As the title and subtitle suggest, Purdum approaches this oeuvre as a fan, and while he is not afraid to be critical of some of his subjects’ work, his purpose is not to interrogate or recontextualize Rodgers and Hammerstein’s extraordinary accomplishments. Rather, taking advantage of the mountain of documentation already available and some delightful firsthand interviews, he meticulously recreates the environment and the atmosphere in which these seminal works were created. Purdum’s evocations of a war-torn America discovering and embracing Oklahoma! succeed in making that show seem as vital and all-encompassing a phenomenon as Hamilton 70 years later ... Purdum, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, is a political writer by trade, and understandably has a much easier time parsing Hammerstein’s lyrics than he does making sense of Rodgers’s music, but to his credit, he gamely offers some astute musical analysis ... Certain preconceptions cling to the Rodgers and Hammerstein mythos, and Purdum doesn’t manage to shake our familiar impression of the two as an emotional odd couple ... But...his understanding of structure and character are on ample display ... In giving us access to the world that gave birth to them, Purdum’s authoritative and ultimately moving book brings these masterpieces to light with bracing clarity.
The deepest fascination of Purdum's highly detailed account is the confident way it fleshes out the real people behind these stellar triumphs. Both Rodgers and Hammerstein could be prickly, brooding perfectionists; both dealt with depression, and Rodgers (the lesser liked of the two, generally) struggled with alcoholism his entire life ... 'It is difficult to describe the inner melodic and mathematical workings of music in mere words,' Purdum writes at one point, and yet he does a fine job, drawing readers into the spirited, gossipy world of Broadway theatrical productions – a world Rodgers and Hammerstein so drastically re-shaped that, as Purdum convincingly describes, it's borne their imprint ever since ... Todd Purdum has given readers the most elaborate and entertaining exploration of that magic they're ever likely to read.
Rodgers and Hammerstein have inspired a spate of books and articles over the years, and anyone acquainted with this literature will traverse much familiar ground in Something Wonderful. But Mr. Purdum has dug up some fresh material as well, and the result is a neatly proportioned study of a reasonable length and a commendable clarity. Mr. Purdum mostly avoids that perennial pitfall of Broadway books, the exhaustive cataloguing of minor revisions and cast-changes as a play wends from out-of-town tryout to Broadway opening ... Where Mr. Purdum is perhaps most helpful is in reminding us of the bold breadth of the business—in the broadest sense—of the Rodgers and Hammerstein partnership.
Given how large Rodgers and Hammerstein have loomed over the theatrical landscape, and how many books have been published about them, is there anything really new to say? Well, no, but Todd S. Purdum offers a great introduction for newbies and enough fresh insights to engage readers familiar with the story ... The most distinctive aspect of Purdum’s portrait is his attention to the oddly distant relations between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, despite the united front they presented to the world. Each confessed late in life he had never really known what the other thought of him ... Purdum demonstrates that R&H were committed artists operating comfortably within commercial parameters ... This appreciative survey of their joint achievements might not break new ground, but it is a welcome return to theatrical territory that always rewards further exploration.
Although the biographies of Rodgers and Hammerstein are naturally threaded throughout, this is much more the story of the music rather than the men. Written chronologically, the book details the evolution of the Broadway musical, from lighter-than-air plots and songs that could be plugged in at will, to more cohesive and deeper offerings ... The often-distant relationship between Rodgers and Hammerstein means that they don’t quite come alive for readers, but the music and the stories of how it came to be certainly does. Something wonderful, indeed.
With a jacket illustrated with a classic Al Hirschfeld cartoon of the dual biography’s subject, Something Wonderful is a thoroughly researched and chatty ... Todd S. Purdum makes elegant use of candid correspondence between the two and others, as well as previously published material, to make us feel like we’re waiting in the wings while masterpieces are created and staged. Although Purdum concentrates on the theater world, he does take side trips to cover the movies, highlighted by the rocky path of Oklahoma to the screen.
Though many pages are devoted to somewhat formulaic chronologies of the duo’s hallmark productions and also their less-successful ventures, such as Allegro, Purdum sufficiently explores their conflicting personalities, savvy business practices...and sheer innovation ... Purdum’s anecdote-filled account is a sterling primer on the influential duo, both for newcomers to their work and to those looking to rekindle an old flame.
The author traces the chronology of each show—even the lesser-known productions and the flops—from lighting upon an idea through developing a storyline, writing music, finding a director, hiring a cast (many young singers rose to stardom in the duo’s musicals), and assembling a team ... An exuberant celebration of musical genius.