In 1981, two years after the demise of Richard Rodgers and 21 years after the demise of Oscar Hammerstein II, Ted Chapin obtained a name from Rodgers’s daughter Mary, asking if he’d wish to run the Rodgers & Hammerstein workplace.
That’s all “R&H,” because it has all the time been referred to as, amounted to then: the place the place the work of managing the pair’s many musical theater properties was carried out. However within the 40 years since, it might grow to be rather more, because the workplace changed into an “group” and the enterprise of exploiting copyrights by making new sneakers from outdated leather-based modified drastically.
Chapin, 70, lately stepped down from the job he began when he was simply 30 and so untried that his first two years had been probational. He had been employed partly as a result of the Rodgerses had been associates of his dad and mom: Elizabeth Steinway, of the piano household, and the humanities administrator Schuyler Chapin. It didn’t harm that whereas in school, he was a manufacturing assistant on “Follies” — an expertise he would later mine in writing the traditional backstage memoir “The whole lot Was Attainable.” In line with Mary Rodgers, he additionally had not less than one different asset: nice hair.
He nonetheless has it — and, miraculously, the R&H catalog, unequaled within the American theater, is likewise undiminished. However as new methods of earning profits from “The Sound of Music” and the remainder introduced themselves, the job of advising the heirs and sustaining their revenue turned a lot larger. It was now not merely a matter of giving (or withholding) approval for main new productions but additionally a strategic puzzle: How do you uphold a creative legacy whereas exploiting know-how, adjusting to a altering theatrical atmosphere and serving progressively bigger companies?
On Might 21, Chapin stepped down as president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Group. We spoke by Zoom a couple of days later as he sized up his tenure and regarded the long run. Listed here are edited excerpts from our dialog.
What was the R&H workplace doing while you obtained there?
It was all about main productions. Yul Brynner was out minting cash on the highway in a cheesy manufacturing of “The King and I,” however the remainder of the rights — music publishing, movie, tv — we didn’t but deal with. Later I’d carry them beneath the R&H umbrella.
Was that only a cash transfer?
Not simply. The extra we had been truly in management the extra we might coordinate issues. If there was a serious manufacturing of “The Sound of Music” coming, for instance, it was higher to not license one of many songs for a soup business. You might wait till later for that. The trick was to juggle every little thing, holding all of it going so that they wouldn’t crash into one another. Fortunately, there would all the time be one venture on the best way up whereas one other was on the best way down.
Why didn’t the estates of all of the Golden Age writers accomplish that?
Proudly owning the underlying rights was key. When “Oklahoma!” turned an unbelievable success in 1943, and “Carousel” in 1945, Rodgers and Hammerstein determined to provide their very own Broadway reveals going ahead, then the excursions, then even the London productions. From the time they purchased again the rights to “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel” in 1953 — “Oklahoma!” alone value them $851,000 — that they had full management. No different musical theater catalogs had been organized that means, so no different heirs might exploit their inherited work as efficiently.
And few had so many moneymakers to work with.
Take into consideration what it implies that, give or take, they opened a brand new present on Broadway each different yr from 1943 to 1959. They appreciated to create musicals, they usually had been constantly fairly good at it. After they tried their palms at a tv musical in 1957, they had been fairly good at that, too. “Cinderella” is the one tv musical of that period that’s nonetheless a viable property at present. You don’t hear a lot about Cole Porter’s “Aladdin.”
And now “Cinderella” is a stage musical, too, becoming a member of the catalog together with another latter-day concoctions.
Sure. The unique tranche included the 9 stage musicals plus an earlier adaptation of “Cinderella.” We added the stage model of the film “State Truthful,” the revue “A Grand Night time for Singing,” and the trendy “Cinderella.” We additionally management the Rodgers and Hart reveals, like “Pal Joey” and “The Boys From Syracuse,” and Rodgers’s post-Hammerstein work.
However while you began, most of what you represented was getting dusty, and the business theater atmosphere was collapsing.
Broadway was undoubtedly in an id disaster within the early Nineteen Eighties. Yul Brynner doing his hundredth tour of “The King and I” may generate income however it appeared that replicas of Golden Age musical comedies with Golden Age stars weren’t the best way forward. Early on, I went to see an Off Broadway manufacturing of “Carousel,” and I assumed: That is the present which may assist folks rediscover what these works actually are, as a result of it’s dramatic in a means that musical comedies weren’t.
