After long and highly distinguished careers with other collaborators, Richard Rodgers (composer) and Oscar Hammerstein II (librettist/lyricist) joined forces to create the most consistently fruitful and successful partnership in the American musical theatre.
Prior to his work with Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) collaborated with lyricist Lorenz Hart on a series of musical comedies. Prolific on Broadway, in London and in Hollywood from the 1920s into the early 1940s, Rodgers & Hart wrote more than 40 shows and film scores, including On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, The Boys from Syracuse, I Married An Angel and Pal Joey.
Throughout the same era Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) collaborated with composers such as Rudolf Friml, Sigmund Romberg and Vincent Youmans on operetta classics including The Desert Song, Rose-Marie and The New Moon. With Jerome Kern he wrote Show Boat, the 1927 operetta that changed the course of modern musical theatre. His last musical before embarking on an exclusive partnership with Richard Rodgers was Carmen Jones in 1943.
Oklahoma!, the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, represented a unique fusion of Rodgers’ musical comedy and Hammerstein’s operetta. It was followed by Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song and The Sound of Music. Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote one musical specifically for the big screen, State Fair, and one for television, Cinderella. Collectively, their musicals earned 42 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards.
After Hammerstein’s death in 1960, Rodgers continued to write for the Broadway stage; No Strings earned him two Tony Awards for music and lyrics, and was followed by Do I Hear A Waltz?, Two By Two, Rex and I Remember Mama. He died on 30 December 1979, less than eight months after his last musical opened on Broadway. In 1990, Broadway’s 46th Street Theatre was renamed ‘The Richard Rodgers Theatre’ in his honour. In 1998 Rodgers & Hammerstein were cited by Time Magazine and CBS News as among the 20 most influential artists of the 20th century. Their Centennials, in 1995 and 2002 respectively, were celebrated worldwide.