Richard Rodgers Essay - Critical Essays


In the excellent biography RICHARD RODGERS, William G. Hyland traces the music-filled life of Rodgers from his beginnings in New York through his worldwide success between the mid-1920’s and the 1960’s. An admirer of Rodgers the man and the composer, Hyland provides a richly detailed account of how Rodgers became involved with Broadway as a young man through his partnership with Lorenz Hart. For a quarter of a century, Rodgers and Hart became synonymous with creative shows and tuneful scores. From GARRICK GAIETIES (1925) to PAL JOEY (1940), the team provided theater-goers with memorable songs and superb entertainment. Then in 1943 their collaboration ended and Rodgers turned to a new partner, Oscar Hammerstein II.

Hyland believes that Rodgers reached the height of his artistic and commercial success in the years that he worked with Hammerstein. Their hits included such shows as OKLAHOMA! (1943), SOUTH PACIFIC (1949), THE KING AND I (1951), and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1959). In the 1950’s Rodgers and Hammerstein took the Broadway musical into new territory of integrated shows with timeless themes. This work is strongest in showing how the partnership worked and how these two very different individuals combined in such an effective way.

After Hammerstein’s death in 1960, Rodgers never again attained the earlier success he had enjoyed. Yet by the time Rodgers died in 1979 it was apparent that he had been one of the excellent popular songwriters of the twentieth century. This book will delight any lover of Broadway and its history as well as fans of the Golden Age of American popular songs.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, April, 1998, p. 1292.

The Economist. CCCXLVIII, September 12, 1998, p. S15.

Library Journal. CXXIII, May 1, 1998, p. 102.

The Nation. CCLXVII, October 5, 1998, p. 39.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, May 17, 1998, p. 38.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, April 20, 1998, p. 56.