There would be no American Musical Theater without Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960) were an influential, innovative and successful American musical theatre writing team, usually referred to as Rodgers and Hammerstein. They created a string of popular Broadway musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, initiating what is considered the “golden age” of musical theatre. With Rodgers composing the music and Hammerstein writing the lyrics, five of their Broadway shows, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, were outstanding successes, as was the television broadcast of Cinderella. Among the many accolades their shows (and film versions) garnered were thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and two Grammy Awards.
Their musical theatre writing partnership has been called the greatest of the 20th century.
Previous work and partnerships
Prior to their partnership, both Rodgers and Hammerstein achieved success independently. Rodgers had collaborated for more than two decades with Lorenz Hart. Among their many Broadway hits were the shows A Connecticut Yankee (1927), Babes in Arms (1937), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), Pal Joey (1940), and By Jupiter (1942), as well as many successful film projects.
Hammerstein, a co-writer of the popular Rudolf Friml 1924 operetta Rose-Marie, and Sigmund Romberg operettas The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928), began a successful collaboration with composer Jerome Kern on Sunny (1925), which was a hit. Their 1927 musical Show Boat is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the American musical theatre. Other Hammerstein/Kern collaborations include Sweet Adeline (1929) and Very Warm for May (1939). Although the last of these was panned by critics, it contains one of Kern and Hammerstein’s best-loved songs, “All the Things You Are”.
By the early 1940s, Hart had sunk deeper into alcoholism and emotional turmoil, and he became unreliable, prompting Rodgers to approach Hammerstein to ask if he would consider working with him.