Face it, we all have seen “Hamilton”, even the normies have. When walking down Theater District, we can’t but notice the huge crowds in front of the Richard Rodgers Theater every evening. But, have you ever wondered who is the man behind the name of the venue? The man Richard Rodgers is a Broadway pioneer, responsible for 43 Broadway musicals and over 900 songs. Read along to learn more.
Early life and beginnings
А native to Queens, New York City, he is the son of Mamie Levy and Dr. William Abrahams Rodgers. Young Richard started playing the piano at the age of six, which settled the love of music in him at a very early age. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, Camp Wigwam (he composed his earliest songs there), and later Columbia University where he met his later collaborators Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Richard Rogers spent most of his career working together with Broadway’s household names collaborators Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Collaborations with Lorenz Hart
The two met in 1919. The pair was off to a rocky start. Their debut song “Any Old Place With You” made it to Broadway in the 1919 comedy A Lonely Romeo. Rodgers and Hart’s first shows Poor Little Ritz Girl and The Melody Man premiered in 1920 and 1924 respectively.
Their first success finally came in 1925, just when Rogers was about to quit. Their songs for The Garrick Gaieties were featured by the Theatre Guild, with “Manhattan” being the most famous of them all. Rogers and Hart quickly became popular both on Broadway and West End, writing the music for Dearest Enemy (1925), The Girl Friend (1926), Peggy-Ann (1926), A Connecticut Yankee (1927), and Present Arms (1928). Their 1920s shows produced standards such as “Here in My Arms”, “Mountain Greenery”, “Blue Room”, “My Heart Stood Still” and “You Took Advantage of Me”.
The two later moved to Hollywood due to the economic crisis during the Depression. Despite Rodgers regretting his run there, they still managed to achieve success with Love Me Tonight, The Phantom President, and Mississippi.
Rodgers and Hart made a grand return on Broadway with Jumbo, On Your Toes, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, I Married an Angel. Their amazing run of success ended abruptly with Lorenz Hart’s untimely death in 1943.
Collaborations with Oscar Hammerstein II
Despite initial setbacks due to health issues, the couple, who had worked before, was off to a legendary start. Their first hit was “Oklahoma!”. And that was just the start. They followed up with Carousel, South Pacific, Allegro, Pipe Dream, and the TV musical Cinderella.
Oscar Hammerstein II passed away in 1960. On his own, Richard Rodgers wrote No Strings, The Sound of Music, Do I Hear a Waltz? and several more. He passed away on December 30, 1979.
Awards and acclaims
Well-loved by critics and audience and is remembered as one of the most influential writers to this day. The Street Theater was renamed after him in 1999. Along with Oscar Hammerstein II, he has won 37 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards. This number of rewards sets Richard Rodgers as one of the brightest stars on the Broadway sky.