The greatest pair of songwriters in the Great American Songbook were, arguably, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein (1895-1960).
Apart, they had worked with other collaborators: Rodgers most notably with Lorenz Hart; Hammerstein with the likes of Jerome Kern and Sigmund Romberg.
They were musical titans. But it was their collaboration on Oklahoma! in 1943 which started their run of 11 musicals, ending with 1959’s The Sound of Music, which served to put Salzburg on the map.
The Theatre Cafe, in collaboration with the Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park, have created this salute to this timeless duo, partly to showcase the work being done to revive Carousel this summer.
In the first part of the episode, we are treated to some reimagined pieces from the R&H catalogue, each put in context by the outgoing president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation, Ted Chapin.
Opening with a Cafe Five medley – a highlight of each episode so far has been seeing their performances, although personnel has changed – the episode moves smoothly into a run of classics.
You can enjoy Caroline Sheen “whistling a happy tune” (from The King and I); Daniel Koek (one of the youngest Valjeans) bringing his deepest tones to ‘This Nearly Was Mine’ from South Pacific; and Josefina Gabrielle exhuming a semi-forgotten piece from Allegro, ‘The Gentleman is a Dope’.
Elsewhere, recent ArtsEd graduates Ethlinn Rose and Tavio Wright channel Fred and Ginger in Top Hat (which was written by Irving Berlin) with their bandstand performance of Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music. It is just as charming as Charmian Carr’s duet with Daniel Truhitte in the film.
I was a bit disappointed not to hear anything from Cinderella, which was written for television and has enjoyed several revivals there, but pleased to see Flower Drum Song acknowledged with Amara Okereke’s lovely version of Love Look Away.
The second part of this episode looks forward to a 20th century Carousel, bringing out the class consciousness and toxic masculinity in the duo’s musicalisation of Liliom, by Ferenc Molnar. Not too much is given away, but talk of mill girls and colliery bands perhaps gives a clue.
Many of us adore the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein in all their forms: I could listen to their cast recordings and watch their film and TV adaptations over and over without ever getting bored.
Perhaps they need rejigging for new audiences. Perhaps there is room for the traditional and the modern. As we look forward to Carousel in Regent’s Park, this episode is a showcase to savour.
You can watch the 7th episode of the Theatre Channel, filmed entirely on location in Regent’s Park, here – tickets cost £12.50. Previous episodes are also available.
Check out my reviews of the previous episodes in the series here.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review the Theatre Channel episode 7 – Rodgers and Hammerstein.
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