Broadway: The American Musical
Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin' (1943-1960)Episode Guide »
The new partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II changes the face of Broadway forever, beginning with the record- breaking Oklahoma! in 1943, featuring a landmark ballet by Agnes De Mille. Carousel and South Pacific then set the standard for decades to come by pioneering a musical in which story is all-important. For challenging the country to confront its deep-seated racial bigotry, South Pacific wins the Pulitzer Prize. In On the Town, an exuberant team of novices - Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jerome Robbins - captures the energy, humor and pathos of New York City during World War II. Irving Berlin triumphs again with Annie Get Your Gun, featuring Ethel Merman and the unofficial anthem of the American musical theater, "There's No Business Like Show Business." In shows like Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady and Kiss Me, Kate, sophisticated adaptations of literary material prevail. "Cole Porter led the way in writing adult songs about love and sex," says theater historian Robert Kimball. "He defied the censors. He, probably more than any other songwriter in this century, made it possible for the openness that we have in all popular music." In 1956, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe triumph with My Fair Lady, featuring an 18-year- old Julie Andrews. TV's "The Ed Sullivan Show" becomes the most important showcase for Broadway musicals. Yet with the death of Oscar Hammerstein II soon after the premiere of The Sound of Music in 1959, the curtain begins to lower on a golden age. The episode features interviews with actor Julie Andrews, writer/lyricist Betty Comden, choreographer Agnes De Mille, writer/lyricist Adolph Green, Oscar Hammerstein's grandson Andy Hammerstein, choreographer Michael Kidd, author James Michener, theater historian Steve Nelson, musician John Raitt, choreographer Jerome Robbins, Richard Rodgers' composer/ daughter Mary Rodgers and conductor Michael Tilson-Thomas. Highlights include never-before-broadcast footage of Jerome Robbins' choreography for On the Town, 1960 TV footage of Rex Harrison re- enacting "I'm an Ordinary Man" from My Fair Lady, and the first American broadcast of 1950 footage of the original Guys and Dolls cast performing in London.