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Rodgers and Hammerstein II - Some Enchanted Evening

November 2023

Those two surnames equate to musical artistry of a sort that re-defined American musical theatre. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were untouchable from the very start of their magic-making collaboration of music and lyrics. They remain untouchable. With Richard Rodgers, the composer, and Oscar Hammerstein II, the librettist and lyricist, the world of Broadway reached a pinnacle it’s not likely to see again.


I may be wrong, but when a Golden Age of any art form has come and gone, that gold cannot be re-formulated, only imitated. The wretched imitations and impersonations of The Golden Ages Past, by modern mediocre mimicry and the tone-deaf ignoramuses of wussy historical revisionism:


those sorry and insulting spectacles have been with us, in America, for decades now, too many decades, more decades, in fact, than were the prolific and profound pairing of Rodgers & Hammerstein II.


(I know that I am completely correct in saying that the Golden Age of Accurate Information on the Internet is a thing of the past, the 2000s past. The historical research that I meticulously scoured, online, from 2007-2012, are gone, poof! Went with the woke-wind!)


It’s therefore fair to say that musical theatre, on the boards and in celluloid creations, has had its day. That thought is not pleasant, but it’s true. The mere costs of mounting a commercial production, such as Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, are, in this recessionary day and age, currently cost-prohibitive. There were majestic goings-on at the Majestic Theatre, of yore. Those brilliant, non-p.c. performances, and their elegantly dressed patrons, are no more.

Where there’s a will, however, there is a way.


The road forward, to the music of tomorrow, is being built upon the sublime music of the past, inspiring a wellspring of yet-to-be discovered melodies, harmonies, rhythms, keys, tempos, lyrics, instrumentation, and dynamics. That pathway encompasses the most natural, and vital, expression of the human heart, a fundamental force that cannot be denied:


The almost palpable yearning of the soul to aspire to celestial chords.


The songs and the forms made famous by Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) shall always be with us. In that sense, those two virtuosos from New York City are immortal. They were maestros, masterful at coming up with uplifting, dramatic yet delightful tales — through music, music, music.


Prior to his exclusive collaboration with Hammerstein II in 1943, Richard Rodgers was the composing half of the songwriting team with Lorenz Hart (1895-1943). They created tunes for a Broadway that exuded wit, sophistication, charm, and the type of selfless showmanship which is, I’d venture to say, the essence of professionalism.


The death of Broadway occurred not because of the deaths of these phenomenally talented musicians, but due to the staggering levels of narcissism on parade on-stage. The golden oldies that almost unknowingly went into the compilation of The Great American Songbook were fun frolics in word & melody, crafted by master craftsmen in their métiers.

Those métiers were toe-tapping, lip-smacking, tear-cryin’, heart-throbbin’, foot-stompin’, rib-crackin’-laughin’ inventions of captivating melodies and rhapsodically poetic lyrics. An inner force of inspiration came to the fore within the realization of these fantastic works of auditory art. Sadness, sorrow, and sublimed sympathy oozed from every note and measure that these supremely talented men wrote.


They didn’t go looking for a cause to espouse. Their cause was the human race; they espoused music, good music, for whatever ailed mankind and womankind.


They didn’t author those stunningly original songs with chips on their shoulders. And they had misfortunes, crises, calamities, faults and flaws galore. Somehow, though, through the mystery and the miracle and the marvel that are known as artistry, they valiantly persevered through their problems in order to actualize the wondrous sounds and benevolent sensations prompted by their fertile imaginations.


Theirs was genius, a tender-hearted and glorious genius of humanity that sounded forth to solidify and symbolize an era. Those immortal outpourings of quintessentially universal emotions had their most fundamental roots, their reason for being, in the primacy of the individual over the mob. It was the primacy of the solitary intimate soul that elicited a vast crowd response, conveying enthusiasm and ebullient gratitude for such public promptings of the private heart.


Those auditory invitations to listen to your own heart, they offered hope for the future. The uncertain morrow can be as open to disaster as to fortune. One might court catastrophe or woo lady luck, depending, in part, on which tune you whistled, night and noon.


Oscar Hammerstein II was a bold innovator as much as a clever, sincerely sentimental and gifted lyricist. He induced new life in the operetta, a form that had been lingering at death’s door. Rose-Marie was brought to the stage in 1924 because of the artistic alliances among composers Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart and librettists/lyricists Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II.


He also formed an astoundingly prolific partnership with Jerome Kern, bringing into existence one of the masterpieces of American musical theatre: Show Boat. This sole work engendered an entirely new genre — the musical play, as opposed to the musical comedy. After Show Boat was shown to the paying audience, the play was the thing, in consummate harmonious accord with Mr. Shakespeare. The drama of the story was a direct outgrowth, and consequence, of the characters. The integrated, or book, musical was born.


The focal point of this new musical play was a narrative progression of plot, into which the songs and dances were fully integrated. Each tune had to advance the plot. The initial groundwork for this revolution in musical theatre was laid in Oklahoma, the groundbreaking 1943 hit by Rodgers and Hammerstein II. Show Boat gets the credit for the full flowering of the seeds that were sown in a play that, in my opinion, has a rather weak storyline. Mood, ambiance, and the dance form to express symbolic realism are the stronger components in this fictional work.


Prior to Oklahoma and Show Boat, the light-hearted ditties, dances, and comedic entertainment were loosely held together by some kind of storyline. Many elements in this stage show could, and did, go wrong. Lacking a unifying structure, the curtain-raiser was more vaudeville than it was story-telling through song.


Story-telling through song is an art — of music, of writing, of feeling joyously alive.


Any time that someone can thrill to the strains of “Some Enchanted Evening,” American musical theatre lives as never before.

Some Enchanted Evening Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II

Some enchanted evening

You may see a stranger

You may see a stranger

across a crowded room.


And somehow you know,

you know even then


That somewhere you’ll see him

Again and again.


Some enchanted evening

Someone may be laughing


You may be hear him

laughing

Across a crowded room


And night after night

As strange as it seems

The sound of his laughter

Will sing in your dreams.


Who can explain it?

Who can tell you why?

Fools give you reasons

Wise men never try.


Some enchanted evening

When you find your true love

When you feel him call you

Across a crowded room


Then fly to his side

And make him your own

Or all through your life

you may dream

all alone.


Once you have found him,

never let him go

once you have found him,

never

let

him

go.

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