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The great second act of Rodgers and Hammerstein

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Songs they will sing for a thousand years

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution. By Todd Purdum. Henry Holt; 400 pages; $32. To be published in Britain in May; £25.

AT THE age of 46 Oscar Hammerstein was living as a country squire on his Pennsylvania farm, apparently washed up. It was 14 years since he had written his last hit, “Show Boat”, a landmark musical in its embrace of a gritty subject, race. Meanwhile Richard Rodgers remained, at 39, one of Broadway’s marquee composers; but he was contemplating a future without Lorenz Hart, a lyricist and his long-standing collaborator, who had become a shiftless alcoholic. The stage was set for one of the grandest second acts in entertainment history. From 1941 until Hammerstein’s death in 1960 his partnership with Rodgers yielded an anthology of musical theatre’s greatest hits: “Oklahoma!”, “Carousel”, “South Pacific”, “The King and I” and “The…Continue reading

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