Oscar Hammerstein's wife, Dorothy, was once approached at a dinner party by a woman who spoke of her fondness for Richard Rodgers' “Some Enchanted Evening.” The lyricist's wife quickly pointed out that it was Hammerstein who wrote “Some Enchanted Evening,” not Rodgers. The composer's contribution had simply been “dum-dee dum-dee dum-dum.”
Scholars have long debated the division of labor regarding songs from the musical theater, but it's clear that songwriting remains a collaborative art. “Some Enchanted Evening” owes as much to Rodgers as it does to Hammerstein.
The famous hit from “South Pacific” is also the title of a musical revue that honors the celebrated songwriting team. Lyric Theatre continues its Plaza season this month with “Some Enchanted Evening,” a production that features musical numbers from “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “State Fair,” “Allegro,” “The King and I,” “Cinderella,” “Flower Drum Song” and “The Sound of Music.”
Created by Jeffrey B. Moss in 1983, “Some Enchanted Evening” features a cast of five singers who perform solos, duets, trios and full company numbers by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Lyric's cast features Ethan Spell, Heather Geery, Jamie Buxton, Melissa Griffith and Dallas Lish. Ashley Wells directs, Matthew Sipress choreographs, and Brian Hamilton is music director.
“This is the first show of our 50th season, and we were looking for a way to celebrate that,” Wells said recently.
“Lyric Theatre has done 20 Rodgers and Hammerstein productions over the years, including every show that's featured in this production except ‘Allegro.' The revue has a pretty nice flow and arc.”
Stars return for milestone
As another way to celebrate this significant milestone, Lyric Theatre has invited several performers who have appeared in past Lyric shows to perform a featured number and share a story or anecdote about their Lyric experiences.
A different performer will be featured at every performance. Among the scheduled guests are Marilyn Govich, Ben Williams, Charlotte Franklin, Jane Hall, John Steele, Lyn Cramer, Bob Windsor, Tommy Cunningham, Charlie Monnot, Jeanie Cooper and Billie Thrash.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration began in 1943 with the musical “Away We Go.” What might have been an inauspicious start suddenly achieved great momentum when the title of that show was changed. With “Oklahoma!,” Rodgers and Hammerstein had a major hit that ran more than five years.
During a partnership that would last until Hammerstein's death in 1960, the songwriters penned nine stage musicals and one score each for film and television.
Of their stage collaborations, five have become musical theater classics: “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music.”
“With ‘Some Enchanted Evening,' there's interaction among the characters and some fun tongue-in-cheek business,” Wells said.
“But it's really about the songs and the arrangements. We're featuring chandeliers and two grand pianos. It's an evening of old school elegance that celebrates the music and lyrics of Rodgers and Hammerstein.”