Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by Richard Rodgers

INFO:

Opened at the Majestic Theater    October 10, 1947    315 performances
Original Director: Agnes DeMille
Original Choreographer: Agnes DeMille
Original Producer: R&H
Original Leads: Joseph Taylor, Jr: John Battles    Marjorie Taylor: Annamary Dickey   Charlie Townsend: John Conte    Emily: Lisa Kirk
Cast Size: As done originally: Male: 6 Female: 5 Ensemble: about 26 Total Cast Size: About 40 (as listed in the original production.)
BUT this show can and should be done with a much smaller cast, which will at the same time make a production more “modern”, and more intimate – and far more effective. I would do this with a cast of 5-6, for a total of 11 actors, no ensemble. It can be expanded to any size from this base – but should instead be kept small. More to follow.
Orchestra: 21, but could be much smaller, perhaps as few as about 8. (Piano, keyboard, percussion, bass, violin, oboe, cello, trumpet.)
Published Script: Modern Library
Production Rights: Rodgers and Hammerstein Library
Recordings: The original Broadway is okay, you get the idea. A more complete and current recording was released in 2009, and many luminaries participated. This show deserves that sort of attention.
Film: None.
Other shows by the authors: Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King & I, Flower Drum Song, The Sound of Music   Hammerstein: Show Boat    Rodgers:  Babes In Arms, Pal Joey

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

Everyone, every company that has the singing actors capable of performing it. This show, done as I’m going to describe, will be a very strong candidate for Colleges and Universities, Little Theaters, Dinner Theaters, perfect for Stock companies and regional theaters with tight schedules, and Off-Broadway.

Be Warned:

I’m not going to ask you to rewrite this show, but I will be making distinct cuts. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you could always do the full show, and add about 8 to the cast – all dancers. I would not.

The names “Rodgers & Hammerstein” connote old school classic Musicals. If you have a reputation for doing experimental, advanced work, this may be a hard sale. That said, it is an experimental work, especially as I’m going to describe it in the Opinion section, and production notes. Conversely, if your audience is conservative, sell this show as “Rodgers And Hammerstein’s forgotten masterpiece.” Don’t push the experimental aspect of your presentation. (Or present it intact as intended with a very large cast, lots of sets, big orchestra. I do not believe the show works well with this model – it’s why I believe it has not found its place in the R&H Musical Theater heavens. And I think that’s a problem that can and should be solved.

THE STORY: (Outline from Wikipedia.)

ACT ONE: The play opens with Marjorie Taylor in bed, in 1905. Wife of small town doctor Joseph Taylor, she has just had a son. The people of the town predict great things for Joseph Taylor, Jr., or Joe as he will come to be called (Musical number: “Joseph Taylor, Jr.”). Joe learns what a baby learns: the comforting presence of his mother, the presence of another figure, who does not smell as nice, and who always leaves as soon as he picks up his black bag. Joe is seen as a baby and then not again as a child; the audience takes his perspective. Joe’s Grandma notices him trying to walk, calls for Marjorie to witness the first steps, and once he takes them, as the chorus states, “the world belongs to Joe” (“One Foot, Other Foot”). Joe grows to school age, and loses his beloved Grandma. He is comforted by Jennie Brinker, a businessman’s daughter. The two grow to high school age and date, though Joe lacks the nerve to kiss her, to Jennie’s frustration. As Joe prepares to leave for college, Dr. Taylor hopes that his son will help him in his medical practice, and he and Marjorie wonder if Joe will marry Jennie. (“A Fellow Needs A Girl”)

At the freshman mixer (“Freshman Dance”), the audience finally sees Joe onstage. He marvels at his new world, in which he is a loner (“A Darn Nice Campus”). Joe serves ineffectively as a cheerleader (“The Purple and the Brown”), rooting for the Wildcats, whose star player is Joe’s freshman classmate Charlie Townsend. Both are pre-medical students and soon become close friends. The friendship helps both; Joe gains entrance to Charlie’s fraternity and social circles, while Charlie is allowed to copy Joe’s conscientious schoolwork.

