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The Richard Rodgers Influence

Richard Rodgers remains one of the titans of American musical theatre. His partnerships with both Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II are legendary.

With the urbane, witty and trenchant Hart, Rodgers composed some of the greatest standards to come out of Broadway in the 30s and 40s, among them: My Funny Valentine; Bewitched (Bothered and Bewildered); Where or When; The Lady is a Tramp; I Didn't Know What Time it Was; It Never Entered My Mind; Mountain Greenery; and (I'll Take) Manhattan.

With the more homespun, sentimental Oscar Hammerstein II, the duo revolutionized the American musical with their trail blazing "Oklahoma!" In its wake, they went on to write a string of musicals unparalleled in their collective success and popularity, including Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. These musicals alone gave us a string of enduring classics: Oh, What a Beautiful Morning; People Will Say We're in Love; You'll Never Walk Alone; Some Enchanted Evening; Getting to Know You; Whistle a Happy Tune; Shall We Dance?; My Favorite Things; Do Re Mi; Climb Ev'ry Mountain.

At the time of his death in 1979 at the age of 77, it was estimated that Rodgers had written the music to no less than over 140 popular standards, songs still recognized and loved to this day. His musicals had garnered a total of 34 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, 2 Pulitzer Prizes, 2 Grammys and 2 Emmys.

These are the bare bones of the accomplishments of Richards Rodgers. His genius was rooted in the fact that when it came to writing melodies, no one was his equal. As famous as he remains as the composer to his partners Hart and Hammerstein, he still managed to write music of classic status either with other collaborators, or even by himself. Do I Hear a Waltz? (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You (with Martin Charnin), and The Sweetest Sounds (lyrics by Rodgers) are but a few cases in point. His music for the orchestral March of the Siamese Children and Carousel Waltz, as well as the score for television's Victory at Sea, are among his greatest works and live as recognizably as any of his songs.

Rodgers' influence cannot be underestimated. "Oklahoma!" revolutionized the American musical. Although it can be argued that "Show Boat" (also with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) was the first successful book musical, it was "Oklahoma!" that solidified the use of song and choreography to develop the forward movement of a centralized story. It can be said that it was not until Sondheim's "Company" in 1970 that the American musical began to diverge from the formula that "Oklahoma!" had engendered. Thus it was Richard Rodgers who served as the transitional composer from the frothy musicals of the 20s and 30s, as exemplified by his work with Hart, to his work with Hammerstein that ushered in the Golden Age of the American Musical.

--Commentary by Eric Brown.

Detail pages

Carousel

The King and I

Oklahoma

Pal Joey

South Pacific

Recordings

Check out the special recording by John Bucchino On Richard Rodger's Piano

Review: This recording of Rodgers' tunes is extraordinary, first class improvisations performed on the workhorse piano that Rodgers himself owned in his later years. The creativity displayed in Bucchino's renderings is something akin to what one would have anticipated from a great Classical composer like Beethoven, who was noted for his stunning improvisations.

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