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The Rodgers & Hammerstein oevure as a unified whole? 
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Tony Winner
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Post The Rodgers & Hammerstein oevure as a unified whole?
I do hope I'm not going to ruffle anyone's feathers, but something makes me think that the entire output of R&H just seems ripe (and possibly right) to be assessed as one.
There is another thread that assesses why many R&H shows seem to be so unoriginal after borrowing from each other. However, I would like to share something on a different angle. I've thought that there are certain thematic similarities in many of the R&H shows that I could hardly assess each show as its own self-contained unit.
It strikes me that Curly, Nellie and Maria all enjoy the great outdoors, and I see some shades of Lietunant Cable in Billy. The reason for this is that we know Billy to be a bigot, and it just seems to pre-echo Lietunant Cable's prejudices. Will Parker appears to suggest shades of Joe Taylor because both have experienced the city, and Joe Taylor in turn seems to be derived from the inclinations of the Frake family in State Fair. Julie, Tuptim, Cinderella and Mei Li all share some kind of a naive innocence (and yes I can see it even in Maria and Liesl).
I would like to mention that many of the R&H musicals have shared themes as a unifying thread for their works. I think this unifying thread is that they tell stories about values that either remain constant or change, and also about standing up for your beliefs. I think I can see this in the exploits of Nellie, Anna and Maria. I can also see some kind of value-clash between Joe Taylor's city life and the homely life of his family, and it just seems to suggest some pre-echoes of the value conflict in Flower Drum Song.
I'm terribly sorry if all these thoughts are so haphazard, but I think we can explore these a little further.


Wed Jan 02, 2008 7:12 am
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Post Re: The Rodgers & Hammerstein oevure as a unified whole?
Dear Yip1982,

I agree with you. I hadn't really connected all of these shows in the way by which you connect them, but, now that I think about the entire situation, I can see the connections which you mentioned.

I think that Laurie actually enjoys the great outdoors, too, even though she enjoys it in a way which is more thought-related than physical. I mean, she alludes to the outdoors a great deal during "Oklahoma" (Ie: She says that people will gossip "just like a swarm of mud wasps," etc.) On the stage, Laurie is more of a tomboy than she is in the movie.

I don't understand why you think that Billy is prejudiced, because I don't know whom he seems to be prejudiced against. I know that Billy is a grumbly sort of a guy, and that he doesn't seem to respect women, or "snobs," or rich people; Billy seems to dislike so many people that there seem to be many groups of people against whom he's prejudiced. Were you referring to wealthy people when you said that Billy was prejudiced?

Couldn't Margie, from "State Fair", also be considered innocent, with regards to her inexperience?

What do you think of the more maternal Rodgers and Hammerstein figures? Don't the Fairy Godmother (from "Cinderella"), Cousin Nettie (from "Carousel"), Wang Ta's Aunt ? (and perhaps Helen, too, from "Flower Drum Song"), Lady Tiang (?) (from "The King and I"), Bloody Mary (and, at the end, Nellie, from "South Pacific"), and Margie's mother (and perhaps that performing lady from "State Fair") all seem similar?

I think that it's interesting that all (?) Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals focus on a young ingenue, and that the ingenues all have female friends who are also in love, and that the maternal figures in the musicals aren't ever searching for love.

I mean, some of the aforementioned maternal figures are married, but some of them are not. I'm wondering if Rodgers' and Hammerstein's treatment of those characters was meant to send anyone a message.

Cousin Nettie plays a large role in the song "June is Bustin' Out All Over", and the meaning of that song is pretty obvious, but, well, Nettie doesn't seem to want to find a lover of her own. Why is that the case? I guess that I'm slightly suspicious of anyone who seems to celebrate the pairing up of others without wanting a love affair of their own.

Cinderella's Fairy Godmother and Wang Ta's aunt have their reasons for keeping to themselves; the Fairy Godmother isn't human, and Wang Ta's aunt wants to keep her cultural traditions alive (?).

Yet, I don't understand why Bloody Mary would get so worked up about a connection for her daughter, without wanting to pair herself up with someone. She seems to be living through her kid, and yet, she seems like the type who should be trying to romance someone. Weird.

