After Oklahoma! American musicals dominated musical theatre in Britain for 30 years. Rodgers and Hammerstein followed Oklahoma! with Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Flower Drum Song and The Sound of Music.
Richard Gere as Danny Zuko in the musical Grease, photography by Anthony Crickmay, 1973. Museum no. TM 2836
In the days before he became a Hollywood star, Richard Gere spent some time working in London, in both theatre work and temporary jobs. He got his big break as greaser Danny Zuko in the 1973 London production of Grease. Grease with music, lyrics and book by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey, opened off-Broadway in February 1972 to such a response that by the summer it was playing on Broadway. It satirised the dress, manners, morals and music of teenagers at the beginning of the rock and roll era. The plot revolves around the attraction between greaser Danny Zuko and the virtuous Sandy Dumbrowski and the 'makeover' that leads to their happy ending. The show's hits included 'Summer Nights', 'Greased Lightning', and 'You're the One that I Want'. Despite its huge Broadway and London success, the stage version of Grease can't compete with the enduring popularity of the 1978 film version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.
Bill Johnson as Fred Petruchio and Patricia Morison as Lilli Kate in the musical Kiss Me, Kate, black and white photograph, London Coliseum, 1951
The plot of Kiss Me, Kate, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, revolves around a theatre company putting on a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The offstage relationship troubles of the four leading players start to interfere with the action of the show they are 'performing'. Here, Frederick Graham in his role as Petruchio has lost his temper with his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi, who is playing his wife-to-be, Kate the shrew. He decides, to Lilli's absolute fury, to go off script to dish out some punishment, causing complete confusion to the audience and the rest of the cast. The two fantastic comic/ romantic leads, Fred Petruchio and Lilli Kate have some of Porter's best songs including, 'I Hate Men', 'So in Love', 'Were Thine that Special Face', and 'Where is the Life that Late I Led'.
The chorus from the musical Kiss Me, Kate, black and white photograph, London Coliseum, 1951
Kiss Me, Kate was first produced at the New Century Theatre, New York in December 1948, and was the only one of Porter's musicals to exceed a thousand performances on Broadway. The book was written by Sam and Bella Spewack, a husband and wife team who collaborated on many successful Broadway shows. One of the reasons for Kiss Me, Kate's popularity was the depiction of the 'backstage lives' of the company. The chorus get several great numbers while they are 'rehearsing' or in the 'intervals' including 'Another Op'ning, Another Show' and 'Too Darn Hot'.
Lauren Kennedy as Nellie Forbush in the musical South Pacific, Royal National Theatre, London, 2001, black and white photograph. Museum no. TM 10555-3/35
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's South Pacific brought new realism to the musical. Opening in New York in 1949, it was set in the South Pacific in World War II, only four years after the war had ended. It told of love, racial prejudice, cultural clashes and the frustrations of the war - in a musical at once enchanting and thought-provoking. Adapted from two short stories by James Michener, it chronicles two love affairs - Lt Joe Cable with a Polynesian girl and Nurse Nellie Forbush with Emile de Becque, a French planter. The show was full of such memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers as 'Some Enchanted Evening', 'There is Nothing Like a Dame', 'I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy' and the lovely 'Younger Than Springtime' which they had actually written for a completely different show but had been cut. This photograph is of Lauren Kennedy as Nellie Forbush in the National Theatre production in 2001, singing 'I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair'. When the show was first produced at Drury Lane in 1952, Nellie was played by Mary Martin and among the nurses was a young actress called June Whitfield.