Family connections and Music Theatre bring Oscar Hammerstein III to Melbourne

South Pacific. Image by Kurt Sneddon
Kate Ceberano and the Seabees in South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Image by Kurt Sneddon

The grandson of Oscar Hammerstein (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame) is in Melbourne today headlining a major Music Theatre Symposium at the Victorian College of the Arts.

A distinguished author and music theatre expert in his own right, Oscar Hammerstein III’s grandmother was Melburnian Dorothy Blanchard who travelled to New York in the 1920s as a beauty contestant where she met (and later married) Oscar Hammerstein II.

Hammerstein will be examining the phenomenon of ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’ in the day-long symposium organised by the University of Melbourne’s new Australian Centre for Music Theatre Research and Development.

This symposium, which co-incides with the opening weekend of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical South Pacific in Sydney, will be the first of many according to Centre director Associate Professor Peter Wyllie Johnston

“The Symposium is the first of what is planned to be an annual event”, said Dr Johnston.

Dr Johnston will be presenting at the symposium alongside librettist Peter Fitzpatrick, composer Peter Pinne, author Frank Van Straten OAM, musical director Ian Nisbet and director Matthew Lockett.

“There are many questions to be addressed; including the rich history of local works versus the impact of international productions, the legacy of indigenous music theatre, and why a few Australian musicals, such as Keating!, worked so well, while many others didn’t.”

Other topics addressed at the symposium include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s partnership, the gold standard of music theatre, the circumstances that led to their unique creative approach, the social issues they raised and their contribution to the development of transnational culture in Music Theatre, of which South Pacific is a brilliant example.

It is understood that the yearly event will also aim to review the elements that drive music theatre forward in Australia and internationally.

“As the new Research Centre develops we will be examining the ecology of the music theatre industry in Australia, and consolidating an archive of music theatre history in Australia as an abundant source of material for future development”, Dr Johnson said.

The Music Theatre Symposium is supported by Arts Victoria.

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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