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Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’: Sony Masterworks Boxes “Complete Rodgers and Hammerstein”

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Back on September 10, we reported on Sony Masterworks’ Broadway in a Box, a 25-CD primer on the impressive musical theatre catalogue of Columbia, RCA Victor and associated labels.  Contemplating Masterworks’ vast library, we opined, “A deluxe Rodgers and Hammerstein box could represent each of the duo’s stage musicals (save the posthumous adaptation of State Fair) with a disc from the Columbia and RCA Victor archives.”  Well, such a deluxe box set is here, much sooner than we anticipated!

On November 6, Masterworks will unveil Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Complete Broadway Musicals.  The 12-CD box set includes one recording of each of the team’s eleven musicals, including the 1957 written-for-television Cinderella, which will make its Broadway debut in a revised version this winter.  It even includes the aforementioned State Fair!  Written as a 1945 film musical, State Fair finally made its way to Broadway in 1996, and the new box set includes the cast recording which originally appeared on the DRG label.

Though the partnership of Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) ended with Hammerstein’s death in 1960, their work still represents the pinnacle of the Broadway musical, with its influence felt even today.  Both men were pioneers even before they worked together.  Rodgers had written a string of famed musicals with lyricist Lorenz Hart, including On Your Toes, Babes in Arms and Pal Joey.  The Rodgers/Hart duo yielded perhaps the greatest run of standards in popular music history; “Where or When,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Blue Moon,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and “I Could Write a Book” are just a few.   Hammerstein specialized in operetta, and his work with Sigmund Romberg (The Desert Song, The New Moon) and Rudolf Friml (Rose-Marie) was, at first blush, a far cry from Rodgers and Hart’s insouciant, jazzy musical comedies.  With composer Jerome Kern, however, Hammerstein broke new ground with 1927’s Show Boat, one of the most forward-thinking musicals of its day.  Show Boat was a sprawling, serious fusion of music, dialogue and dance, and introduced a number of standards itself, including, of course, “Old Man River.”

The Rodgers and Hart partnership went on a temporary hiatus in 1943 when Rodgers teamed Hammerstein, already accomplished as a playwright, lyricist and director.  Their first musical together was Oklahoma!  The rest is history.  That collaboration changed the face of musical theatre, perfecting the art of integrating song, dance and dialogue into a seamless whole. Rodgers and Hart had one final hurrah reteaming to write new material for a revival of their 1927 A Connecticut Yankee, but Hart died soon after, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, the team, was solidified. But this was a largely different Rodgers, composing sweeping, majestic, dramatic melodies for “musicals,” often a different animal than the pure musical comedies and operettas that had come before.

Exactly what shows, in which recordings, will you find on Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Complete Broadway Musicals?  Just hit the jump!

Masterworks’ box set is chronologically arranged by the year each Rodgers and Hammerstein musical debuted on Broadway.  And so it begins with 1943’s Oklahoma!, heard in its 1979 Broadway Cast Recording (originally on RCA) of the revival directed by Oscar’s son, James Hammerstein.  Two other revivals appear: 1965’s Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast Recording of Carousel (1945), in which original star John Raitt reprised his role of Billy Bigelow, and 1977’s Broadway Cast Recording of The King and I (1951), with Yul Brynner again as The King.

Although RCA Victor recorded the original cast of the “concept musical” Allegro in 1947, the daring musical is instead represented by its complete, 2-CD studio cast recording from 2008 starring Patrick Wilson and Audra McDonald.  The first-ever cast recordings of 1949’s South Pacific, 1958’s Flower Drum Song, 1957’s Cinderella (a television soundtrack album, though re-recorded in the studio) and 1959’s The Sound of Music all appear from the Columbia Records catalogue.  1953’s Me and Juliet and 1955’s Pipe Dream are represented by their original RCA Victor albums.  State Fair (1996) first was released on DRG.  Mary Martin appears twice, on South Pacific and The Sound of Music, while Julie Andrews, Martin’s successor as Maria in the film version of the latter, makes a winsome Cinderella.

This deluxe set contains 12 CDs, packaged in mini-LP sleeves with the original cover art.  Differentiating from the cube format of Broadway in a Box, the discs this time are housed in a a lavish package containing a 12″ x 12″, 100-page book.  This includes essays on each show, rare production and behind-the-scenes photos, liner notes by Ted Chapin (President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization), biographies, credits, and more.

Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Complete Broadway Musicals arrives from Sony Masterworks on November 6 and can be pre-ordered below!

Various Artists, Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Complete Broadway Musicals (Masterworks Broadway, 2012)

  1. Oklahoma! (RCA, 1979) Broadway Revival Cast Recording
  2. Carousel (RCA, 1965) Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast Recording
  3. State Fair (DRG, 1996) Original Broadway Cast Recording
  4. Allegro (Masterworks, 2008) The First Complete Recording Studio Cast Recording (2 CDs)
  5. South Pacific (Columbia, 1949) Original Broadway Cast Recording
  6. The King and I (RCA, 1977) Broadway Revival Cast Recording
  7. Me & Juliet (RCA, 1953) Original Broadway Cast Recording
  8. Pipe Dream (RCA, 1955) Original Broadway Cast Recording
  9. Cinderella (Columbia, 1956) Television Cast Recording
  10. Flower Drum Song (Columbia, 1958) Original Broadway Cast Recording
  11. The Sound of Music (Columbia, 1959) Original Broadway Cast Recording

Written by Joe Marchese

October 18, 2012 at 14:33

2 Responses

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  1. Its too bad that the major labels waited so many years to start issuing comprehensive boxsets at reasonable prices. Now, the customer base is so much smaller.

    Anyway, I hope they keep it up.


    October 19, 2012 at 12:04

  2. It is absolutely wonderful to have a box set of the R&H musicals in one place. I sense that Sony put this collection together to mark the 70th anniversary of Oklahoma! in 2013, but released it in November so that people could buy it as Christmas presents for fans of musical cast recordings.

    I know I would have liked some revivals to be included in this box, but the collection aims to keep as close as possible to the original productions, stars and orchestrations wherever possible. I’ve found that I rather like the 1998 Broadway Sound of Music with Luker and Siberry. It is different from the 1959 Mary Martin and 1965 Dame Julie versions and it works so wonderfully well. It freshens up the musical while remaining true to the spirit of the original production.

    I know that Sony included revival versions for Oklahoma, Carousel and The King and I because it didn’t hold the rights to the original Broadway cast recordings. Decca produced, recorded and released the original Broadway cast recordings for these musicals. The Lincoln Centre Carousel revival featured John Raitt, the original Billy, and the 1977 King and I revival featured Yul Brynner. So these recordings are the closest that Sony could do to connect to the original productions.

    It is indeed gratifying to have a box set like this. Yet when the set uses the word complete it implies that the cast recordings are complete with all the dance music. Only the Allegro 2-disc set is a complete recording.

    As a fan of the R&H musicals I would very much like to buy this set. This set might not be good value for money compared to the Broadway in a Box collection. Both sets retail at about the same price but this R&H box contains half the number of discs. I might want to wait till the price of this R&H box goes down.

    This collection may be hefty but it’s still a wonderful item for any R&H fan to have.

    Yi-Peng Li

    December 8, 2012 at 04:47

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