Oscar Hammerstein II and the Invention of the Musical


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Laurie Winer

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A new look at artist Oscar Hammerstein II as a pivotal and underestimated force in the creation of modern American culture
You know his work—Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I. But you don’t really know Oscar Hammerstein II, the man who, more than anyone else, invented the American musical. Among the most commercially successful artists of his time, he was a fighter for social justice who constantly prodded his audiences to be better than they were.
Diving deep into Hammerstein’s life, examining his papers and his lyrics, critic Laurie Winer shows how he orchestrated a collective reimagining of America, urging it forward with a subtly progressive vision of the relationship between country and city, rich and poor, America and the rest of the world. His rejection of bitterness, his openness to strangers, and his optimistic humor shaped not only the musical but the American dream itself. His vision can continue to be a touchstone to this day.

A founding editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Laurie Winer has been a theater critic for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

“Winer’s exploration of Hammerstein’s journey is timely, respectful, and deserving of inclusion in strong performing arts collections.”—Lisa Henry, Library Journal

“Laurie Winer’s wonderfully entertaining and deeply researched book paints a fascinating portrait of Oscar Hammerstein and successfully examines the usually ineffable art of collaboration in the theater. A must-read for anyone interested in the American musical.”—James Lapine, librettist of Into the Woods

“This engaging work is the sharpest, most insightful, most readable, and most optimistic of all the books about Oscar Hammerstein. It provides education and pleasure in equal measure.”—Michael Feinstein, founder, Great American Songbook Foundation

“What an impressive achievement! Laurie Winer’s book offers new insights into Oscar Hammerstein II’s groundbreaking achievements.”—Robert Kimball, musical theater historian

“A magnificent, seminal and definitive book written as biographies ought to be. Winer brings to life a time and place in the history of theater. I now know who Oscar Hammerstein really was.”—André Bishop, artistic director, Lincoln Center Theater

“Laurie Winer’s fascinating and beautifully written biography makes an inspiring case for Oscar Hammerstein as the American musical’s greatest innovator and one of the American theatre’s greatest dramatists.”—Nicholas Hytner, director
ISBN: 9780300223798
Publication Date: January 31, 2023
368 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
30 b/w illus.