Carousel: June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

As a kid who hated snow from the first time he held a snow shovel in his hands, I immediately loved “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” when I first heard it. It’s an exuberant welcome to the beginning of summer, a fulfillment of the promise that May only started to keep.

The song was first introduced as a rousing production number in Carousel, the second stage collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Their first, Oklahoma, had been so successful that they could simply assume that their next project could not measure up. So how did they go about it? They decided to adapt a well known play with a depressing ending, Liliom, by Ferenc Molnár.

Molnár had already refused to allow Giacomo Puccini and Kurt Weill to make musical adaptations of his play, but he was very much impressed with Oklahoma. He even allowed Rodgers and Hammerstein to change the plot. If he had not, they could not have made his play suitable for Broadway.

In Liliom, a carnival barker who had died in a robbery attempt is given the chance to go to heaven if he can redeem himself with the daughter born after his death. Unfortunately, he slaps her instead and must return to purgatory. In Carousel, the barker manages to recover from slapping his daughter. He succeeds in encouraging both her and his widow to face life with confidence.

“June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” helps the overall mood of the plot by giving the story a backdrop of joy and exuberance. Most of the townspeople are good, fun-loving people.

Much of the word play in Hammerstein’s lyrics suggests the springtime awakening of, if not love, then certainly romantic and lusty feelings. He got into trouble on two counts.

June is bustin’ out all over!
The sheep aren’t sleepin’ anymore!
All the rams that chase ewe-sheep
All determined there’ll be new sheep
and the ewe-sheep aren’t even keepin’ score!

On hearing this verse for the first time, someone informed Hammerstein that sheep don’t mate in the spring. As much as Hammerstein hated to be inaccurate, he finally decided to leave the stanza alone. Whenever anyone else challenged him about it, he said it was true for most years, just not 1873, when, curiously enough, the sheep decided to mate in the spring.

The other problem did not arise until the play was made into a movie in 1956. Near the end of the song, Hammerstein provided this stanza:

June is bustin’ out all over,
The beaches are crowded ev’ry night.
From Penobscot to Augusty
All the boys are feelin’ lusty,
And the girls ain’t even puttin’ up a fight.

At that time, movies had to adhere to the standards of the Production Code Administration, which ruled that those words were inappropriate. Hammerstein substituted a new stanza, which is now universally used.

June is bustin’ out all over
The moonlight is shining on the shore
And the girls who were contrary
With the boys in January,
Aren’t nearly for contrary anymore!

Enjoy the scene from the movie. You can add either the sound track or the original Broadway cast recording of Carousel to your CD collection, too.

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