This century-long story of one of Broadway's most creative and productive families begins with Oscar Hammerstein I who becomes a successful cigar and real estate mogul to fund his theatre-building ambitions. He builds more than a dozen theatres and spearheads the development of Times Square as the theatre capital of the world. His sons, Willie and Arthur carry on the tradition and nurture such talents as Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, Houdini, and Charlie Chaplin. Willie's son Oscar II becomes the most successful lyricist of all time, writing the story and words to the Broadway shows Showboat, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. The accomplishments of this family are monumental. Their tale is enchanting. The Hammersteins is at once a deeply personal story of an American family living the American dream and a celebration of musical theatre in this country.
Lecture 2 –
OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN I – FATHER OF TIMES SQUARE
This story re-introduces the life of the first Oscar Hammerstein (1847-1919) - the inventor, writer, editor, publisher, composer, speculator, designer, builder, promoter, showman and, above all else, an opera impresario who realized his lifelong dream of rejuvenating and revitalizing opera in America. To subsidize his opera 'madness,' Oscar spearheaded the development of Times Square as a theatre district by building the colossal, Olympia Theatre in 1895. His development of Times Square and other theatre districts in New York City, his acoustic and populist innovations in theatre design, his introduction of the new and controversial into the staid conventions of opera, his bankrolling his opera productions with the profits from vaudeville comedy and cigar machines, and his own brand of cockeyed optimism all combined to help create the theatrical climate within which his lyrical grandson, Oscar Hammerstein the 2nd, and many others, would so creatively thrive. His life story provides a fascinating overview of popular culture during New York City's "Golden Age."
Lecture 3 –
OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II - A LIFE IN WORDS AND MUSIC
Most familiar of all is Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960), the prodigiously talented and highly disciplined lyricist and librettist for such Broadway smash hits as Show Boat, with Jerome Kern, and Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, King and I, The Sound of Music, written with Richard Rodgers. The emotional honesty, social conscience and artistic integrity of his efforts redefined what audiences came to expect from a musical play. He furthered the transformative power of the ‘book’ musical play by making the show's libretto both believable and truthful, the organic center around which all the other theatrical arts orbited Moreover, Oscar's lyrics were warm, humane and touched on themes of tolerance and understanding. For these Promethean efforts he remains the revolutionary central figure in the development of the musical play in the 20th century.
Lecture 4 –
THE RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN REVOLUTION IN SIX SONGS
I present 6 film clips from 5 shows and cover the following topics:
“HABANERA” from CARMEN JONES - Oscar’s career spiral prior to WW2; Oscar writes the Last Time I saw Paris; Oscar adapts Carmen – dipping into the creative well of opera The phone rings – Richard Rodgers re-meets Hammerstein
“OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING” from OKLAHOMA! - A thumbnail overview of Rodgers before Hammerstein; Discuss the chemistry between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II; Discuss the importance of the opening number
“SOLILOQUY” from CAROUSEL - Describe the operatic roots; Emphasize the narrative importance of this song;
“YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE” from CAROUSEL - Talk about Oklahoma! and Carousel’ s resonance with their respective times; Describe why show tunes last in the mind – the show platform theory; Use the church window metaphor
“COCKEYED OPTIMIST” from SOUTH PACIFIC - Tie Oscar’s optimism to his social conscience; Pivot into discussion of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”; A word about his politics – from the Anti-Nazi Party to J. Edgar Hoover
“SHALL WE DANCE?” From THE KING AND I - Connect dance and sex; describe the flirtation numbers of OH2;