ASK PLAYBILL.COM: Why Is West 44th Street Called "Rodgers & Hammerstein Row"?
By Robert Simonson
A street sign in Manhattan's theatre district indicates that West 44th Street is "Rodgers & Hammerstein Row." How come?
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Question: The corner of 44th Street and Eighth Avenue includes a "vanity" street sign that says 44th Street is "Rodgers & Hammerstein Row." Is there a reason this designation is specific to 44th Street? — J.D., Astoria, NY
We didn't really need to check with The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization to know why West 44th Street between Broadway and Eighth, of all blocks in Manhattan, was chosen to honor the songwriting duo. The block is home to the St. James Theatre, which presented the Broadway premiere of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's first collaboration Oklahoma!, a show that made the partnership's reputation, back in 1943. Other noteworthy shows that premiered there included The King and I and Flower Drum Song.
But we asked the folks at R&H anyway.
West 44th Street began its double life on March 31, 1993, according to Bert Fink, spokesman for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. "March 1993 marked the 50th anniversary of the partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein," said Fink. "As part of the celebration, we suggested to New York City, which they agreed to, the renaming of the block of West 44th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway."
The designation of the block was more appropriate than we at Playbill imagined. Of the nine musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, a whopping eight premiered on the block. In addition to the above-mentioned St. James shows, Carousel, Allegro, Me and Juliet and South Pacific all bowed at the Majestic, and Pipe Dream was unveiled at the Shubert. "Their only musical that didn't open on the street was a little show called The Sound of Music, which opened at the Lunt-Fontanne," said Fink.
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