Murray State University

Poster Title

A Comparison of the Female Characters of Rodgers and Hammerstein to Those of Stephen Sondheim

Presenter Information

Mary Mather, Murray State University

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

This project compares the female characters in the musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to those of Stephen Sondheim. The musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein and those of Sondheim have been chosen because they were innovative and trendsetting for their time. Rodgers and Hammerstein, who began composing together during the late 1940's, produced the first musicals in which theatre, music, and dance were integral to the plot of the musical. Their musicals were some of the first to address serious issues such as racism, war, prejudice, and abuse. Sondheim began composing during the 1970's. While Rodgers and Hammerstein were innovative in their synthesis of theatre, music, and dance, Sondheim is innovative in his marriage of test, music, set, orchestration, etc., so that each of the elements supports his underlying purpose. Sondheim's musicals, like Rodgers' and Hammerstein's address serious issues; however, while Rodgers and Hammerstein often resolved these issues in an "idealistic" manner, Sondheim writes from a more "disillusioned" perspective. The focus of this study is on the choices made by the female characters and how they reflect the time period in which the musicals were written. The project includes a brief biographical background of Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Sondheim, an analysis of the female characters, and a survey of MSU students' perceptions of women's issues and how they are relevant to the musicals. In an effort to further understand these issues, original lyrics and dialogue will be displayed, as well as a scene and song from Rodgers' and Hammerstein's "Carousel" which has been re-written by Ms. Mather in the style of Stephen Sondheim.

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A Comparison of the Female Characters of Rodgers and Hammerstein to Those of Stephen Sondheim

This project compares the female characters in the musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to those of Stephen Sondheim. The musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein and those of Sondheim have been chosen because they were innovative and trendsetting for their time. Rodgers and Hammerstein, who began composing together during the late 1940's, produced the first musicals in which theatre, music, and dance were integral to the plot of the musical. Their musicals were some of the first to address serious issues such as racism, war, prejudice, and abuse. Sondheim began composing during the 1970's. While Rodgers and Hammerstein were innovative in their synthesis of theatre, music, and dance, Sondheim is innovative in his marriage of test, music, set, orchestration, etc., so that each of the elements supports his underlying purpose. Sondheim's musicals, like Rodgers' and Hammerstein's address serious issues; however, while Rodgers and Hammerstein often resolved these issues in an "idealistic" manner, Sondheim writes from a more "disillusioned" perspective. The focus of this study is on the choices made by the female characters and how they reflect the time period in which the musicals were written. The project includes a brief biographical background of Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Sondheim, an analysis of the female characters, and a survey of MSU students' perceptions of women's issues and how they are relevant to the musicals. In an effort to further understand these issues, original lyrics and dialogue will be displayed, as well as a scene and song from Rodgers' and Hammerstein's "Carousel" which has been re-written by Ms. Mather in the style of Stephen Sondheim.