The lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II wrote for Richard Rodgers’s melodies were always clever and professional, though they sometimes verged on the treacly. Still, what an avalanche of beautiful music in their collaborations — we’ll never encounter anything like it again.  When the lyrics rise to the level of the music, as they often do, you get examples of musical theater at its very best.

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Poster for the 1902 stage musical, which had at least as much influence on the 1939 movie as the books they were based on.

Many of the musicals Arthur Freed helped create at MGM were derived from the theatrical world of his youth, which he delighted in magically summoning back to life.  He would have been eight in 1902.  He would have been ten in 1904, the year in which Meet Me In St. Louis is set.

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