While Joe is at college, Jennie remains at home, and her wealthy father, Ned Brinker, who disapproves of Joe for spending so many years in school before earning a living, encourages her to find other boyfriends. Jennie does not bother to conceal these romances in her letters; Joe is finally fed up, and goes on a double date with Charlie and two girls. Beulah, Joe’s date, is initially enthusiastic about the budding romance (“So Far”) but walks away in disgust when Joe, who is unable to keep thoughts of Jennie from his mind, falls asleep after a passionate kiss. Jennie breaks up with the boy that Joe was afraid would marry her, and she is waiting for Joe when he returns home (“You Are Never Away”). Marjorie Taylor is convinced that Jennie is the wrong girl for Joe, and after a confrontation with Jennie when she tells her this, Marjorie dies of a heart attack. Despite the disapproval of both families (“What a Lovely Day for a Wedding”), Joe and Jennie marry, a wedding observed by the unhappy ghosts of Marjorie and Grandma (“Wish Them Well”).

ACT TWO: It is the Great Depression. Joe makes a bare living as assistant to his father. Mr. Brinker’s business has failed, and he lives with the couple, who are experiencing poverty for the first time in their lives. The poverty affects Jennie more than Joe—the new Mrs. Taylor dislikes life as an impoverished housewife (“Money Isn’t Everything”). When she learns that Joe turned down a lucrative offer from a prominent Chicago physician, who is Charlie’s uncle, Jennie at first rages. When she finds that is not effective, she gets him to change his mind through guilt—if he accepts Dr. Denby’s offer, he can earn the money to start the small hospital of which his father dreams and they will have the money to bring up a child properly.

Joe accepts the job, and sadly leaves his father. He soon finds himself ministering to hypochondriacs; he is required to spend time at cocktail parties marked by useless conversation (“Yatata, Yatata, Yatata”). Charlie is also part of the practice, but the former football star has turned to drink. Joe himself is becoming careless due to the distractions; one mistake is caught by his nurse, Emily, who greatly admires the physician Joe could be (“The Gentleman Is a Dope”). Denby congratulates Joe on his skills, both medical and social. The elder doctor has less time for a nurse, Carrie Middleton, who has worked at his hospital for thirty years and once dated him, but who is involved in a labor protest—Denby orders her fired at the request of Lansdale, an influential trustee and soap manufacturer. Charlie, Joe and Emily comment on the frenetic pace of the Chicago world in which they live (“Allegro”).

Joe has become increasingly disillusioned by his life in the city, and worries about his former patients in his home town. He learns that Jennie is having an affair with Lansdale. As Joe sits, head in hands, his late mother and a chorus of the friends he left behind appeal to him to return (“Come Home”). Joe has been offered the position of physician-in-chief at the Chicago hospital, replacing Denby, who is taking an executive position, or as the elder doctor terms it, being “kicked upstairs”. At a dedication of a new pavilion at the hospital, Joe has a revelation and shifts the path of his life; as he does so, Grandma appears and calls for Marjorie to come watch, an echo of the scene in which he learned to walk. Joe refuses the position, and will return to his small town to assist his father, accompanied by Emily and Charlie, but not by Jennie (Finale: “One Foot, Other Foot” (reprise)).

