Getting to Know You: Social Commentary in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I
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In 1943, American musical theater was permanently transformed after Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical collaboration, Oklahoma!, premiered on Broadway. Their approach, which focused on telling stories in a truthful and straightforward way through believable characters and closely interconnected music, lyrics, and script, gave rise to the “integrated book musical” that would dominate Broadway stages for decades. In addition to pioneering a new form of musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein were also remarkable for the way that they mixed entertainment with insightful social critique. This thesis attempts to explore some of the serious social issues which Rodgers and Hammerstein address in three of their most popular musicals: Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), and The King and I (1951).