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Something Wonderful

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution

Todd S. Purdum


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ISBN10: 1250214866
ISBN13: 9781250214867

Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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They stand at the apex of the great age of songwriting, the creators of the classic Broadway musicals Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, whose songs have never lost their popularity or emotional power. Even before they joined forces, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had written dozens of Broadway shows, but together they pioneered a new art form: the serious musical play. Their songs and dance numbers served to advance the drama and reveal character, a sharp break from the past and the template on which all future musicals would be built.

Though different in personality and often emotionally distant from each other, Rodgers and Hammerstein presented an unbroken front to the world and forged much more than a songwriting team; their partnership was also one of the most profitable and powerful entertainment businesses of their era. They were cultural powerhouses whose work came to define postwar America on stage, screen, television, and radio. But they also had their failures and flops, and more than once they feared they had lost their touch.

Todd S. Purdum’s portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations will captivate lovers of musical theater, lovers of the classic American songbook, and young lovers wherever they are. He shows that what Rodgers and Hammerstein wrought was truly something wonderful.


Praise for Something Wonderful

“Affectionate and richly researched . . . Something Wonderful offers a fresh look at the milieu and circumstances that contributed to the creation of some of the musical theater’s greatest and most enduring treasures . . . In giving us access to the world that gave birth to them, Purdum’s authoritative and ultimately moving book brings these masterpieces to life with bracing clarity.”The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)

"A veteran political reporter, Purdum goes moonlighting to delightful effect in Something Wonderful. His journalistic skills are evident in this affectionate tribute to the team that rewrote the rules for American musical theater. Something Wonderful is thoroughly researched and briskly written, seamlessly blending a chronological narrative of the productions with cogent analyses of their effect on American culture."—The Washington Post

"Todd Purdum’s skillful dual biography . . . strips away the accretions of time and reputation to retrieve the craft and dynamism with which his subjects created a new kind of musical."—The Economist

“Fresh . . . A neatly proportioned study . . . perhaps most helpful [in] reminding us of the bold breadth of the business—in the broadest sense—of the Rodgers and Hammerstein partnership” [whose] “melodies . . . ventured sprawlingly across the planet, all day and deep into the night.” The Wall Street Journal

"[A] delightful new book . . . Broadway magic if anything is, and Todd Purdum has given readers the most elaborate and entertaining exploration of that magic they're ever likely to read."The Christian Science Monitor

Reviews from Goodreads


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About the author

Todd S. Purdum

Todd S. Purdum is the author of An Idea Whose Time Has Come and A Time of Our Choosing. He is a staff writer for The Atlantic, having previously worked for more than twenty years at The New York Times, where he covered beats from City Hall to the White House and served as Los Angeles bureau chief. He has also been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a senior writer at Politico. A native of Macomb, Illinois, and a graduate of Princeton University, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Dee Dee Myers, and their two children.

Gasper Tringale

Todd S. Purdum

Todd S. Purdum at Vanity Fair