The careers of Rodgers and Hammerstein encompassed 11 musicals, 34 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Grammys, and one Pulitzer Prize. What the duo also did was leave a lasting legacy in the musical theatre community, spawning a lineage of artists who continue creating work in the same spirit.
From Oklahoma! to The Sound of Music, Patrick Street Productions’ new revue show, Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream, will take audiences on a nostalgic journey through songs from their entire oeuvre.
Peter Jorgensen, artistic producer of Patrick Street Productions, had been working on a similar show involving Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s work when he gained a new appreciation for the duo. “I wanted to do something that honoured their work and them as contributors to musical theatre,” he said.
The decision to produce this show also coincides with their other events this season: Floyd Collins and An Evening with Adam Guettel. Guettel, who wrote the music and lyrics for Collins, is Rodgers’ grandson and an accomplished composer and lyricist of musical theatre in his own right.
Guettel won two Tony Awards for The Light in the Piazza and has created many other successful works. His mother, Mary Rodgers — Rodgers’ daughter — is also a composer as well as an author of children’s books.
“Hammerstein was an amazing human being for the time. He was progressive and cared about social issues.”
Peter Jorgensen, artistic producer
“It’s an amazing lineage,” said Jorgensen, “they were really mavericks and took a lot of risks — took the form into uncharted territory. Adam Guettel is continuing in the same spirit,” a spirit that is demonstrated in Out of a Dream’s timeless songs.
As Jorgensen explained, “Hammerstein was an amazing human being for the time. He was progressive and cared about social issues. There are themes of intolerance and racism in the work. It was entertaining and had something to say.”
Each show started with Hammerstein: he wrote the lyrics and libretto, and then Rodgers wrote the music. “Hammerstein crafted the story, which was always sensitive and nuanced, and then,” Jorgensen continued, “Rodgers made those lyrics sing and gave them more meaning and depth. He was a master of the craft. You don’t think about the dramatic structure of the music; it just sounds inevitable, so you don’t question it.”
When working on this show, a structure began to emerge for Jorgensen as well. “I listened to every cast recording of their work,” he said. Once he had chosen which songs he wanted to include, he placed them into a rough order based on the trajectory of a love story. There is a section about evolving relationships, then passion, complications, and separation.
“The songs they wrote are a direct result of the story they were telling,” said Jorgensen, “it wasn’t just for the song’s sake.” With this in mind, he wanted to make sure they came alive when separated from their original production: “The songs had to be contextualized so they could be received both theatrically and musically.”
Since the show covers the whole Rodgers and Hammerstein canon, there will be some songs that everyone knows, from shows like Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and Cinderella, in addition to some that many have never heard: “There are some absolutely astonishing songs from their lesser known works.”
“There is so much hope in their shows and their songs,” said Jorgensen, “Hammerstein was an eternal optimist. He saw the darkness, but always had hope and saw the good, too.”
Out of a Dream will give audiences a taste of their career and show why the two have left such a mark on the art form. “I want the audience to come and get swept away in the stories and romance,” he said. “It’s a romantic, nostalgic trip through their work. If some people get a better appreciation for their work, that’s great.”
Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream will be presented from February 5–16 at the York Theatre. For more information, visit patrickstreetproductions.com.