Producer-director James Hammerstein, 67, son of musical theatre legend Oscar Hammerstein II and a frequent director of his father's work, died in the early morning hours of Jan. 7 in Manhattan after suffering a heart attack, according to his wife, Dena.
A director of New York and London productions, including plays by Harold Pinter, Simon Gray, Israel Horovitz, Eduardo Machado and others, Mr. Hammerstein also staged the recent Broadway stage version of State Fair, which was adapted from the musical films of his father and composer Richard Rodgers. It played 118 performances at the Music Box Theatre in the 1995-96 season.
He also staged a New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music starring Debby Boone, which toured nationally, and directed a Marie Osmond tour of the same show.
Mr. Hammerstein is currently represented in New York as co-producer of the long-running musical revue, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, and, according to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, spent his last night celebrating the 100th performance of his other Off Broadway producing credit, Over the River and Through the Woods.
Known to friends and colleagues as "Jamie," Mr. Hammerstein was responsible for inviting a neighbor friend named Stephen Sondheim into the Hammerstein home. The future composer- lyricist Sondheim became a longtime family friend, but, more importantly, was a student and protégé of Oscar's. Immeasurably influenced by Hammerstein, Sondheim went on to bend rules Oscar had established for the musical stage. The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, the privately-held, 50-50 family partnership that manages copyrights and promotes and supervises the works of R&H and other writers, was represented jointly by Mr. Hammerstein and Mary Rodgers and their lawyers.
R&H spokesman Bert Fink said Jan. 7 that the day-to-day operation of the 40-person office continues, "as Jamie would be quick to say it should," but the news was "a great shock to us here."
Fink said a Hammerstein family representative will have to be appointed to the partnership position.
Mr. Hammerstein directed Oklahoma! (for Cameron Mackintosh in London and Australia), The King and I (Tel Aviv in 1966, U.S. tour in 1989, and London/U.K. tour in 1991), and, over the years, various productions of Carousel, Flower Drum Song and South Pacific -- all collaborations by his father and composer Richard Rodgers.
He also served as adapter and director for Seattle Repertory Theatre's Huckleberry Finn and was lyricist and co-author of Adventures in the Skin Trade at the Long Wharf Theatre.
A resident of Manhattan and Pawling, NY, Mr. Hammerstein is survived by his wife, Dena; older brother William; sisters Alice Hammerstein Mathias and Susan Blanchard; and children Oscar Andrew Hammerstein, Will Hammerstein, Jennifer Hammerstein and Simon Hammerstein (himself a stage director in New York City); and five grandchildren.
The fourth-generation in a theatrical dynasty that extends from writer-impresario Oscar Hammerstein I (1847-1919) to producer Arthur Hammerstein (1872-1955) to lyricist Oscar II (1895-1960), Mr. Hammerstein began as a production assistant on his father's musical, Me and Juliet, in 1953, and was later a stage manager on R&H's Flower Drum Song in 1958.
He served as director-in-residence at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center for nine years, was a member and past president of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and acted as chairman of the board of directors for Ensemble Studio Theatre.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Jan. 7. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the GMHC Child Life Program or the Pediatric Unit of the Rusk Institute, New York City. A memorial will be planned, according to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.