1949: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Pulitzer Prize winning musical South Pacific opened at the Majestic Theater in New York City and remained there for 1,928 performances. The show told the story of a group of navy personnel posted to an island in the South Pacific during World War II. It included many songs that became standards in their own right, such as "A Cockeyed Optimist," "Some Enchanted Evening," "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame," and "Bali Ha'i." But its catchy tunes and clever lyrics tackled serious themes: war and racism.
The sixteen-year musical collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein resulted in such award-winning shows as Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Before starting their work together on the first of these, both men had had successful careers, and both were worried that those careers were at an end. But instead Oklahoma proved pivotal in the development of musical theatre, heralded the advent of perhaps the most successful partnership in the genre's history, and in 1944 won Rodgers and Hammerstein their first Pulitzer Prize for drama.