YNWA-Blog #9

A song is born (New York, part 2)

Today we are at the Majestic Theater on 44th Street. This is where “You’ll never walk alone” was played on April 19, 1945 for the first time in the musical “Carousel” after the suicide of Liliom (now called Billy Bigelow).

The luminescent billboards, the traffic jams, and the honking can be seen and heard a couple of blocks away: We are approaching the theater district with Times Square and Broadway. Our taxi turns into 44th Street, which, as the street sign tells us, is also called “Rodgers and Hammerstein Row.” This must be the right address. We start by shooting a couple of scenes all around Times Square. Crowds of tourists push their way across the square on this hot summer’s day. In the confusion of languages you can pick out the odd word of German, and we have just walked a few meters when a German couple recognizes Joachim Król, who happily takes time out for a photo with them.

Back to 44th Street, at the Majestic Theater, we have finally reached the spot where “You’ll never walk alone” was first unleashed on the world. Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (script) Americanized the setting of the play “Liliom,” creating the musical “Carousel,” which in 1999 was named best musical of the 20th century by Time Magazine. And one song from the musical should be particularly embedded in the cultural conscience. The world-famous team of Rodgers and Hammerstein also penned other successful musicals such as “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music,” their most famous work. Incidentally, the two men were themselves from Jewish immigrant families. The background and origin of the song “You’ll never walk alone” are therefore—from Molnár and Polgar to Rodgers and Hammerstein—also a part of Jewish cultural history.

Directly opposite the Majestic Theater we find the St. James Theater, another large theater in which Rodgers and Hammerstein celebrated their successes. An elevator next to the stage takes us up to the offices of Jujamcyn Theaters. There, Joachim Król meets Broadway producer Jack Viertel, who shows in his book “The Secret Life of the American Musical” how musicals are stitched together and have developed over recent decades. “It was a fantastic discussion,” said Joachim Król afterwards.

We now leave the colorful lights of Broadway behind us for our next stop at a place far removed from the tourist centers.