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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Rodgers and Hammerstein Create a Musical

Richard Rodgers was born in New York City on June 28, 1902. He started writing songs in high school and composed many musicals early on with his original lyricist Lorenz Hart. Oscar Hammerstein II was born in New York City on July 1, 1895, into a family very involved with theater. He quit law school to pursue his love of musicals. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first major collaboration was in 1943.

After receiving the Green Grow the Lilacs scriptRodgers and Hammerstein went to work adapting the play into a musical. Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the script (also known as the book) as well as the lyrics while Richard Rodgers composed the musical scores. Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to the songs before the music was even finished! They originally titled the musical Away We Go! and opened the show in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1943. Later the title of the musical was changed to Oklahoma! and two more songs, including the title song, “Oklahoma!,” were added. On March 31, 1943, Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre with Rouben Mamoulian as the director and Agnes de Mille as the choreographer. The musical received excellent reviews and the first run closed May 29, 1948, after 2,212 performances.


Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (2012.201.B1102.0114, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS). 3