William Hammerstein and singer Doreen Taylor will host An Enchanted Evening: A Night with Oscar Hammerstein II in Bristol, Pennsylvania, August 24 as a fundraiser to help save and preserve Highland Farm, the Doylestown, Pennsylvania, house where the late composer wrote some of his best known Broadway musicals, and where he mentored young neighbor Stephen Sondheim.
Taylor and baritone Keith Spender will perform at the event, backed by the Hammerstein Orchestra (comprised of Philadelphia area professional musicians) which traces the lyricist’s life and career through “private, personal stories, never before seen images and an in-depth glimpse into the life of Oscar Hammerstein.”
Proceeds from the event will go toward a fund to transform Highland Farm into the Oscar Hammerstein II Museum & Theatre Education Center. Hammerstein (1895-1960) wrote lyrics (and sometimes the books) to musicals with music by Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and others. Among his landmark hits are The King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma!, and The Sound of Music. Many of his lyrics were written at Highland Farm, and draw on the images of nature he saw there. He also died there.
Taylor told Playbill, “I grew up performing in many of the great shows that Oscar Hammerstein II helped create and I have always been very fond of his work. In March, I happened to meet Will and Mandee Hammerstein (and Oscar IV!!) at a music video premiere party I hosted for my single ‘Unstoppable’ in Philadelphia. We really hit it off and I learned about how Highland Farm's future was being threatened and I immediately offered to step up and help. It seemed like a no-brainer for me to lend my talents to the cause in the best way I could—through music and performing. I created this show from a very special place in my heart and as a labor of love. I honor Oscar and will always be grateful for forever changing the landscape of musical theatre history and being able to help save this legendary landmark is a great honor for me.”
Click here to order the $35 tickets to the event, which will take place at the nearby Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe Street Bristol, Pennsylvania.
William Hammerstein, the lyricist’s grandson, told Playbill, “We were approached by Ms. Taylor and her representative, who offered to write and produce an event at the Bristol Riverside Theater to benefit the museum project. We recently produced our own highly successful event at the Players Club [in Manhattan] and have shifted our limited manpower to other fundraising tasks than event planning. So, this stroke of good fortune comes at a great time for us. We are highly indebted to Doreen and are very excited about all of it!”
Hammerstein said state matching grants have been proposed for the project in the Pennsylvania state legislature. “Keeping our fingers crossed the bill is signed by the governor with our line item having survived intact. We are now preparing new drawings and more detailed marketing materials for the next wave of fundraising to be conducted in the early fall.”
Plans call for the current five-acre farm to be preserved, while the house would be restored for tours, and the barn converted and re-purposed as a browsing museum. The property is currently being operated as the Highland Farm Bed & Breakfast hotel and is not open to the public, other than the guests of the B&B.
Nevertheless, Hammerstein said, “People drive by on a daily basis to get a quick peek of the outside of the house. If we are successful in raising enough money this fall, the B&B use will cease soon after, followed by a period of inaccessibility, while necessary improvements as well as regulatory matters are completed.“
For major fans, Hammerstein advised, “Those who want to spend a night in Oscar’s house should bear all this in mind.”