Thanks in advance for your reply.
8)





Yip1982 wrote:
I do hope I'm not going to ruffle anyone's feathers, but something makes me think that the entire output of R&H just seems ripe (and possibly right) to be assessed as one.
There is another thread that assesses why many R&H shows seem to be so unoriginal after borrowing from each other. However, I would like to share something on a different angle. I've thought that there are certain thematic similarities in many of the R&H shows that I could hardly assess each show as its own self-contained unit.
It strikes me that Curly, Nellie and Maria all enjoy the great outdoors, and I see some shades of Lietunant Cable in Billy. The reason for this is that we know Billy to be a bigot, and it just seems to pre-echo Lietunant Cable's prejudices. Will Parker appears to suggest shades of Joe Taylor because both have experienced the city, and Joe Taylor in turn seems to be derived from the inclinations of the Frake family in State Fair. Julie, Tuptim, Cinderella and Mei Li all share some kind of a naive innocence (and yes I can see it even in Maria and Liesl).
I would like to mention that many of the R&H musicals have shared themes as a unifying thread for their works. I think this unifying thread is that they tell stories about values that either remain constant or change, and also about standing up for your beliefs. I think I can see this in the exploits of Nellie, Anna and Maria. I can also see some kind of value-clash between Joe Taylor's city life and the homely life of his family, and it just seems to suggest some pre-echoes of the value conflict in Flower Drum Song.
I'm terribly sorry if all these thoughts are so haphazard, but I think we can explore these a little further.

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Mon Feb 25, 2008 6:53 pm
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Post Re: The Rodgers & Hammerstein oevure as a unified whole?
The Duchess of Mint wrote:

What do you think of the more maternal Rodgers and Hammerstein figures? Don't the Fairy Godmother (from "Cinderella"), Cousin Nettie (from "Carousel"), Wang Ta's Aunt ? (and perhaps Helen, too, from "Flower Drum Song"), Lady Tiang (?) (from "The King and I"), Bloody Mary (and, at the end, Nellie, from "South Pacific"), and Margie's mother (and perhaps that performing lady from "State Fair") all seem similar?


And to add to that, when the young female ingenue is having a crisis of some sort, the matronly figure sings an incredibly moving song with a powerful message. Really, every single Rogers and Hammerstein show has a young, sweet female lead who is in love with a somewhat inappropriate man. She has a feisty, funny best friend who is also in love but in a more comical way and there is always this mother/aunt/matronly figure that is in the show for about 3 or 4 scenes but delivers the most important song/message from that show (i.e Bali Hai, Something Wonderful, You'll Never Walk Alone, Climb Every Mountain, Impossible) usually just before intermission.


Oh and BTW: add Aunt Eller from Oklahoma and Mother Abess to that list, they definately fit that pattern.

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Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:25 am
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Tony Winner
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Post Re: The Rodgers & Hammerstein oevure as a unified whole?
mercurialasaka wrote:
The Duchess of Mint wrote:

What do you think of the more maternal Rodgers and Hammerstein figures? Don't the Fairy Godmother (from "Cinderella"), Cousin Nettie (from "Carousel"), Wang Ta's Aunt ? (and perhaps Helen, too, from "Flower Drum Song"), Lady Tiang (?) (from "The King and I"), Bloody Mary (and, at the end, Nellie, from "South Pacific"), and Margie's mother (and perhaps that performing lady from "State Fair") all seem similar?


And to add to that, when the young female ingenue is having a crisis of some sort, the matronly figure sings an incredibly moving song with a powerful message. Really, every single Rogers and Hammerstein show has a young, sweet female lead who is in love with a somewhat inappropriate man. She has a feisty, funny best friend who is also in love but in a more comical way and there is always this mother/aunt/matronly figure that is in the show for about 3 or 4 scenes but delivers the most important song/message from that show (i.e Bali Hai, Something Wonderful, You'll Never Walk Alone, Climb Every Mountain, Impossible) usually just before intermission.


Oh and BTW: add Aunt Eller from Oklahoma and Mother Abess to that list, they definately fit that pattern.


Here's another one for that list (I think): Helen Traubel's character from Pipe Dream (Fauna, I think her name is). I wonder if Allegro or Me and Juliet has a character like that too. They're the only R&H shows we haven't identified one for yet.

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Wed Feb 27, 2008 3:06 am
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Billy isnt Prejudiced Enoch Snow is.

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Mon Mar 03, 2008 9:09 am
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Post Character doesn't fit the list
Helen, from Flower Drum Song, does not fit the characterization of the "mother figure". She harbors a tragic unrequited love, not maternal feelings. In the original story, she commits suicide because she can never have the man she wants.


Wed Mar 05, 2008 11:56 am
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Post Re: Character doesn't fit the list
Dear teapot,

I know what you're saying, but I personally think that Helen seems to be maternal.