THE SONGS:

“Overture” – Orchestra, “Joseph Taylor, Jr.”, “I Know It Can Happen Again”, “Pudgy Legs”, “One Foot, Other Foot”, “Children’s Dance”, “Grandmother’s Death: I Know It Can Happen Again (Reprise)”, “Winters Go By”, “Poor Joe”, “Diploma”, “A Fellow Needs A Girl”, “Dance: Freshmen Get Together”, “A Darn Nice Campus”, “Wildcats”, “Jennie Reads Letter: A Darn Nice Campus (Reprise)”, “Scene of Professors”, “So Far”, “You Are Never Away”, “What a Lovely Day for a Wedding”, “It May Be a Good Idea for Joe”, “Money Isn’t Everything”, “Ya-ta-ta”, “The Gentleman Is a Dope”, “Allegro”, “Come Home”

Hits include: “A Fellow Needs A Girl”, “So Far”, “You Are Never Away”, “The Gentleman Is A Dope”

MY OPINIONS:

As always, feel free to skip or ignore my opinions and rating. If things don’t quite go swimmingly allegro for you, don’t look at me to speed them up.

Okay. I’m going to say a controversial thing. Allegro is the best show Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote. Better than Showboat, Oklahoma, Carousel or The Sound of Music. It is the only show he wrote that brings me to tears at the end. I really love South Pacific and The King And I. But this show, Allegro, is the one that moves me.

I admire the daring that went into Hammerstein’s decision to create an original book rather than adapt, the easier road taken (for many good reasons) by most creators of Musicals. He was so successful at the time with adaptations, it was a real risk. The fact that the plot vastly resembles a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from 1926, Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis, may be coincidence.

Did the risk pay off? Not at the time. But Allegro is a wonderful show that has never had its fair chance. It was considered too “experimental” when it first opened. Its use of a Greek-style Chorus to narrate the piece and present many of the lead character’s thoughts and feelings was, in fact, a marvelous and daring thing for Hammerstein to try. But it was not what critics and audiences wanted from R&H.

Yet I believe the Chorus will work beautifully. The whole show will. But the way you put the show together will make all the difference. I think this is perhaps more true of Allegro than of any show I’ve reviewed on this site.

Allegro is the great, undiscovered masterpiece of Rodgers and Hammerstein. I think there is an experimental approach, taking what Hammerstein intended and pushing hard against it, that is waiting to make this show soar, make it new and contemporary in many ways, and for which Mr. Hammerstein laid excellent but incomplete groundwork.

First, I think this show requires intimacy to work. I think it needs to play small, play in the audience’s lap. R&H had two enormous successes under their belt, and what was expected from them at the time were big shows, spectacular shows, enormous hits, which for the most part (remarkably) they delivered. But today, if I was producing Allegro, I’d place it Off-Broadway, rather than on. I’d go for intimacy, a quite small cast, bare stage, simple costumes, small orchestration, small-ish theater.

I think the show should be done with a cast of 11. 5 men and 5 women would be the “Chorus” – and they would play every part in the show except Joseph Taylor, Jr. There would be no ensemble beyond this Chorus of 10. I’ll break this down further in the casting concerns below, but it will absolutely work. With masks. Or some sort of quick costuming add-ons to a basic Chorus costume (representing a Middle America small town look, I think), such as furs and gloves for rich folks, a certain hat for a certain character, that sort of thing. Perhaps these could be combined with masks.

Hammerstein intended there would be a “Chorus” for his show. I’m honoring his intent, and extending the use of it in a more traditional Greek Drama manner. All the characters (except the lead, whose story is being told) would come from the ensemble, each character with a simple but distinctive mask, a mask focused on the prime characteristic of that character, and one that is quickly identifiable when seen a second or third time. That’s going to require a lot of masks, probably around 40 of them, and so be it. These masks could also be your set, for all intents and purposes, suspended by wire from the rafters, dropping in as needed like stars in the sky – that would be extremely theatrical! Or hung on the walls that surround your almost bare stage. (The way I’d approach the show makes it a prime candidate for theatre in the round, or three-quarters and thrust.)

A single character who ages, like Joseph Taylor Sr., might have two or three masks, each grayer and older than the last. A woman putting on “airs” as Jenny does might have several “mood” masks, all easily identified by the hair or some such indication, as her. The masks will need to be very creative and expressive. And they must always show enough of each actor that we get expressions and character from their work. Each mask should be used to amplify the drama, and principally to identify characters. The donning and use of each mask would need to be staged into the show, as part of the blocking. Actors will need a lot of time rehearsing with the masks, they must be comfortable with them.

