1949 — “South Pacific” opens on Broadway

“South Pacific” was a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, based on James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”, an anthology of short stories. The musical has a single coherent narrative drawing on some of those short stories while also including what was, for its time, a progressive social message about race.

The musical was a hit, running for 1925 performances on Broadway (at that time, the second most of any Broadway production) and winning a Pullitzer prize for drama in 1950. It has been filmed several times, and remains a perennial favourite for revivals.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1951 — “The King and I” premieres on Broadway

Based on a 1944 novel, “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon, “The King and I” was the fourth collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II (usually just called Rodgers and Hammerstein). The novel is largely a series of vignettes, so the musical adapted the plot of the 1946 film of the novel instead.

On the opening night, Yul Brynner, as the King of Siam, gave a standout performance – one he would later reprise in the 1956 adaptation of the musical. Despite Rodgers and Hammerstein’s worries about the show, nearly everyone else expected a hit – which duly happened, thanks to the strength of the performances and the music and script of the creators.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel