“Sentiment has never been unpopular.”
—Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960)
There is nothing sentimental about Allegro. It was first produced in 1947; and it was the third collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It did not measure up to the success of their previous two Broadway musicals, Oklahoma!, their first in 1943 and Carousel, in 1945. Nor would it reach the heights of the next two musicals they wrote together, 1949’s South Pacific and 1951’s The King and I. Most know all four from their motion picture versions.
Allegro is currently being revived, but off Broadway by the Classic Stage Company in The Village. This scaled-down version is charming. It is most unusual because all the actors and actresses double as the orchestra. Each performer plays multiple instruments throughout the 90-minute performance. I found this quirky bit of staging delightful. What a tough casting process it must be: finding players who can sing, act and play more than one musical instrument. I do not envy whomever must decide.
“In many ways, a song-writing partnership is like a marriage. Apart from just liking each other, a lyricist and a composer should be able to spend long periods of time together—around the clock if need be—without getting on each other’s nerves.” —Richard Rodgers (1902–1979)
The director, John Doyle (who is also given credit as the designer of the show too) is known for combining actor and musician into one person. Mr. Doyle used this same approach in a 2006 revival of Sweeney Todd, starring Patti Lupone; he won a Tony Award for Best Director of Musical for his effort.
“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”
—Oscar Hammerstein II
The set is spare. Your imagination is asked to do some work; how unusual that is in today’s spoon-fed entertainment world. The theater is intimate, bringing the audience closer to the action than a large Broadway house. It is true that none of the song continue to play in my head. It was very much an in-the-moment experience.
The story is about making choices that make us happy; often time we choose what will make others happy. The plot centers on a family with an only son; his future is to become a doctor, as his father is. The young man must choose between following in the footsteps of his dad, practicing in a small town, or go to the big city of Chicago where he will make a splash and money. I was quite affected by the performances and the topic.
“What’s wrong with sweetness and light? It’s been around quite awhile.” —Richard Rodgers