On March 30, 1943, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical opened in New York City and changed forever the face of musical theater in this country. “Oklahoma!” was a smash hit right from opening night. Never before had musical numbers been used to advance the plot, as Rodgers and Hammerstein did in “Oklahoma!” and several hits that followed.
Theatergoers who were used to songs being part of a vaudeville performance didn’t know what to make of “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” “I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No,” or “Poor Judd Is Dead.” But they knew they were hearing something special.
Since that illustrious beginning 68 years ago, Rodgers and Hammerstein went on to become America’s most successful composers for the stage. Among their numerous collaborations were “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music.” I think it’s safe to say that hardly a night goes by when one of their musicals isn’t performed somewhere in this country. Altogether, the duo garnered 34 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Grammys and the Pulitzer Prize.
Not bad for a couple of Depression-era lads who said they just wanted to tell a story.