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They Stand At The Apex Of The Great Age Of Song Writing, The Creators Of The Classic Broadway Musicals Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King And I, And The Sound Of Music, Whose Songs Have Never Lost Their Popularity Or Emotional Power Even Before They Joined Forces, Richard Rodgers And Oscar Hammerstein II Had Written Dozens Of Broadway Shows, But Together They Pioneered A New Art Form The Serious Musical Play Their Songs And Dance Numbers Served To Advance The Drama And Reveal Character, A Sharp Break From The Past And The Template On Which All Future Musicals Would Be Built Though Different In Personality And Often Emotionally Distant From Each Other, Rodgers And Hammerstein Presented An Unbroken Front To The World And Forged Much Than A Song Writing Team Their Partnership Was Also One Of The Most Profitable And Powerful Entertainment Businesses Of Their Era They Were Cultural Powerhouses Whose Work Came To Define Post War America On Stage, Screen, Television, And Radio But They Also Had Their Failures And Flops, And Than Once They Feared They Had Lost Their Touch Todd S Purdum S Portrait Of These Two Men, Their Creative Process, And Their Ground Breaking Innovations Will Captivate Lovers Of Musical Theatre, Lovers Of The Classic American Songbook, And Lovers In General He Shows That What Rodgers And Hammerstein Wrought Was Truly Something Wonderful

5 thoughts on “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution

  1. DEWEY M. DEWEY M. says:

    You ask too much of people who have been successful, and they are human too, Richard Rodgers once remarked In Something Wonderful, Todd S Purdum s absorbing account of Rodgers and Hammerstein s Broadway revolution, he restores humanity to R and H He also celebrates their sincerity, the very quality that later made Rodgers And Hammerstein musicals unfashionable to the critical elite Elliott Norton observed, When you mention Rodgers and Hammerstein to almost any normal American with a sound heart and good hearing, he thinks at once of songs and scenes and shows which they have written and which have given him great and abiding pleasure So it was and so it may always be The Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have become such a part of pop culture fabric, they are almost taken for granted They never should be Purdum doesn t knock Rodgers and Hammerstein off their musical theatre pedestals He does not want to Ethan Mordden effectively did that in his scholarly, heavily illustrated, coffee table book Purdue s book is much fair and much fun to read And it s because Purdum writes from a human perspective It turns out, these Masters Of Musical Theatre were mere mortals after all They were astonishingly talented, creative, driven, ambitious men, complete with flaws and all It really doesn t matter that they were geniuses of their craft Without their humanity, their flaws, and their simple, honest sincerity, the public never would have responded to their shows at all Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II met each other long before their partnership, and each began to sew the seeds of their Broadway revolution with other partners Hammerstein was literally born into the theatre Rodgers was a musical prodigy from a cold, emotionally distant and abusive home That coldness became part of Rodgers nature Hammerstein wrote Broadway s first really serious musical Show Boat with Jerome Kern in 1927 After Rose Marie, Hammerstein had nothing but flops, spent several unproductive years in Hollywood, and suffered a nervous breakdown due to his turbulent personal life Rodgers had nothing but hit after hit with his other Big H partner Lorenz Hart from the mid 1920 s throughout the 1930 s Their 1940 musical Pal Joey was worldly and sophisticated than anything Broadway had seen before But Hart was a genius who was hell bent on self destruction, and he did exactly that Rodgers couldn t take it any and Hammerstein needed a hit The success of Oklahoma was never predestined or a safe bet But Purdum brings into sharp focus how Rodgers and Hammerstein came together at exactly the right time and, combining their years of theatrical experience, created Oklahoma , a musical that America not only needed by 1943, but also wholeheartedly embraced Their next musical Carousel was even risky Oklahoma was essentially about a picnic party Carousel was about life, death, spousal abuse, poverty, suicide, and a few other things in between Carousel, their darkest musical with their richest, most operatic score, remains their most problematic but somehow they pulled it off Purdum celebrates their deserved successes and is fair minded about their Broadway flops Allegro, Me And Juliet and Pipe Dream and their personal flaws and failings At some point, they stopped being Richard Rodgers, composer, and Oscar Hammerstein II, lyricist and librettist, and became trapped victims of their own success This is, after all, a story of show business, and R South Pacific with Hammerstein in bursts of inspired and manic creativity Logan received co author and director credit , but was cheated out of royalties Hammerstein attempted to correct things by asking Logan to direct The King And I Wounded by his South Pacific experience, Logan refused But Logan remained, by choice, a close friend in Hammerstein s circle Hammerstein poured out his frustrations about Rodgers to Logan, and asked him for advice on shows Hammerstein ignored Logan s advice on how to improve Allegro, and it flopped He took Logan s advice on how to make The King And I warm and entertaining, and it was a huge hit As far as knowing what stories to musicalize and how, Rodgers And Hammerstein were indeed ONE with a great track record of success and a few flops As men and friends, they hardly knew each other at all Interestingly, R Cinderella for CBS TV in 1957, Rodgers suffered a severe depression nervous breakdown and his first battle with cancer R lucky hit in them, Flower Drum Song, which is seldom staged today Mary Martin, the star of South Pacific, brought The Sound Of Music to R The Sound Of Music might have One critic said the show was too sweet for words and music Hammerstein died in 1960, and The Sound Of Music became R popular success After great success and an entertainment empire, it became fashionable to knock the R Oklahoma , Carousel, and South Pacific, which muted the innovations in the shows and maximized the schmaltz, do not help at all The King And I, with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, is the best R The Sound Of Music starring Julie Andrews is the biggest R The Sound Of Movie remains such a wildly popular success Purdum feels that the major R Carousel and South Pacific sparked a major R H re evaluation I am sure readers will agree with Purdum that the R H revolution was something wonderful indeed, and their shows are still relevant and worthy of serious discussion and artistic appreciation.

  2. Usonian33 Usonian33 says:

    Just as Oklahoma was to war weary audiences in its dayTHIS book is the tonic I needed in a time when the world around me has ceased to make sense I m not even into Broadway musicals all that much, and found it enchanting Now I find myself downloading original cast albums, just to try to relive some of the magic myself Mr Purdom did a fine job Thanks to NPR s Fresh Air to alerting me to this release.

  3. Linda A. Marlia Linda A. Marlia says:

    I ve read extensively about Broadway history since I was in my teens and I m an honored citizen now aka old , so I wondered when I first saw this book whether it would add anything to what I already know I was ultimately persuaded to buy it by some of the rave reviews I read I m glad I did There were details about the lives of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein I had not come across before, plus some real insight into how they worked together and what their work gained from their synergy For those who loved their shows, you ll never find such detailed stories of the step by step creation of the hits and the flops as well Broadway music has been the soundtrack of my life and it all started with a friend back in grade school who invited me over to hear the Original Cast recording of Oklahoma Reading about the creation of that landmark show took me right back to that wonderful moment in my life It really was the first time I fell in love with a form of art The affair continues to this day.

  4. Robert Harmans Robert Harmans says:

    I bought this rather expensive book after reading the review in The Economist Nevertheless I feared I had another of those dry, fact filled books to show the author worked very hard and knew everything but no, I was fascinated from beginning to end and am very glad to learn so much about the music and the movies I always enjoyed so much I never saw one o the musicals because I always lived to far away now I feel I have seen them all Highly recommended, which I don t do very often Thank you Mr Purdum

  5. S.G. Myers S.G. Myers says:

    What a wonderful and engaging book It takes me back too The first live play I ever saw as a little girl was Oklahoma at the Oriental theater in Chicago So interesting and easy to read.Judy Myers