September 8, 2009
Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Hollywood Bowl
The hills were alive with selections from the duo's rich songbook of musical classics by Jon Burlingame
HOLLYWOOD—Nearly 11,000 watched, listened and reminisced at the Hollywood Bowl as song after song by the greatest show music collaborators of all time, composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, were performed live to scenes from their films Sunday night, Sept. 6, by conductor David Newman and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Newman's participation was especially apt, as host Robert Osborne pointed out, because his father Alfred Newman was musical director on six of the eight R&H movie musicals – State Fair (both 1945 and 1962 versions), Carousel (1956), The King and I (1956), South Pacific (1958) and Flower Drum Song (1961).
The Main Title from the film version of Oklahoma! (1955) served as an aural backdrop for a stunning montage of scenes from all eight films assembled by video producer Laura Gibson (along with editors Scott Draper and Willie Castro), including a dance montage edited to "People Will Say We're in Love." Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones' on-screen rendition of "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" and the full cast in the rousing title tune rounded out the six-minute salute to Oklahoma!
Osborne – Hollywood Reporter columnist, Turner Classic Movies host and Oscar historian – regaled the crowd with anecdotes about the making of Carousel, including the fact that Frank Sinatra was originally cast as Billy but dropped out of the role just as production began. Eight minutes from the film, reprising Oklahoma! stars MacRae and Jones, included "The Carousel Waltz" underscore and the touching "If I Loved You."
State Fair was Rodgers & Hammerstein's only musical written directly for the screen. Newman and the Bowl Orchestra played "It's a Grand Night for Singing" to a clever montage of scenes from both the 1945 film (with Dick Haymes and Vivian Blaine) and the 1962 remake (with Bobby Darin, Pat Boone and Ann-Margret).
The Bowl audience was treated to 15 minutes of The King and I as the orchestra played "March of the Siamese Children" underscoring a montage from the film, "Getting to Know You" sung by Deborah Kerr (whose singing voice was dubbed throughout the picture by Marni Nixon), and the rip-roaringingly romantic "Shall We Dance?" featuring Kerr and Yul Brynner.
After intermission, Newman and the orchestra played the overture and entr'acte music from South Pacific followed by the amusing sailors' lament featuring Ray Walston, "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame." The main-title music from Flower Drum Song and its jazzy Nancy Kwan song-and-dance number "Grant Avenue" followed.
The Sound of Music (1965) – the last of the Rodgers & Hammerstein's Broadway shows, the last to the filmed and, as Osborne noted, possibly their best-known collection of songs – proved a crowd-pleasing finale. The orchestra played to 16 minutes of the film, including the entire, classic opening shot leading to Julie Andrews' iconic performance of the title song, followed by the film's overture that underscored memorable clips from the film.
Newman also chose to play excerpts from the climactic chase to the convent and the Von Trapp family's escape across the mountains to freedom, which had been scored by Irwin Kostal based on Rodgers' melodies (notably the inspirational "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"). And for an encore, the audience got to sing along with governess Maria and the Von Trapp children in the universally enduring "Do Re Mi."
©2009 Jon Burlingame