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Richard Rodgers birthday

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Richard Rodgers was born 101 years ago today, June 28, 2002 in Long Island, New York.

Richard Rodgers may have been the greatest composer of the entire Broadway tradition. He had a heller career with his original lyricist Lorenz Hart. Besides a zillion other hits, they wrote “My Funny Valentine,” which is a career worth of achievement in itself. Oh, yeah, and also from Babes in Arms, a ditty called “The Lady Is a Tramp.”

After he broke up with Hart though, Rodgers really hit the big time. His first collaboration with his new lyricist Oscar Hammerstein was a little thing called Oklahoma! that greatest ever musical blast of optimism, debuting smack in the middle of WWII. Naturally, I particularly favor the pure parodic self-pity of “Poor Judd I Dead,” particularly the Rod Steiger performance in the 1955 movie version. Famously, Rodgers said he wrote “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” in about 15 minutes. Yowsa!

Oh, but of course they were just getting warmed up. Carousel, The King and I, State Fair, South Pacific, and The Sound of Frickin’ Music (uh, emphasis added) were yet to come, including “Do Re Mi” and “My Favorite Things.”

He was just that damned good.

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  • http://http//gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie

    Rodgers and Hammerstein were the BEST!

    When I was studying theater in college, I took a course in the history of American musical-comedy theater. Prior to the show that began as “Away We Go!,” musicals were largely revues or plays with songs interspersed; the songs entertained, but they didn’t help tell the story. Oklahoma has a storied place in theater history because it was revolutionary — the FIRST musical-comedy that integrated song, dance, orchestrations, and libretto into a cohesive whole. Plot, character development, exposition — it continued through dialogue, songs, even a dream ballet. The professor said we would remember its premiere date, March 31, 1943, forever. In my case, she’s right so far.

    It’s not advertised here, but there is a modern and amazing recording of the 1998 Royal National Theatre production of Oklahoma; Australian actor Hugh Jackman wowed London as Curly before putting on the mutant Wolverine’s claws for X-Men. He is an astoundingly powerful singer (be sure to catch him singing and dancing on Broadway as the late entertainer Peter Allen this fall in The Boy from Oz). Other standouts in an excellent cast are Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey and Maureen Lipman as feisty Aunt Eller. You can find the 1998 British recording via the usual suspects. I have several recordings of Oklahoma, and the Royal National Theatre CD should be an essential part of a serious Oklahoma, musical comedy, or Hugh Jackman fan’s collection.