Morality and Rodgers and Hammerstein Musicals

We need another Rodgers and Hammerstein to teach us values, ethics, and morals in our current world, dealing with today’s problems. Click here to read the full post or an excerpt below.  Click here to learn more about their shows and more links to listen to their memorable songs.


It was really important to Hammerstein that people have a faith in the play they are seeing and are able to relate to the plot and the characters. As Green explains, “It is not necessarily a religious faith, but a faith that people should have in themselves and in each other…No man is an island, people need people, without understanding there is no meaning to life” (119). … While writing South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein were repeatedly advised to remove numbers such as “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” whose powerful lyrics suggests that, “people’s hatred toward other people is not born but must be learned” (Green 134). They were so united in their belief that the message of this song was imperative to share with audiences, that they refused to remove it, even when politicians in Georgia tried to pass legislation outlawing entertainment addressing these issues (Most 307). … All together, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote nine Broadway shows, including The King and I and The Sound of Music, one movie musical and one television musical, and what ties them together is that “These shows are built around social issues with love stories at their core…[and] the obstacles the lovers must overcome in each lie mainly within themselves” (Stempel 335).


These stories are not historically accurate, and they surely include elements we might find problematic if seen again now (I have not gone back and viewed the full films, though I’d like to!).  But I was touched, seeing the clips and learning about the man who’d produced them, by the degree to which the values expressed captured ethical issues I feel strongly about—and in a seamless, entertaining way that may in fact be far more powerful than the conventional modes of preaching from a pulpit or railing from a political platform.  I didn’t realize I was watching morality plays, but they probably have played a subconscious role in establishing and maintaining the value system that has guided my life!



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