From 1922 through to the 1970s, Robert Russell Bennett was one of the leading orchestrators and arrangers of the Broadway musical. During that time, Bennett defined the special sound of the American musical, arranging and scoring ninety-seven original productions for Broadway alone. His clientele reads like a Who’s Who of American song: Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Frederick Loewe, Jule Styne.
Perhaps most notable in Bennett’s work was his collaboration with Richard Rodgers, particularly in the years when Rodgers was in partnership with Oscar Hammerstein II. Bennett orchestrated the most popular of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals from Oklahoma! in 1943 and South Pacific in 1949 to The King and I (1951), Pipe Dream (1955), Flower Drum Song (1958), and The Sound of Music (1959). He also orchestrated Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical for television, Cinderella (1957). Richard Rodgers commented, “I give him [the credit] without undue modesty, for making my music sound better than it was.”
Bennett scored many other Broadway landmarks over the years – among them Show Boat (1927), Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun (1948), Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate (1948), and Lerner and Loewe’s two masterpieces, My Fair Lady (1956) and Camelot (1960).
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