“The hills are alive, with…”
If your mind automatically finishes that line in song then you are one of the vast swathe of people around the world that have experienced that particular musical and have been moved by it.
The Sound of Music is iconic as a piece of art that doesn’t age. It personifies the emotional draw of musical theatre as an art form. When you say musical, the immediate connotation is a production where the script and the music works together to advance the storyline. Spoken word and song lyrics that are completely interchangeable, characters that spontaneously break out into song, choreographed dance routines in seemingly inappropriate places – these all seem like obvious aspects of any musical. However, it wasn’t always that way.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were the two theatre creators who introduced what we now think of as the standard musical format. Writing as a duo, they remain one of the most iconic duos in musical theatre history even though very few people know anything about them. Yet, they created some of the most successful musicals of all time. Classics such as The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific and The King and I.
These musicals revolutionized the industry and laid the foundations for the musical theatre industry to find its own way as a unique art form. Their music remains some of the most well-known of all time and one could argue (successfully) that they were two of the most influential people in musical theatre history.
And it’s time that someone finally told their story.
Enter ‘My Favourite Things’.
The show is a fascinating journey where we follow the story of Rodgers and Hammerstein and how they developed the shows that they did – with a key focus on how they created The Sound of Music itself. The proudly South African show is a new musical in itself – using the famous music that they wrote in new ways, adding colour and depth to the story of their creative process. It’s those classic songs used in a way you’ve never seen before.
When it comes to the duo, what makes the examination of their relationship so unique is that when it came to their productions - they presented a united front on every aspect. Their skills, expertise and personalities complemented each other perfectly and when their talents were blended together – they produced some outstanding pieces. However, in their personal lives, they weren’t really the best of friends.
Hammerstein was a forever-optimist whose enthusiasm and splendor for life dictated the way that he saw the world. This quote personifies the kind of person that he was:
“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”
Rodgers, on the other hand, was much more pessimistic and generally an angry man. He brought a stiff dose of sternness to any room and you could almost see the anger simmering on his weathered face. Together they made quite the combination and that’s what makes this show so interesting.
Looking into the creative process and seeing what it takes to put together great works of art is something that we are never shown. We often will go to see a finished piece of work and marvel at its brilliance – at the same time having no idea what it took to get there.
This show offers a peak behind the curtain into one of the most influential writing combinations in musical theatre history – to show that to create great art requires a lot of humanity. The good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s an intimate show that stands on its own two feet – regardless of whether you know Rodgers and Hammerstein or any of their musicals. It’s unlike anything that you would have seen and with any luck, will completely change the way that you look at musical theatre.
It’s showing at the Fringe at the Joburg Theatre for three nights from 14-16 September. Get your tickets now at www.joburgtheatre.com