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Please enlighten me 
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Post Please enlighten me
I have now the recent revival recordings of the four R&H musicals I believe are the greatest: Oklahoma! with Hugh Jackman, the London Carousel revival, The King And I with Donna Murphy and the RNT South Pacific. I also have the Allegro obcr.

The thing is, apart from seemingly flawlessness, I don't really find them that great :oops: They all have their moments, but to me they aren't funny enough to pass as good fluff and they are a little bit too sentimental to capture my feelings.

Naturally I respect R&H for their inventiveness and integrity. I just don't manage to feel like I believe I ought to feel when listening to their shows.

Can you enlighten me?

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Sun Jan 15, 2006 10:51 am
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Dvarg, first of all you have to understand Oklahoma's popularity at the time it came out. No musical had totally integrated the songs with the story before. It was a novel concept to open a musical with just one singer and with a song "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" that was not a big splashy number. The song still holds up quite well, with it's quiet power. It was to first to totally integrate song, dance and story and the first musical to have a man die on stage. That's just some of the firsts.
As far as the score, it's a nice blend of lightly serious and comic. As far as the sentimentality, Oscar Hammerstein was a sentamentalist and a lot of his lyrics over the years reflected that. Yet, even here, he would sometimes write in a more powerful vein, as in "Lonely Room".
It's a more varied score for both men than it's usually given credit for.

Carousel to me is all about Rodgers. It's one of his strongest scores, starting with the Carousel Waltz, but also "If I Loved You,", "What's the Use of Wondering"(also a superb song for Oscar) and the "Soliloquy", among others. The thing about Carousel is that they could have been content to just try and repeat Oklahoma in another show. That kind of thing, with composers and lyricists doing the same basic show in another name was very common then, but Rodgers was always looking for something new.

South Pacific is a character show. Have you seen it? What I'm trying to say here is that every song fits very well with the character who sings it. It's some of the best characters ever written and these are songs that are totally in character. Although the score is quite good in its own right, I don't think this one can be truly fairly judged until you see it, because for the most part, these are songs that couldn't be in another show.
They are also singers songs. Most of the major male singers of the day recorded "Some Enchanted Evening" because it's the kind of song everybody with talent is going to be able to turn into something of their own. I can't imagine a man not wanting to play Emil or Cable and I can't imagine a woman not wanting to play Nellie or Mary and the songs are part of that. Again R and H took on themes that had not been done before.
Again, with "Carefully Taught" Oscar broke out of sentimental vein to reflect strong views.

King and I is a personal favorite. I love this score. The King, Anna and Tuptim all have great songs. I have to say though that while I often love Donna Murphy, I did not love her here, or her co-star. I don't think you can't the true greatness of this score from the version you have. It wasn't as innovative in story or score as the other shows you named, but it's still a very strong show and score. Yes, there is still a lot of sentimentaltiy, but both men were very good at that and people were looking for honest sentiment. You have to write lyrics to reflect who you are and Oscar did this throughout his career.

I saw a much improved Allegro, with the book rewritten by Oscar's grandson. I'm hoping it tours. It's a good score and with this tighter book, it works much better.

You might consider getting some shows the men wrote apart from each other. Shows with scores that are very good, but also show the differences from when they were together. For Oscar, do you have Show Boat? That should be a must in every collection. Also, get Carmen Jones, one of Oscar's most unique shows and one I'm very fond of.

For Rodgers, see if you can get The Boys From Syracuse, a marvelous score he wrote with Larry Hart. Also, Simple Simon, another Hart Score, particularly if you can get the original with Ruth Etting singing "Ten Cents a Dance" and from Rodgers later days, Rex, written with Sheldon Harnick. "As Once I Loved You" and "Away From You" are two of Rodgers very best songs.

My other suggestion is to try and see some of the R and H shows. Judge the scores in context and especially with Carousel and South Pacific, I think you'll get a fuller understanding of why R&H are so highly valued.

