The final phase of Richard Rodgers' career : a historical study of his original works for the musical stage 1960-1979
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Composer Richard Rodgers will probably be best remembered for his many outstanding collaborations with lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Rodgers was a restless innovator, turning out musical productions in rapid succession, many of which broke new ground. In a career that spanned six decades, Rodgers wrote over 1,000 songs and created sixty original shows for the musical theatre. With the death of Richard Rodgers, December 30, 1979, the third and final phase of his career was brought to a close. In the years following Rodgers' work with Oscar Hammerstein II, 1960 to 1979, Rodgers became involved in revivals of his past hits, television specials and film scores. Rodgers continued to compose for the musical stage, launching five new works, none of which matched the popularity of his past collaborations. In an attempt to chronicle the last twenty years of Rodgers' professional career, reviews, feature articles and personal comments are combined to explain and examine the productions in their entirety. There is not a written work, currently published, that covers the last phase of Rodgers' career. Dealing with one of the greatest contributors to the American musical theatre, something of value can be found in each of Rodgers' productions. Following Hammerstein's death in 1960, Rodgers worked on the musical No Strings. Created for singer Diahann Carroll, No Strings proved especially challenging, since Rodgers supplied both the music and lyrics. Considered to be quite innovative for its time, No Strings was Rodgers' biggest success in his final career phase. In 1965 Rodgers joined Stephen Sondheim for a musicalization of Arthur Laurents' The Time of the Cuckoo, titled Do I Hear a Waltz? Starring Elizabeth Allen and Sergio Franchi, the production marked Stephen Sondheim's demise as solely a lyricist. The relationships between the collaborators was tumultuous, but the end product offered a musical by a team consisting of an established master and a future genius of musical theatre. Martin Charnin was Rodgers' partner for Two by Two in in 1971. Based on Clifford Odets' The Flowering Peach, the show starred Danny Kaye in his return to the musical stage. Two by Two was mounted with particular concepts in mind, but the conceptions did not remain constant throughout the show's run. Reportedly, Danny Kaye took the show into his own hands, much to the dismay of Mr. Rodgers. The show closed, showing a modest profit, after Kaye's contract expired. Fiddler on the Roof's lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, joined Rodgers for Rex in 1976. Based on the life and loves of Henry VIII, Rex went through numerous changes and a show "doctor" before arriving on Broadway. The production starred Nicol Williamson, and met with a poor critical reception. Rex had one of the shortest runs of any of Rodgers' sixty musicals. Rodgers' last original project was a musical version of I Remember Mama. International star Liv Ullmann made her musical debut in a show that teamed Rodgers a second time with lyricist Martin Charnin. Sentimental and family oriented, the musical proved to be a critical and financial failure. Although Rodgers' last five musicals were not tremendous successes, their documentation is valid as the final works of a renowned composer. To examine the productions from various aspects, comments were obtained from various sources, including interviews by the author with many of the show's performers. Information is provided on all of Rodgers' professional activities in the order that they occurred. The main thrust of the study, however, concerns Rodgers' last five works for the musical stage.