Another potentially off-putting aspect of this show is choral reading. I suggest strongly minimizing having everyone read all the time. The choral material would be best placed in the hands of single characters who have an emotional stake in what’s being said at that moment. An example – when we talk about Joe Jr. growing up, learning to walk, etc., his Grandma, and his parents, and his young friends have a stake. It’s meaningful to them, and not meaningful to a character-less chorus member. There can and should be full company (or chorus) singing, the music requires it. But this show uses, whether Hammerstein was aware of it or not, what Brecht delineated as three levels of communication, each more intense than the last – speech, heightened speech (poetic speech, choral speech), and then song. When you move into choral readings, it should be because the action and emotion of the show has grown in intensity, moving beyond the use of mere everyday speech. Redistributing choral dialogue to individual characters, building into multiple actors as it grows in intensity, exploding into song will help shape this show, and give each type of “speech” its place in the show, its purpose. It will also help provide each line spoken and sung a clearer meaning and connection to the story, and help minimize those awkward group reads. (Singing as a group will always be easier, thanks to the pattern provided by rhythm and melody.)

One more point about the Chorus. This is a show that can be done in a theater without wings, because I believe the actors should be on stage the entire time. When not directly involved in action, they should sit or stand and observe, as they are expected to comment as “Chorus” anyway. They are the observers of Joe Taylor Jr.’s life, as well as participants.

An orchestra of about 8 can play this score with the richness it merits. There are pieces in this show you will not forget once you hear them. It’s a fine score. (I can almost get around Hammerstein’s endless passion for nature in the lyrics, which is too prevalent, but is used perhaps less in this score than some of his others.) The score is more personal, more spoken heart to heart, than any other Rodgers and Hammerstein score. It is not Rodgers’ best work with Hammerstein, for that look to South Pacific. But it is the most emotionally satisfying, especially at the end of the show…and that is so by far.

Using the approach I’m recommending, this show could be produced by any company with the talent to do it. Emphasis will be on direction, acting, singing, and masks. De-emphasized almost entirely will be dance, another “requirement” from the men who integrated the ballet into the Musical with Oklahoma and Carousel. They could not avoid its use – but you absolutely can and should. The ballets in this show make it feel very long (because it gets very long) and flabby as drama. The ballets make painfully obvious points about the rich and children and life, points the script and score cover adequately in other ways and places. Rodgers’ ballet music is okay, there’s nothing wrong with the music. But ballet is highly intrusive in this intimate piece, and feels enforced and contrived. For many reasons, economic and artistic, I’d get rid of the children’s ballet in Act I, the rich people’s ballet in Act II, and other dance segments. Some minimal movement during numbers is fine, as you would do in any intimate non-dance Musical. This should not at all be a “dance show.” The spotlight should be on the characters, what they say and sing.

So what do we have, without my approach? We have a very large show, cast of 40, large orchestra, many, many sets and costumes, numerous long and large dance sequences, all of it very expensive and all of it cutting across the heart of the show and what will work best for it. A bloated attempt to take what is almost entirely an intimate Musical, and make it into a spectacle and a mega-hit in the R&H tradition – a tradition they had just initiated over the previous few years. An approach that actively works against what Hammerstein wrote here with so much heart and humanity, and that is too bloody huge for most companies to attempt, too risky. And we have a show that has never worked for the critics, or found the love of a large audience.

And with my approach? We have a small cast, generally young and attractive, bare stage, modern dress; an easy to stage, forgotten Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, one that will work far better today, over 60 years removed from when it was authored. We have a small show, easily executed by many companies, with vastly reduced financial exposure, assuming always that you have the artistic instincts to pull this off.

