Hammerstein’s musical legacy

AUTHOR and academic Oscar Hammerstein III — the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame — will be the keynote speaker at a music theatre symposium at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne on Monday, August 13.

An adjunct professor at New York’s Columbia University, he is an expert in musical theatre and author of <I>The Hammersteins<P> which chronicles the history of the family who came to New York to escape the pogroms in the late 19th century.

The symposium will examine the phenomenon of Rodgers and Hammerstein and will include performances by VCA music theatre students and graduates.

It’s the first event organised by the University of Melbourne’s new Australian Centre for Music Theatre Research and Development.

Centre director Associate Professor Peter Wyllie Johnston said: “Melbourne has long been recognised as the music theatre capital of Australia. With the help of Oscar Hammerstein III, we’ll be exploring the phenomenon of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the gold standard of music theatre, and the circumstances that led to their unique creative approach.”

Another international guest at the symposium is Ted Chapin, global president of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisation in New York.

On his first trip to Australia, Hammerstein hopes to uncover some family connections. His grandmother, Dorothy Blanchard, left Melbourne for New York in the 1920s as a beauty contestant, met Oscar Hammerstein II, and eventually married him.

At a gala dinner in the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Centre after the symposium, John Frost — producer of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific which will be staged in Melbourne in September — will be the guest speaker.

Enquiries: www.vca.unimelb.edu.au

PHOTO of Lisa McCune, who stars in the revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, which opened this week at the Sydney Opera House and opens in Melbourne at the Princess Theatre in September.