All tagged Oscar Hammerstein II
Rodgers and Hammerstein changed the face of musical theatre with their groundbreaking Oklahoma! in 1943, and followed it up with their masterpiece Carousel in 1945. Both were big hits in their day, but more importantly, they secured the duo as the most influential composing team of the 1940s, with their structure and style carrying well into the 1960s and inspiring others to write musicals in a similar vein. With the security of ticket sales bolstering their future, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s next musical would be a bold step, an experiment that would stretch the form of Broadway musicals in a way that was decades ahead of its time. That was the 1947 musical Allegro.
Perhaps one of the most poignant and powerful songs in the history of musical theatre is Jerome Kern’s and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Ol’ Man River.” This swelling anthem contrasting the hard life of the African American with the unforgiving, undaunted flow of the Mississippi River is one of the best-known songs to come from the groundbreaking 1927 musical Show Boat. The song was introduced in the musical on December 27, 1927 by Jules Bledsoe who played the role of Joe a black dock worker aboard the entertainment vessel The Cotton Blossom.
An early movie musical (in black and white-gasp!) that is worth a look (if you can find it) is Paramount Pictures’ High, Wide, and Handsome. The epic tale features a score by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, II who also worked together to write one of Broadway’s most prolific scores, Show Boat. Made in 1937 (ten years after Show Boat), High, Wide, and Handsome was directed by Rouben Mamoulian, who would go on to direct the original Broadway productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel.
With the forthcoming revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel set to open, I thought it would be fun to look back on the controversial gem from 1945. Based on the popular Ferenc Molnar play Liliom, but transposed from its original Hungarian setting to a New England fishing village in the United States, Carousel tells the story of factory worker Julie Jordan, a stubborn young woman who falls in love with a handsome, but troubled, carousel barker with a traveling carnival.