What we have is a really good show waiting to be discovered in a big way and put on the map as the major Musical it deserves to be.

With all this in mind, below I will present only my recommended approach. If you want to do the show as it has been done, it’s a big Musical with all the needs of such shows. Done traditionally, only the largest theatrical companies should approach it. But why?

MY RATING: ** (An excellent show, well worth considering – done my way. Otherwise, a one-star show.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

There’s a lot of music, and the Chorus will do a lot of tight harmonizing. Given there will be only 11 voices up there, each singer must be very strong, very able to sing solos and duets, very good at harmonizing. Each actor is going to receive a lot of opportunity to do things, using this approach. They will all be “stars”, so to speak. So they will all need to sing well, as this is a Richard Rodgers Musical. Voices should be reasonably legit, trained, finely controlled and strong instruments.

The original orchestrations are rich, and generally quite lovely. That said, the show would benefit in every way from a smaller and more intimate approach. If you can afford to simplify the orchestrations as I indicated above, you should consider doing it.

A Musical Director will be kept busy with this show. There’s a lot of music, it dallies with opera, though it certainly is not. You’ll want a tireless M.D. Who works well with reasonably trained voices, and who knows how to get a tight harmonic sound out of as cast.

Joseph Taylor, Jr. – Your lead. A strong, likeable tenor voice with strong low notes and mid range. Good ability to sing with emotion a must. Cast a trained voice, he does a lot of singing.

Marjorie Taylor – Soprano, a beautiful, clear, emotional voice, sweet and loving, and wise. Needs a trained instrument.

Jenny Brinker – Alto with some high notes. Clear voice, capable of changing emotional content quickly.

Charlie Townsend – Lyric baritone, comic, good with lyrics.

Joseph Taylor, Sr. – Baritone, full lower and mid-range, trained.

Emily – Alto with a pop-almost contemporary feel, but trained. A likeable voice that expresses emotions well.

Grandma – Alto, a character-driven voice, older.

Beulah – Soprano, lovely, strong voice, clean upper register.

Company – They all must sing well, and trained voices would be preferred. The score is Rodgers, with fairly ranging, sweeping melodies, but the harmonic content is more sophisticated than any of his shows. Get singers who read (and act very well) if possible.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

If you cut the ballets, then you are dealing with a show almost entirely devoid of dance, as such. This does not mean there will be no musical staging, but it will be tied to a ritualistic feel demanded by a Greek-type Chorus. I don’t think this show either requires or can benefit from the services of a Choreographer – even though the original production employed the estimable Agnes DeMille as both Director and Choreographer. I think dance, especially ballet, hurts this show and makes it feel something like “high art”, unapproachable to the average audience member.

That said, there are a few numbers that need some movement. These are “One Foot, Other Foot”, “What a Lovely Day for a Wedding”, “Money Isn’t Everything”, “Ya-ta-ta”, and “Allegro”. This may be enough to bring in a Choreographer. But they must agree to stay away from obvious dance, dance for dance sake, dance to show off a dancer or a Choreographer. The story, and the overall feel of ritual, should be your guide. If your Director is comfortable staging musical numbers, skip the Choreographer.

“One Foot, Other Foot” is a steady, rhythmic march-like anthem dealing with the process of growth and maturing. The movement should be simple, the “march” taking steps perhaps every 4th or even 8th count, and not “militant” so much as exciting. Focus on the boy taking steps. The world watches holding its breath and singing (at the same time…) I don’t believe this needs a Choreographer, but it needs staged movement.

“What A Lovely Day For A Wedding” ends Act I, and is the culmination of the action to that point. It is a flurry of activity, organized and hectic. Again, it needs movement rather than choreography.

