Something Wonderful : Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution
by Purdum, Todd S.

Prologue: All They Cared About Was the Show1(14)
1 The Sentimentalist
2 A Quality of Yearning
3 Away We Go
4 Bustin' Out
5 So Far
6 Enchanted Evening
7 Parallel Wives
8 Catastrophic Success
9 Beyond Broadway
10 Auf Wiedersehen
11 Walking Alone
Epilogue: Bloom and Grow Forever314(7)
Permissions Acknowledgments359(6)

A revelatory portrait of the creative partnership between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II shares insights into how their collaborations pioneered a new art form that became a template for all future musicals, offering additional coverage of their cultural legacy and establishment of one of the most powerful entertainment businesses of their era.

Todd S. Purdum is the author of An Idea Whose Time Has Come and A Time of Our Choosing. He is a staff writer for The Atlantic, having previously worked for more than twenty years at The New York Times, where he covered beats from City Hall to the White House and served as Los Angeles bureau chief. He has also been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a senior writer at Politico. A native of Macomb, Illinois, and a graduate of Princeton University, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Dee Dee Myers, and their two children.

*Starred Review* The songs of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein have provided the background music to many of our lives. Here, readers will learn the stories behind the music and how this most successful of writing duos crafted some of the finest musicals to grace the American stage, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music. Although the biographies of Rodgers and Hammerstein are naturally threaded throughout, this is much more the story of the music rather than the men. Written chronologically, the book details the evolution of the Broadway musical, from lighter-than-air plots and songs that could be plugged in at will, to more cohesive and deeper offerings like Show Boat and Pal Joey, and, finally, to Rodgers and Hammerstein, who were determined, as Purdum puts it, to broaden and deepen their art. This meant intertwining plot, music, and dance to tell their stories, but also taking on social issues-for instance, racial prejudice in South Pacific and cross-cultural conflict in The King and I. Ironically, Purdum also shows how some of these musicals fall short to contemporary ears in just those areas, the treatment of spousal abuse in Carousel being a prime example. The often-distant relationship between Rodgers and Hammerstein means that they don't quite come alive for readers, but the music and the stories of how it came to be certainly does. Something wonderful, indeed. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

From an incomparable partnership, musical theater rang out with ebullience, lyricism, and soaring melodies. Composer Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) had worked with the lyricist Lorenz Hart before teaming up with Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) in 1942; Hammerstein already had decades of experience in theater, beginning in 1915 when he joined a university troupe as a writer and performer. As Politico senior writer Purdum (An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 2014) amply shows in his joyous, brisk, and gossipy dual biography, their partnership brought out the best in both men: from Hammerstein, lyrics of "shimmering loveliness." His lyrics, Julie Andrews remarked with admiration, were "rich, brilliantly constructed and so very specific to the worlds they created together," scored by Rodgers' "melodically glorious" music. They worked independently but with uncanny synergy: Hammerstein wrote the words first, send ing them to Rodgers, who composed with incredible speed. Once asked how long it took him to compose the entire score of Oklahoma!, he estimated "about five hours." Purdum calls their creativity "alchemy," which aptly describes the magic that resulted in some of the most iconic Broadway shows of the mid-20th century, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. The author traces the chronology of each show—even the lesser-known productions and the flops—from lighting upon an idea through developing a storyline, writing music, finding a director, hiring a cast (many young singers rose to stardom in the duo's musicals), and assembling a team. Although they closely managed their productions, they depended on other talented participants, notably orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett; choreographers Agnes de Mille and Jerome Robbins; vocal arranger Trude Rittmann; and scenic designer Jo Mielziner. Aside from work, Rodgers and Ham m erstein were not confidants, although they signed their correspondence "love." Yet they revealed depths of emotion in music, as one friend put it, that "parses the grammar of the heart." An exuberant celebration of musical genius. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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