I've only seen the movie version of "Flower Drum Song", and in the movie, Helen helps Wang Ta into his graduation gown, etc. She's very maternal towards him, and he sees her as being a maternal figure; she'd like for him to see her as being romantic, but he sees her as being maternal. She IS sort of protective of him, and she takes care of him, in various ways, so she can be seen as being sort of maternal, even though maternalism probably isn't her goal.

Yet, how do we know that she doesn't love him in a slightly maternal way? She is, after all, older than he is.

Thanks in advance for your reply.
:?:





teapot wrote:
Helen, from Flower Drum Song, does not fit the characterization of the "mother figure". She harbors a tragic unrequited love, not maternal feelings. In the original story, she commits suicide because she can never have the man she wants.

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Wed Mar 05, 2008 3:20 pm
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I'm sorry Duchess, I didn't see your post til now. C.Y. Lee's book and the musical are singularly connected, and since R&H kept the Helen/WangTa storyline, it is logical to accept the author's formation of the character. Remembering that, while there is some leeway in interpretation, when you are dealing with a wholly fictional character you can not completely depart from the framework the author creates as that character has no existance outside that invented by the author. Any other person's speculation of what the character might do or feel is pure conjecture, and if contradicted by the author, not acceptable. Helen is in love with Wang Ta, and has been for years. When he sleeps at her apartment, all her hopes are focused on him. When nothing more comes of the relationship afterward, Helen is left with nothing. In the book, her life is sterile because she is plain, and has no chance of ever marrying or having a family. When her dream of a life with Wang Ta is crushed, she commits suicide. R&H did not want to go that dark in what was meant to be a musical of a charming foreign generational clash, and so they stopped short of having Helen die, but there is no indication of maternal feeling in Helen's actions towards Ta. When she smooths his shoulders, cares for his clothes, worries about his hangover, it is not as a mother, but as a lovestruck woman who wants these domestic touches with Ta. The ballet reinforces this. Even making his robes for him is symbolic of the step into a mature relationship she is hoping for now that he is no longer a student. Lee was a Chinese immigrant himself, and he tried to show the many areas of conflict between the older Chinese parents, the middle generation of half -assimilated but heavily Chinese culture influenced young adults, and the heavily Americanized youth. Poor Helen, with no family to act as go-between for her, no beauty, no wealth, was doomed because there was no other way for her to become a wife. Wang Ta had been her fantasy and she could believe her secret love was possible because she had known him from childhood, the family knew her well, and she was as traditional as a Chinese-American girl could be which was what his father wanted for him. The picture bride shattered that fantasy. When taken in context, Helen cannot be a maternal figure. Wang Ta treats her more as a family connection or a type of cousin... to him she is simply Helen, his friend. Did that make it any clearer? I hope I helped.


Mon Jun 16, 2008 12:02 am
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On a side note, I would say that The King and I focuses much more on mature adult love than the "young ingenue" romance. While Tuptim and Lun Tha's relationship is key to the musical, that musical is about the love between Anna and the King. So, to contradict something earlier in this thread, I think that King and I is a perfect example of a "maternal figure" whose love story takes the key role in the show.

And I agree with the previous poster about Flower Drum Song, even having only seen the movie.

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Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:17 pm
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Anna IS the mother figure who is not looking for love. She really isn't.
Tuptim is the ingenue (even though she gets around) Thiang is the other lover as she loves the King, one could say their relationship is comical even though it should not be played that way. Lun Tha is the lover male character and the Kralahome is comic relief without comic relief, leaving a somewhat pointless character and very little comedy in the show.

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Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:32 pm
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I disagree, or at least, I think you're over-simplifying.

Anna may not be looking for love, but she finds it, and the ensuing relationship is the key note of the musical--she is much more equivalent to Nellie than to the Mother Abbess, in my book.

The thing in, you can't distill all the musicals of R&H to a single cookie-cutter story mold. There are, of course, thematic similarities, and characters play similar functions, etc. but that's true of ALL stories.

To analyze the R&H canon in this way is to willfully ignore all the subtle variations on a theme by simply making your definition large enough to encompass them.

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Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:44 pm
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arctic_orange wrote:
I disagree, or at least, I think you're over-simplifying.

Anna may not be looking for love, but she finds it, and the ensuing relationship is the key note of the musical--she is much more equivalent to Nellie than to the Mother Abbess, in my book.

The thing in, you can't distill all the musicals of R&H to a single cookie-cutter story mold. There are, of course, thematic similarities, and characters play similar functions, etc. but that's true of ALL stories.

To analyze the R&H canon in this way is to willfully ignore all the subtle variations on a theme by simply making your definition large enough to encompass them.


I still don't believe that Anna and the King are in love.

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Fri Jul 04, 2008 11:32 am
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