Though there were stirrings beforehand, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is widely acknowledged as the granddaddy of the integrated American Musical Theater Libretto. As a life-long fan of musical theater I find the R&H classics surprisingly difficult to sit through. It’s mostly the gender politics with their abusive, occasionally homicidal, alpha males and their sad, passive-aggressive leading ladies. The New York Times’ Clive Barnes called the leads in Sondheim’s Company “worthless and horrid.” I say take a good look at Billy Bigelow or Emile De Becque.
There is one R&H character I really like. More on that tomorrow.
I drew a series on R&H’s flops in May starting with Allegro.