Within the years since Rodgers’s demise, the workplace permitted 17 “first-class” productions of the pair’s musicals: 12 on Broadway, 5 in London’s West Finish. Please select a house run, a heartbreaker and a stinker.
“South Pacific” at Lincoln Heart in 2008 is the house run, for the easy cause that it was produced like a discovery: honoring what’s there however making it new. Among the many disappointments was “State Truthful,” which was created for the inventory and novice market and was by no means supposed to come back to Broadway.
Nevertheless it did, alas, in 1996. After which, in 2002, one other catastrophe.
The revisal of “Flower Drum Track” was a heartbreaker.
“Flower Drum Track” is a musical with a positive Twentieth-century rating however an enormous Twenty first-century drawback: It’s about Chinese language People as imagined by white People. For the 2002 manufacturing, the playwright David Henry Hwang massively reimagined it.
Sure. Everybody went into it with such an amazing collaborative spirit however in the end it turned clear that the rating now not match what had grow to be a very totally different present.
You’ve uncared for to say a stinker.
“The Boys From Syracuse” at Roundabout Theater Firm in 2002. And one other we pulled the plug on: Rudolf Nureyev in a misguided pre-Broadway tour of “The King and I” in 1989. What’s the one factor the King’s not supposed to have the ability to do? Dance. And what was the one factor Nureyev might truly do? Dance. After I went to a rehearsal and noticed him in his inexperienced jumpsuit and inexperienced crocs, I assumed, “That’s Our Hitler!”
Even apart from “Flower Drum Track,” will the Rodgers and Hammerstein reveals survive a extra crucial have a look at the racism, sexism and appropriation some folks discover in traditional musicals?
Neither man had a racist bone in his physique, however it’s tough. Hammerstein wrote in dialect so folks wouldn’t sound like they had been in “My Truthful Girl”; he wished Bloody Mary in “South Pacific” to speak like a girl who realized English from sailors. However to some ears now, it sounds racist. After which there’s the home violence in “Carousel.” In the intervening time, essentially the most troublesome one is “The King and I,” which forces you to ask: Whose story is being instructed and by whom?
You and the households have been open to experimentation, usually allowing administrators to discover these very points although purists get offended. What’s your philosophy?
You must trust in what these properties are. Rethinking them for a second doesn’t change them perpetually. Prior to now 10 years we’ve had the darkish “Oklahoma!” directed by Daniel Fish but additionally the multiracial one Molly Smith did on the Enviornment Stage, the all-Black one in Portland and Denver and the re-gendered one Invoice Rauch did at Oregon Shakespeare Pageant. Each time I see one in every of these reveals, I uncover one thing new. And if not, no hurt. The originals are nonetheless there.
Even so, their incomes potential have to be diminishing.
The enterprise has been very constant via all my years, no large ups however no large downs. That’s partly their staying issue and partly new know-how. When residence video got here in, bingo, a musical like “The Sound of Music” was catnip as a result of folks wished to see it again and again. So we licensed a double videocassette, then a single videocassette, then a DVD, then an improved DVD, then an enhanced DVD, then a Blu-ray after which as a part of a group of six R&H motion pictures in a carousel of DVDs — and it offered each time.
However the copyrights on the reveals will begin to expire in 2038 — which is simply 17 years away. That’s an enormous a part of why the households, quickly after the market crashed in 2008, offered the R&H catalog, and the enterprise that managed it, to the Dutch firm Imagem, for a reported $225 million. Did they make the best resolution?
Not understanding on the time how fractured the following era might have grow to be — there are one thing like 20 grandchildren — sure. And it was sensible to maintain the rights and the administration of the rights in a single place. However they may have gotten extra.
In 2017, as a part of a development of consolidation within the music enterprise, Imagem was purchased by the music large Harmony, which thus turned your boss. Why depart now while you’ve obtained such an enormous participant behind you?
Concord does like buying things — they’re superb at that. However once I began, R&H was a household enterprise; we knew what we had been doing and we had fun. As soon as it turned a part of an organization that’s a firm firm as a substitute of a theatrical workplace, that modified. I’m not leaving with any animosity, however it was time to make a swish exit.
Will you write a tell-all?
I hope so. I’ve obtained the title, anyway. After I attended the primary preview of “Carousel” in London in 1992, a girl seated subsequent to me within the field smiled and requested in a complicated accent, “Are you with the manufacturing?” Which appeared to sum up this unusual job I’ve had, form of in and form of out. Solely later did I understand it was Princess Margaret.