worst. Musical. Ever.
I polled the family yesterday morning about which musical is their favorite and which is least liked. Here are the answers:
Hubby: Phantom of the Opera is his favorite but he couldn’t identify a least liked.
Son: Ditto. Phantom of the Opera followed closely by A Chorus Line and no least favorite. He did say he connects with more angst-y music.
Daughter: Wicked is her favorite (she has seen it on stage twice as it has yet to be made into a movie). It was her answer to the second part which surprised me. I expected Carousel as her answer. But it was not her only answer. Another musical has joined it as least favorite. It’s the musical which ushered in the era of great musicals: Oklahoma!
A couple of links:
https://youtu.be/BUX5B6W_Azs ( the infamous Clambake song)