A complete guide to every musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein
Theatre duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were an influential pair of musical theatre writers, with a catalogue of best-selling musicals including Carousel, The King and I and The Sound of Music. Between them, their stage shows and respective film adaptations have earned them Tony Awards, Academy Awards, as well as a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Ushering in a new era of Broadway musicals, take a listen to every Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with our guide here.
Rodgers and Hammerstein: The musical works
Considered to be one of the first original ‘book musicals’ in theatre history, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical dealt with relationships at the turn of Oklahoma becoming a state. As two potential suitors vie for courtship with local farmgirl Laurey Williams, rivalries between farmers and cowboys come to loggerheads, especially when they’re at an auction. With songs including ‘People We’re Say We’re In Love’ and ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’’, Oklahoma! was the talk of Broadway, running for over 2,000 performances. 75 years after its premiere, Oklahoma! returned to New York City, winning two Tony Awards including best revival of a musical.
The echoing cries of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as sung in Carousel have been heard in theatres worldwide for over 70 years. Telling the love story between carnival worker Billy Bigelow and a local millworker named Julie Jordan, audiences have had all the fun of the fair at this musical, with the original Broadway production going on to win every major award it was nominated for. With Stephen Sondheim giving the musical high praise and speaking of how the musical transported him to another world, it’s no surprise that Carousel enjoys regular revivals on both side of the pond. In 2018, Carousel was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and in 2020, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre will close its season with a production of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.
The third musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein has never been staged in the West End, but it made history for the writer-composer duo with a large cast to resemble a traditional Greek chorus on stage. Following a man who is trying to deal with the problems thrown up in a modern, fast-paced world, Allegro was considered to be too serious and caught up within itself. But even with its barrage of negative reviews, Allegro won best book, best lyrics and best score at the 1947 Donaldson Awards.
South Pacific (1949)
Winning ten Tony Awards and the musical pair their first official Pulitzer Prize for Drama, South Pacific is based on a collection of James A. Michener’s short stories titled ‘Tales of the South Pacific’. As an American nurse finds herself stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II, issues of race and relationships are called into question. But, in order to correctly identify military terms told in the musical, the pair insisted the help of Joshua Logan, an American writer, to help bring South Pacific to life. South Pacific was last staged in the West End in 2011, starring Jason Howard and Samantha Womack.
The King and I (1951)
When an agent was looking around Broadway in 1950 for her client to star in a show, she came across a novel by Margaret Landon titled ‘Anna and the King of Siam’. Inspired, the agent approached Rodgers and Hammerstein to write a musical based on the novel, and The King and I was born. Receiving its Broadway premiere the following year, The King and I enjoyed great commercial success and has since been staged in the West End and on Broadway eight times, including a 2018 revival starring Kelli O’Hara!
Me and Juliet (1953)
Usually left in theatre history, the sixth Rodgers and Hammerstein musical failed to garner positive reviews. Following the backstage romance of a chorus girl and a stage manager, Me and Juliet played 358 performances on Broadway and ran for six weeks in Chicago.
Pipe Dream (1955)
Based on John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, the 1955 musical Pipe Dream has never been revived or staged anywhere apart from Broadway. As a romance develops between marine biologist Doc and a woman whose prostitute profession is only alluded to, their different walks of life often meet loggerheads.
First written for television in 1957, Julie Andrews received an Emmy Award for starring as the titular princess, watched live by over 100 million people. Later revived for television including a 1997 film starring Brandy Norwood and Whitney Houston, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella recently opened on Broadway, receiving nine Tony Award nominations. Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana played Cinderella and Topher respectively in this heartwarming, sparkling musical that ran for 770 performances.
Flower Drum Song (1958)
Rodgers and Hammerstein took inspiration for their 1958 musical from C. Y. Lee’s The Flower Drum Song. The musical tells the story of a wealthy Chinese refugee who attempts to retain his Asian culture while living in San Francisco. Torn between his Chinese roots and the American way of life, he feels pressure to mix East/West identities.
The Sound of Music (1959)
Although the 1965 film adaptation starring Julie Andrews has gone on to enjoy worldwide acclaim, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music received its Broadway premiere six years earlier. Set during the era of World War Two, Maria solves a problem by looking after the von Trapp children, she falls in love with their father. But as the war intensifies, Maria and Captain von Trapp hatch a plan to flee Austria and escape the brutality of Nazi Germany. The original production won best musical at the 1960 Tony Awards, later transferring to the West End in 1961, playing over 2,000 performances at the Palace Theatre. The Sound of Music was last revived in the West End in 2006, starring BBC I’d Do Anything’s Connie Fisher as Maria.
A Grand Night for Singing (1993)
The 1993 production was a celebration of all things Rodgers and Hammerstein, with songs from their impressive musical theatre catalogue as the shining star of the show. The production ran for 41 previews and had 52 performances at the top of the Rockefeller Center.
State Fair (1996)
The musical State Fair received its Broadway premiere in 1996, however audiences had been familiar with the story for over 60 years. Based on Phil Stong’s novel of the same name, the musical illuminates the lives of farming families across the United States, focusing on the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Finding romance on the land as well as earning praise for their livestock, there’s plenty that goes on in this State Fair!