A revelatory portrait of the creative partnership that transformed musical theater and provided the soundtrack to the American Century
They stand at the apex of the great age of songwriting, the creators of the classic Broadway musicals Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, whose songs have never lost their popularity or emotional power. Even before they joined forces, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had written dozens of Broadway shows, but together they pioneered a new art form: the serious musical play. Their songs and dance numbers served to advance the drama and reveal character, a sharp break from the past and the template on which all future musicals would be built.
Though different in personality and often emotionally distant from each other, Rodgers and Hammerstein presented an unbroken front to the world and forged much more than a songwriting team; their partnership was also one of the most profitable and powerful entertainment businesses of their era. They were cultural powerhouses whose work came to define postwar America on stage, screen, television, and radio. But they also had their failures and flops, and more than once they feared they had lost their touch.
Todd S. Purdum’s portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations will captivate lovers of musical theater, lovers of the classic American songbook, and young lovers wherever they are. He shows that what Rodgers and Hammerstein wrought was truly something wonderful.
No songwriting duo is as ubiquitous in American pop culture as Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, argues Purdum (An Idea Whose Time Has Come) in this thorough biography of the pair that largely focuses on two decades of wild success beginning with Oklahoma! and triumphantly concluding with The Sound of Music. Purdum follows Rodgers and Hammerstein separately through their formative years before their meeting in the early 1940s ushered in a sweeping revolution on Broadway. Though many pages are devoted to somewhat formulaic chronologies of the duo's hallmark productions and also their less-successful ventures, such as Allegro, Purdum sufficiently explores their conflicting personalities, savvy business practices (they established a music publishing company and produced other plays), and sheer innovation, all of which led to the endurance of their work. Despite waning critical acclaim in the twilight years of their partnership, Rodgers and Hammerstein continued to have commercial success (largely fueled by The Sound of Music). Purdum's anecdote-filled account is a sterling primer on the influential duo, both for newcomers to their work and to those looking to rekindle an old flame.