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Broadway: The American Musical: Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’ (1943-1960)

Airs Friday, April 26, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Mark Platt and Katharine Sergava in a scene from "Oklahoma," 1943.

This six-part documentary series chronicles the Broadway musical throughout the 20th century and explores the evolution of this uniquely American art form. The series draws on a wealth of archival news footage, lost and found television moments, original cast recordings, still photos, feature films, diaries, journals, intimate first-person accounts and on-camera interviews with many of the principals involved in creating the American musical. 2005 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Series. It originally aired on Fridays, November 2-16, 2012 on KPBS TV.

Courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization

Mary Martin in a scene from "South Pacific," 1949.

Courtesy of Photofest

Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, rehearsing "On the Town, "1944.

Courtesy of New York Public Library

Jerome Robbins and cast rehearse "West Side Story" choreography, 1957.

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Courtesy of Marty Sohl/Thirteen/WNET New York

Julie Andrews hosts the first comprehensive documentary series on the history of the American musical ever created for television.

Episode Four: "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin' (1943-1960)" - The new partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II changes the face of Broadway forever, beginning with the record-breaking "Oklahoma!" in 1943, featuring a landmark ballet by Agnes De Mille.

"Carousel" and "South Pacific" then set the standard for decades to come by pioneering a musical in which story is all-important. For challenging the country to confront its deep-seated racial bigotry, "South Pacific" wins the Pulitzer Prize.

In "On the Town," an exuberant team of novices — Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jerome Robbins — captures the energy, humor and pathos of New York City during World War II.

Irving Berlin triumphs again with "Annie Get Your Gun," featuring Ethel Merman and the unofficial anthem of the American musical theater, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

In shows like "Guys and Dolls," "My Fair Lady" and "Kiss Me, Kate," sophisticated adaptations of literary material prevail.

“Cole Porter led the way in writing adult songs about love and sex,” says theater historian Robert Kimball. “He defied the censors. He, probably more than any other songwriter in this century, made it possible for the openness that we have in all popular music.”

In 1956, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe triumph with "My Fair Lady," featuring an 18-year-old Julie Andrews. TV’s “The Ed Sullivan Show” becomes the most important showcase for Broadway musicals.

Yet with the death of Oscar Hammerstein II soon after the premiere of "The Sound of Music" in 1959, the curtain begins to lower on a golden age.

The episode features interviews with actor Julie Andrews, writer/lyricist Betty Comden, choreographer Agnes De Mille, writer/lyricist Adolph Green, Oscar Hammerstein’s grandson Andy Hammerstein, choreographer Michael Kidd, author James Michener, theater historian Steve Nelson, musician John Raitt, choreographer Jerome Robbins, Richard Rodgers’ composer/daughter Mary Rodgers and conductor Michael Tilson-Thomas.

Highlights include never-before-broadcast footage of Jerome Robbins’ choreography for "On the Town," 1960 TV footage of Rex Harrison re-enacting “I’m an Ordinary Man” from "My Fair Lady," and the first American broadcast of 1950 footage of the original "Guys and Dolls" cast performing in London.

Up Next: The final two episodes: "Tradition (1957-1979)" airs Friday, May 3, 2013 at 10 p.m. and "Putting It Together (1980 - Present)" airs Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Video

Series Preview: Broadway: The American Musical

Above: This six-part documentary series chronicles the Broadway musical throughout the 20th century and explores the evolution of this uniquely American art form. The series draws on a wealth of archival news footage, lost and found television moments, original cast recordings, still photos, feature films, diaries, journals, intimate first-person accounts and on-camera interviews with many of the principals involved in creating the American musical. 2005 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Series.