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An Enchanted Evening with Rodgers and Hammerstein

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2173
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Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II

New York’s St. James Theater was only partially filled on March 31, 1943, and anxiety was palpable among a number of the opening-night patrons of a new musical. The legendary Theatre Guild had not presented a successful production since The Philadelphia Story in 1939, and another failure would provoke bankruptcy. 

The lyricist hadn’t had a hit in over a decade, and he was collaborating with the composer for the first time. There were no stars in the cast, and the prototype for the show, Lynn Rigg’s Green Grow the Lilacs, folded after just 64 performances in 1931.

Five years and more than 2,000 performances later, Oklahoma! was still running at the St. James. And for 16 years the songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II continued to stimulate and entertain audiences worldwide with their novel style of musical play that wove book, music, lyrics, and dance into a seamless whole.

After Oklahoma! and until Hammerstein’s death in 1960, they collaborated on such hits as Carousel, State Fair, South Pacific, The King and I, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. There were a few misses, too, but there was never a lapse in their desire to craft musical art that revealed the basic goodness of people.

In this lively evening, pianist, raconteur, and American music specialist Robert Wyatt celebrates the lives and works of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Through original cast recordings, film clips, interviews, correspondence, and other primary materials from the Library of Congress and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, learn about the lives of these two icons of the American musical, experience their great productions, and listen to their music that elevated the human spirit.

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.