Rodger and Hammerstein Take South Pacific To a New Level 

April 18, 2022

Rodger and Hammerstein Take South Pacific To a New Level 


South Pacific’s creators, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were successful writers who developed eleven ground-breaking musicals like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, and The King and I throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Their creative dynamic won them 35 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy and two Emmy Awards, and ultimately branded them as the masterminds behind Broadway’s “golden age of theater.”

While we could be diving into the theatrics that makes South Pacific a cultural hit, Broadway Utica thought it would be appropriate to uncover the two men who changed Broadway history and created the beautifully composed story that Central New York is soon to experience.

The background behind these gentlemen is unique, Rodgers was the author of over 40 shows and film scores and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote scores for several successful operettas. Attending high school in the same vicinity, and later meeting at Columbia’s College Varsity Show, an annual musical satire about life at Columbia, the two men began to discuss their mutual goals of changing the musical genre. Both were looking to bring new energy to the musical theater world by designing shows with plots and characters that related to those in the audience. That conversation and idea led to their first collaboration, which was Oklahoma.

While Broadway musicals were the first major theatrical form developed in the US, they’d fallen into a stylistic rut during this time. Oklahoma brought a new form that integrated music with libretto, lyrics, and dancing on stage – something that did not exist. What’s more, Rodgers and Hammerstein brought in an original cast. While this might not seem groundbreaking, hit shows were essentially vehicles to showcase the talents of its stars. The development, cast, plot, and score of the show became the first show to have an album produced by a major recording label. Oklahoma would break another record here, as it sold over 1 million copies, and was later the first musical to be released on CD.  

Some believed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s success was luck. They believed the show had tapped into the mood of the country, capturing the heart of an audience that was fresh out of the Depression and into World War II. Had the show aired at a different time, critics stated the show would not have prospered. But Rodgers and Hammerstein quickly put their theory to rest as they worked together to create Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music

Together, the talented duo created top-notch dialogue and musical scores filled with humor and impressionism that challenged racism, classism, and sexism. They brought entertainment that spoke to everyday people and went on to inspire generations of writers to come.  

And, just when people wondered if they’d be able to pull themselves up from their first flop with Allegro, Rodgers and Hammerstein locked themselves inside their studio for years, hammering down lines from James A. Michener’s book, “Tales of the South Pacific.” The result was one of the most coherent librettos that integrated conflict. South Pacific went on to sweep every category at the Tony Awards and win the Pulitzer Prize for drama.  

More than Oklahoma! or other Rodger and Hammerstein musical showpieces, South Pacific has continued to gain the largest attention at the box office – a shining tribute to a show that’s remained relevant 50 plus years later. 

Looking for tickets to see what the Rodgers and Hammerstein hype is all about? Log onto, call 315-624-9444, or visit their box office at 258 Genesee Street in Utica. 

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