“Money Isn’t Everything”, sung by two young women and Jenny (I’d cut one of the girls and redistribute her lines) should be a Musical Comedy piece. Does it belong in this show? Barely, but you do need it to get Act II going, which is why I imagine R&H put it where it is. You should get some laughs out of it without clowning around. Use the clothes Jenny is stringing on a rope, say (the rope held by other cast members…) as cloaks and furs for the girls to play with. Have fun, but keep it simple. Fill the stage with the energy of those three young women.

“Ya-ta-ta” is a grand party for rich folks, as the Chorus comments (on themselves, since they are playing rich folks.) I’d have them look at each other when “in character” as rich people, and then directly at the audience when commenting. Some organized movement, no dance.

“Allegro” is, for all intents, your 11:00 number, the one toward the end of the evening intended to wake the audience up and let them know the end is nigh. The three characters who sing it should be energized, their disgust for what they do becoming evident and dynamic. It will lead to their leaving the big city, feeling it to save their souls, and the song is a cry from their souls. It is sweet, up-beat, but desperate. No choreography again, not really.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Joseph Taylor, Jr. – Unmasked, the only character so presented the way I’m proposing the show be done. In his 20s to play birth-30s. Bright, smart, but really an everyday small-town guy. A good doctor, and a caring one. In fact, he can’t stop caring, even when he makes the attempt. Should be a reasonably attractive guy, not quite the stock “leading man’ type, though. The character is unsure of himself, easily manipulated. Cast an actor that the audience will care about. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement, that order.

The rest of the cast is “Chorus”. Listed are the “roles” that you should cast Chorus for, that must be covered. All will need to act well, be right for given roles, and sing quite well.

Marjorie Taylor – (Don’t double her much if at all) The mother. Ages 30s-40s, to play 20s-30s. Lovely, good-hearted, intuitive, more decisive than her husband, and more aware of others. Would do anything for her son and husband, including attempting to manipulate the situation for their own good. Must express a fair emotional range and be innately winning. Cast for voice, type, acting, some movement. Must do all well.

Jenny Brinker – (Don’t double her much) About Joe Jr.’s age. A beautiful, alluring small town girl with dreams of big town success. Self-involved, ultimately destructively selfish and piggish, but driven in part by a fear of the poverty that overtook her family when the Depression started. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement.

Charlie Townsend – (Don’t double much.) 20s-30s, to play teen-30s. Cocky, funny, reasonably bright but not too, rarely serious. Really an average big city guy generally looking for the next opportunity. But he does have a conscience, and a sense of irony. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement.

Joseph Taylor, Sr. – (also Lansdale, a professor, perhaps others) Mid 20s-40s, to play mid 20s-early 50s. A hard-working, dedicated, prototypical “good man”, the small town doctor. A man who would never dream of taking advantage of another, and who doctors for free as often as not. Needs to express a fair emotional range. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement.

Emily – (Also Hazel, a professor, others) 20s. Attractive, sharp, sharp-tongued. A young lady who sees both the best and the worst in people, and can’t help but root for the best. Quietly in love with Jr. Efficient at work and probably in life, but undeniably cynical when it comes to others. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Grandma – (also Mrs. Lansdale, a professor, others) 40s to play wide age range, particularly Grandma, in her 60s-70s. Sweet, loving, a bit dotty, but wise to the way life progresses and works. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement.

Beulah – 20s. Attractive, aggressive, street-wise, likes boys. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement. Sings one of the hits, must sing well.

Ned – (also Bigby Denby, the coach, a professor, etc.) Mid 20s-40s to play Jenny’s father. Opinionated, stuck on himself and his own success, looks down on others until he’s struck poor by the Great Depression, forced to live with the doctor son-in-law he scoffed at earlier. None too proud of himself in the long run, or his daughter. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Company – Three more men to play many roles, students, professors, rich patients, roles (as is true of everything but Jr.) to be handed out at the Director’s discretion. All must act, sing well, move a bit, probably be in their 20s-40s.

