The Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center's July 11 gala, which featured performances from Broadway favorites Christy Altomare, Derek Klena, and Justin Guarini, raised nearly $165,000 that will go towards the purchase of Highland Farm, the former Pennsylvania country home of Broadway legend Oscar Hammerstein II. The event, titled Broadway Sings the Sound of Hammerstein, was held at The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm, former home of Hammerstein contemporary and fellow Broadway stalwart George S. Kaufman.
The evening was part of the organization's efforts to establish a museum and theatre education center at Highland Farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where the Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music writer spent the final 20 years of his life. Hammerstein bought the farm in 1940, just as he was beginning his landmark collaboration with composer Richard Rodgers, as a quiet place to work outside of Manhattan. The property would become Hammerstein's creative epicenter and is where he wrote quintessential Broadway lyrics for "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" and "Edelweiss."
Highland Farm is also the site where fellow theatrical legend Stephen Sondheim became Hammerstein's protégé. The composer-lyricist became acquainted with the Hammerstein family after Sondheim's mother moved them to an estate near the Hammersteins' farm, after which he became a frequent guest and friend to Hammerstein's son, Jimmy. The elder Hammerstein would ultimately take Sondheim under his wing, teaching him many of the basics of constructing musicals and advising him on his early career choices, including signing on to contribute lyrics to West Side Story despite Sondheim's reluctance to work on a project that wouldn't see him composing music.
The gala evening was hosted by former Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization head Ted Chapin, and featured David Manning on a Steinway Spiro grand piano donated by Jacob's Music. Among the attendees were Will Hammerstein and Melinda Mathias Walsh, grandchildren of Oscar; and Sam von Trapp, grandson of Maria von Trapp, who inspired Hammerstein's The Sound of Music.