"Richard Rodgers was born 99 years ago today," said Ted Chapin, president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization, this morning. The occasion was a special ceremony held at (where else?) the Richard Rodgers Theatre for the purpose of announcing a multitude of events scheduled to mark the great American musical theater composer's centennial. Rodgers' 100th birthday will be celebrated on June 28, 2002, but the shows, concerts, dance events, film screenings, museum exhibitions, and so on that are planned to honor him and his work will begin long before that date and will extend well into 2003.
The mouth-watering Rodgers happenings scheduled thus far include an all-star concert version of Carousel at Carnegie Hall on June 6; the publication of Somewhere for Me, a new biography of Rodgers by Meryle Secrest; a PBS American Masters program on Rodgers, to be telecast on November 4; the inclusion of the musical No Strings (for which Rodgers wrote both the music and lyrics) in the 2002 Encores! series at City Center, with Vanessa Williams and James Naughton set to star; and, of course, the long-delayed Broadway transfer of the critically acclaimed London production of Oklahoma! directed by Trevor Nunn, choreographed by Susan Stroman, and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.
But wait, there's more. A concert version of the little-known musical Peggy-Ann, by Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, will be presented in Weill Recital Hall for one performance only on May 16. Another Rodgers & Hart chestnut, Dearest Enemy, will be given its first fully-staged New York revival by the Village Light Opera Guild next August; and the York Theatre's January 2002 Musicals in Mufti season will be devoted entirely to shows by Rodgers.
In Los Angeles, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a special tribute to Rodgers at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on June 20, 2002, hosted by Julie Andrews. In London, Adam Cooper (Swan Lake) will star in and direct a revival of Rodgers & Hart's On Your Toes; Trevor Nunn will revive South Pacific; and the Lost Musicals series will present Allegro at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, as that unforgettable monarch from The King and I might say.
The well-attended program at the Richard Rodgers Theatre this morning included performances by Mary Cleere Haran (whose exemplary Rodgers & Hart CD, This Funny World, has just been reissued by Fynsworth Alley) and Bernadette Peters (whose new album of Rodgers & Hammerstein songs will be released by Angel Records in the spring). One of the highlights of the event was the unveiling of a gorgeous oil on canvas portrait of the composer by his granddaughter, artist Kim Beaty (daughter of Mary Rodgers). Beaty told the audience that the portrait was based on two photographs of her grandfather--one taken when he had just begun to write the music for "Bali H'ai" (from South Pacific) after being handed the song's lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II, the other taken while Rodgers was listening to a playback of his score for the WW-II television documentary Victory at Sea.
For a complete list of the countless ways in which Richard Rodgers and his music will be celebrated over the next two years or so, visit the brand-new website rr2002.com.