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Thu Jan 19, 2006 6:28 am
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JeffF wrote:
No musical had totally integrated the songs with the story before.


I don't think this statement is true because Showboat is an example of a wholly integrated musical and that came out in the 1920s. I agree with everything else you say, though (although King and I isn't my personal favourite).


Wed Mar 15, 2006 3:14 am
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JeffF, I forgot to thank you. It was very enlightening.

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Tue Mar 28, 2006 4:57 am
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Thanks, Dvarg.

Musicfan, I have a mild disagreement with what you say. Show Boat was a great step forward for Broadway, and is still a great musical, easily one of Hammerstein's best, and it was the most integrated use of story and song up to that time, but it was not wholly integrated in my opinion. There are songs in the show that don't move the plot along or reveal character, etc. which is not true of Oklahoma and Carousel. Show Boat's plot is more important and gutsier than Oklahoma's and considering the type of shows that were usually put on then, it's still stunning how much was done in that show, but Oklahoma really is more complete as far as story, song and dance all working together as central parts of the show.

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Mon Apr 03, 2006 12:27 pm
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JeffF wrote:
Thanks, Dvarg.

Musicfan, I have a mild disagreement with what you say. Show Boat was a great step forward for Broadway, and is still a great musical, easily one of Hammerstein's best, and it was the most integrated use of story and song up to that time, but it was not wholly integrated in my opinion. There are songs in the show that don't move the plot along or reveal character, etc. which is not true of Oklahoma and Carousel. Show Boat's plot is more important and gutsier than Oklahoma's and considering the type of shows that were usually put on then, it's still stunning how much was done in that show, but Oklahoma really is more complete as far as story, song and dance all working together as central parts of the show.


Oklahoma have several songs that do not move the plot along as well... "I Caint Say No and Farmer and The Cowman are not plot songs.

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Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:17 am
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"I Caint say no" is a character song. Character songs automatically move the plot by establishing character in a song and saving time.

"The Farmer and the Cowman" I concede is just a production number, a very enjoyable one, but nothing much changes if you cut it from the show.

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Wed Apr 05, 2006 10:13 am
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Hi Jeff,

It was great to read your post, thanks for your reply!

I'd be interested to know what you thought of the revisions that Kern and Hammerstein made to the score in the 40s. Do you think they improved the show or do you think it was inferior to the original version?
Also, as both a fan of Oklahoma and Show Boat, I'd be really interested to know which songs in Show Boat you feel don't move the plot along in the way they should or reveal character in the way they should.


Wed Apr 05, 2006 8:05 pm
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I just saw this, Music Fan. I think the first version of Show Boat was the best because of how fresh and daring it was for the time. Having said that, I will say that I think "Nobody Else But Me" in the later version is a very strong song for both men.

Please don't misunderstand me. I think Show Boat is a great show and very revolutionary in its time, so I'm not sure I would say "As it should" because few shows had songs central to the plot in the way "Show Boat" did. But, it still didn't go as far as Oklahoma did later. I would say for example "Can't Help Loving Dat Man" is neither plot or character driven. It works as a plot device because of it being recognized later, but that spot could have been filled by any song. It's a terrific song, but it's not central to the story in any way. "Bill' would be another that is not in itself central to plot or character. It's a torch song that is inserted in the way torch songs were then. I realize Kern didn't write it, but it still fits your question.

I value the score highly. In fact, I picked it as Hammerstein's best work when they were asking about your favorites on the board. It's a great breakthrough in terms of integration of plot and music and very daring. I would just say that Oklahoma went further, by having most songs(and dance) advance the plot, and by discarding a chorus number as the opening. None of this takes away from how daring the mixed race plot was in Show Boat or how great the score is.

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Fri Apr 28, 2006 11:02 am
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Cant Help Lovin Dat Man gives us as an audience the first hint that Julie may be black.


Kern did write "Bill"..Hammerstien didnt.


