Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”: The Groundbreaking “Bench Scene”

Stephen Sondheim once called the “bench scene” from the first act of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1945 musical, Carousel, “the singular most important moment in the evolution of contemporary musicals.” Indeed, this extraordinary 12-minute-long love scene, anticipated in earlier Hammerstein works such as Show Boat (1927) and Oklahoma! (1943), set the stage for the late twentieth century Broadway of Sondheim. According to the scholar Thomas Hischak, the scene “is considered the most completely integrated piece of music-drama in the American …

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