The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization unveiled a commissioned portrait of the legendary American musical composer, Richard Rodgers, June 28 — the 99th anniversary of the tunesmith's birth.
The portrait, by Rodgers' artist granddaughter, Kim Beaty, wasn't the only thing revealed at a press event held at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. Varied events in conjunction with the Richard Rodgers centennial, in 2002, were also detailed, by Ted Chapin, president of R&H. A website, www.RR2002.com, was also introduced. It went live the morning of June 28.
The Tony Award-winning composer, 1902-1979, would write scores for such groundbreaking musicals as On Your Toes and Pal Joey (with lyricist Lorenz Hart) and Oklahoma!, Carousel and South Pacific (with lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II). Singers Mary Cleere Haran and Bernadette Peters sang Rodgers songs — "Manhattan" and "What's the Use of Wond'rin'?," respectively — at the centennial preview. The prolific Rodgers wrote for the Broadway stage, film ("State Fair") and television (including the documentary "Victory at Sea," and the original musical, "Cinderella"), and scored ballets. After longtime collaborator Hammerstein died in 1960, Rodgers would go on to collaborate with others on such shows as Do I Hear a Waltz?, Two by Two, Rex and I Remember Mama. He wrote his own lyrics for 1962's No Strings (for which he won the Best Score Tony Award) and wrote lyrics for new songs in the film, "The Sound of Music."
Worldwide commemorations of Rodgers will include stage productions and concerts, ballet, jazz and film tributes, new books and biographies, recordings and TV programming, museum exhibits and more. Check out the R&H website for complete details.
International theatrical highlights of the Rodgers Centennial, as outlined by R&H, include: BROADWAY
• The Boys From Syracuse: The Roundabout Theatre will present Broadway's first revival of Rodgers & Hart's 1938 musical comedy (based on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors). George Abbott's book is updated by Nicky Silver (Raised in Captivity, The Food Chain). Scott Ellis directs. Opening at the American Airlines Theatre on March 7, 2002.
• Oklahoma!: Cameron Mackintosh will present the internationally acclaimed, and long awaited, production of Oklahoma! from Britain's Royal National Theatre, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman, on Broadway. Performances at the Gershwin Theatre begin Feb. 23, opening March 21, 2002.
• Carousel: Of his 40 musicals, Rodgers considered Carousel his personal favorite. "Oscar never wrote more meaningful or more moving lyrics, and to me, my score is more satisfying than any I've ever written," he said in his autobiography. Carnegie Hall will present an all-star concert version of Carousel for one performance only, June 6, 2002. Leonard Slatkin will conduct the Orchestra of St. Luke's.
• Dearest Enemy: New York's Village Light Opera Group will present the first fully-staged New York revival of one of Rodgers & Hart's earliest musical comedies. Set in New York during the American Revolutionary War, this 1925 confection introduced "Here in My Arms." The VLOG production, featuring newly restored orchestrations, plays April 13-14, 19-21, 2002.
• No Strings: New York City Center's series, Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, will present Rodgers' only musical for which he wrote both music and lyrics, with book by Samuel Taylor. No Strings will star Vanessa Williams and James Naughton, directed by Ann Reinking. Rob Fisher musical directs. Spring 2002.
• Peggy-Ann: Rodgers & Hart's Freud-inspired show. Heard on the New York stage for the first time in 75 years, Peggy-Ann is "a daring musical comedy about the subconscious." Reconstructed from its original 1926 orchestrations, Peggy Ann features a score that includes "Where's That Rainbow?" and "A Tree in the Park." Rob Fisher musical directs at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, one performance only, May 16, 2002.
• Musicals in Mufti: The York Theatre's popular musicals-in-concert series will devote its entire Winter 2002 season to Richard Rodgers. For three weekends in January, the York will present one musical apiece from Rodgers' collaborations with Hart, Hammerstein, and his post Hammerstein period (1960-79).
• Cinderella: The popular U.S. national tour of Cinderella, inspired by the recent ABC-TV/"Wonderful World of Disney" version, will resume in December 2001, with cities booked into late spring 2002, including Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Eartha Kitt stars as the Fairy Godmother.
• Flower Drum Song: The Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum of Los Angeles will present the world premiere of a new version of Flower Drum Song by Rodgers, Hammerstein and Joseph Fields, adapted by David Henry Hwang and directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom. Lea Salonga stars in the role of Mei Li. Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles; performances begin Oct. 2, opening Oct. 14, through Dec. 2, 2001.
• The King and I: The Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ (showcasing Carousel through July 15), stages a new production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic about. April 3-May 19, 2002.
• Rex: The Music & Theatre Departments of The University of Findlay, Ohio, will present the first fully mounted revival of Rodgers' 1976 Broadway musical about Henry VIII, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Sherman Yellen. The score, to be performed by a 30 piece orchestra, has been reconstructed by Micheal F. Anders, Ph. D., Professor of Music at The University of Findlay, in consultation with the music department at R&H and co-authors Harnick and Yellen. Rex will be performed at the Egner Fine Arts Center on the Findlay Campus from April 11 13, and April 18-20, 2002. In addition, Prof. Anders will host a concert/lecture evening on April 14, 2002, entitled "The Evolution of Rex, the Musical," featuring cut material and guest speakers.
• South Pacific: Barry and Fran Weissler will present a U.S. national tour of the musical in association with SFX Theatrical Group, beginning in Fall, 2001. Jerry Zaks will serve as production supervisor, with Scott Faris as director and Gary Chryst as choreographer. Cities on the fifty-week tour will include Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Baltimore, and Costa Mesa, CA. Erin Dilly is expected to play Nellie Forbush. A nonprofit tryout plays the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St.Paul in July-August 2001.
• Two By Two: Tom Bosley will star as Noah in a U.S. national tour of this 1970 Broadway musical based on Clifford Odets' play The Flowering Peach, with a book by Peter Stone. Lyricist Martin Charnin directs. Specific dates and cities for this 2002 tour to be announced.
• 42nd Street Moon: The concert series in San Francisco will devote its entire 2002 season of musicals-in concert to the works of Richard Rodgers, with a schedule to include: By Jupiter (April 19-May 12), Allegro (May 22-June 9), Peggy-Ann (June 19-July 17), A Connecticut Yankee, with full orchestra (October 2-6), Pipe Dream (Nov. 1-17) and the American premiere of Rodgers & Hart's 1930 London musical, Ever Green (Nov. 29-Dec. 5.) With the exception of A Connecticut Yankee (venue to be announced), performances are at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco.
• Allegro: London's "Lost Musicals" series will present Rodgers & Hammerstein's experimental flop, Allegro, at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden, with orchestra and featuring some of Agnes de Mille's original choreography. Fall 2002.
• Cinderella: In 2002, the Imperial Theatre in Hamburg, Germany, will host the German language premiere (translated by Frank Thannhäuser) of Rodgers & Hammerstein's fairy tale musical.
• The King and I: The internationally acclaimed Australian-Broadway production (winner of the 1996 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Awards for Best Musical Revival) is now in its second year at the London Palladium, starring Josie Lawrence, Keo Woolford and Saeed Jaffrey. A U.K. tour will begin in Edinburgh in April, 2002.
• The King and I: Maki Ichiro and Masahiro Takashima will star in a Japanese-language revival, opening at the Umeda Koma Theater, Osaka, in April 2002.
• On Your Toes: The Leicester (U.K.) Haymarket will present the Rodgers & Hart musical comedy in March 2002, choreographed by, and starring, Adam Cooper (Swan Lake). A possible U.K. tour is currently under discussion.
• The Sound of Music: Under discussion are plans to present the Rodgers & Hammerstein favorite in concert in its original locale — Salzburg, Austria — in Fall, 2002, with a cast assembled from the musical and opera stages of New York, London and Continental Europe. A gala concert for charity, it may be staged at the Felsenreitschule (The Rock Riding School), setting of the film's "Edelweiss" concert sequence.
• South Pacific: Trevor Nunn will direct a new production opening at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain's Olivier Theatre in December, 2001.
— By Kenneth Jones