Goodbye my Lady Love and i mIght Fall bACK On You are both production numbers sung by Fank and Ellie in their Act.

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Fri Apr 28, 2006 11:15 am
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Post Re: Please enlighten me
Dvarg wrote:
I don't really find Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King And I, South Pacific or Allegro that great. They all have their moments, but to me they aren't funny enough to pass as good fluff and they are a little bit too sentimental to capture my feelings. Naturally I respect R&H for their inventiveness and integrity. I just don't manage to feel like I believe I ought to feel when listening to their shows.

I think the first thing to say is that none of these four shows (even Oklahoma! which is the most light-hearted) is just good fluff. Each in it's own way broaches some fairly serious issues that make them moving and relevant today.

Secondly - yes, they are sentimental - but there's nothing wrong with that in the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows because of the truth, the honesty, that lies behind the sentiments. It's not like Phantom of the Opera, for example, where the characters remain so underexplored that the songs exist as sugary-coated confectionaries that aren't particularly nourishing.

JeffF's points are also interesting and vaild, but I'd like to add that these shows - Oklahoma!, Carousel and South Pacific, in particular - all arrived at such a perfect time in terms of what was going on in society at the time. I think that added to their initial impact. And what makes them endure is that those same issues remain unresolved today. Attitudes may have changed somewhat, but has practice? We don't live in a world without sexual harrassment, spousal abuse or racism.

Now a question for you - how do you believe you should feel when you listen to their shows? What is it that you're expecting? Do you think your expectations are in line with what the shows are in reality?

Later days
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Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:12 am
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Post Re: Please enlighten me
First of all, I wrote this about 1 1/2 years ago, so my attitude towards the R/H shows has probably changed a little.

RainbowJude wrote:
Secondly - yes, they are sentimental - but there's nothing wrong with that in the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows because of the truth, the honesty, that lies behind the sentiments.


I think my feelings towards these musicals might be coloured by a more "cynical", "modern" view on the sort of sentimentality they represent. Which in a way means that despite the actual honesty behind these sentiments, we (I) don't always experience it as honesty. Font once said something similar about WSS. I think it's true, so I have kind of persuaded myself into accepting this sentimentality as truth (even though there's one bit inside me who still argue against myself, finding the sort of grit Sondheim (for example :roll: ) represents more honest).

RainbowJude wrote:
And what makes them endure is that those same issues remain unresolved today. Attitudes may have changed somewhat, but has practice? We don't live in a world without sexual harrassment, spousal abuse or racism.


That is true, but I believe that our way of dealing with and presenting those issues also have changed. It's a little difficult tuning into that forms of idioms that were used. Plus, there's always that little voice inside me arguing against that honesty really being genuine :oops:

RainbowJude wrote:
Now a question for you - how do you believe you should feel when you listen to their shows? What is it that you're expecting? Do you think your expectations are in line with what the shows are in reality?


I don’t know if I understand the question. Maybe the answer is that I believe I should feel that they reflect real feelings better (or maybe differently) than I experience them to. Maybe I’m too complex a person and R/H shows deals with more basic gut feeling I have problems identifying with. But I don’t actually believe I’m that extremely complex compared to the general public. I actually think that DIHAW is the one Rodgers musical I connect the most with because I appreciate and recognise the irony in the combination of jaunty tunes and bitter lyrics. Maybe a lack of irony or emotional distance in R/H musicals is what makes me feeling suspicious towards them. Over analytic feelings ring more true to me because I’m an over analytic person.

Besides, so many of those R/H songs sounds very happy. I know I asked Font about this several times over at MFdN, but he never got around to answering me. It is true. The Carousel score, for example, does not sound tragic and sad to me. It twirls and waves about sounding pretty, great and happy to my ears. I can’t help it.

The part of the musicals TV series that concerns Oklahoma! is aired in Norway today, btw :D

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Sun Jul 15, 2007 11:05 am
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