Despite growing up loving, and later studying, opera and musical theatre, Doreen Taylor eventually found herself working in mainstream music. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when the Billboard-charting recording artist began helping the Hammerstein family raise funds for the Oscar Hammerstein Museum & Theater Education Center, that she was suddenly presented with an opportunity to return to her roots.
Taylor put together a benefit concert featuring Hammerstein’s most-well-known songs that first had a successful run at the Bristol Riverside Theatre in Pennsylvania and then played a limited run Off-Broadway. The reaction in New York was so positive, says Taylor, that she immediately looked to the future.
Now Sincerely, Oscar, featuring a new book by Taylor and over 30 of Hammerstein’s songs, arrives at Off-Broadway’s Theatre Row in an all-new production directed by Dugg McDonough.
“We had a year-and-a-half to change the show and I wanted to make it something that was closer to my original vision: a big-budget musical,” says Taylor, “with special effects, scenery, and costumes.”
In Sincerely, Oscar, Taylor is joined onstage by Azudi Onyejekwe, but the real star, she insists, is Hammerstein himself. Since the show’s early days, Taylor has dreamed of putting the lyricist-librettist front and center. So, short of bringing him back to life, she’s done the next best thing: Sincerely, Oscar stars a state-of-the-art, 3D holographic version of Hammerstein—a hologram that talks, walks, and looks exactly like the late theatre legend. “The hologram was always my brainchild, from day one,” says Taylor. “I never let go of that idea, through all the iterations of the show.”
And it’s not just there for entertainment. It’s about allowing Hammerstein to tell his story in his own words, says Taylor. All of his dialogue—and he has the most lines in the show—is rooted in Hammerstein’s real-life correspondence and writing, which Taylor was able to gain access to at Highland Farm, the site of Hammerstein’s prodigious output and now home to the museum.
“[Sincerely, Oscar] is a tribute to Oscar Hammerstein,” says Taylor. “And the music is beautiful but for once, it’s really about his words.”