SETS:

A bare stage. Get creative, present swaths of color for Act I that represents country life. Change the look to cooler, harder-edged city colors when Joe moves to the big city. Maybe some suggestive shapes can fill the horizon in each case – a church steeple, and a general store for the small town. Skyscrapers for the big city. These could be done with a gobo, too, rather than be “sets.”

You’ll probably want to place some steps or a step system on your stage, to give it levels to play on, and a “Greek amphitheater” feel. There are locations indicated in the script. But even in the script, Hammerstein says “there are no stage “sets” in the conventional sense, but backgrounds for action are achieved by small scenic pieces on a moving stage, by light projections, and by drops.” There you have it. I would not use drops, or even many small scenic pieces, if any. In fact, I’d consider using nothing but chairs, one for each actor in the cast, and perhaps each chair with its own unique look, appropriate for that actor’s character. Chairs become desks, tables, a car, what have you.

The three major locations are the home town, the college, and a large city. Provide each a very simple background motif, and that’s about it. Leave the rest to the Director. If he needs more, he’ll let you know. Produced as I’m suggesting, there is room for as much or as little creativity in sets as you can afford. Personally, I’d go the “less-is-more” route for this show.

Find ways to employ the masks as a part of the visual imagery of the set. An extraordinarily easy job, then.

COSTUMES:

1905-the mid-late 1930s. The small town look, college look, and big city look of the period is well known, oft photographed and easily researched.

That said, I would not costume the piece per character, or even much in period. Every actor except Jr. is going to play several roles, most likely, and be on stage the entire time. Just evoke the pre-Depression and Depression-era with basic costuming, perhaps white shirts and slacks, black shoes for men, usually dresses for women. (You may need to shop in thrift stores and raid closets for the dresses, and in a pinch, turn to a costume rental shop.) You’re actor should look comfortable.

You can add articles to indicate characters, and these might be hung (or dropped on wire) to the set. Doctors’ white overcoats, nurses’ hats, a wedding veil (perhaps attached already to a new mask for Jenny), furs for the rich and dress overcoats. Letterman jackets and such for college. Have fun suggesting these venues and personalities, without getting very literal. Don’t try to “costume” individual characters as they each come up, just suggest them with a single article. Some of these might by in and around or under the chairs on stage. Keep things as simple and in line with the approach as you can. A job for a somewhat experienced Costumer, but not very hard.

PROPS:

Likely to change from production to production. Again, I would not go literal, but I’d avoid “mime.” If the character needs to be looking at an old x-ray, give him something to actually hold and look at. If the characters need college paraphernalia like books, pom-poms, what have you, provide these and keep them in period. Work closely with your Director.

LIGHTING:

With the simple visual approach provided, must be creative, mood-enduing, and able to direct attention. I’d go a bit surreal with lighting, theatrical as opposed to presentational. You may wish to do the Brechtian thing and lower your grid so it’s somewhat visible to the audience, another reminder of the theatricality of the evening. Likely to be many cues, and even some “effects.” Lighting will truly need to help establish location and mood at almost every turn. No job for an inexperienced Lighting Designer. The more creative, the better.

MAKE-UP:

Well, they’ll be wearing masks except Jr., and he should not look made-up. Not much of a job.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Mask Designer, Lighting Designer, Joseph Taylor Jr., Chorus of actors

MY THOUGHTS:

This is my favorite R&H show, most days. Sometimes South Pacific or The King & I pull out in front, but in the long haul, Allegro is my personal favorite of theirs. And I think it is, by far, the R&H show with the most potential to grow in terms of public awareness.

Personally again, I would not even consider doing this show in a “traditional” manner. Hammerstein doesn’t ask you to, and the show never seems to have found the public it deserves that way. But the approach outlined above is very exciting as theater, and I’d love to direct it this way.

By the way, Stephen Sondheim, who was befriended as a young man by Oscar Hammerstein, served as a production assistant on the first Broadway production of Allegro, and claims Allegro was the first “really good” experimental musical on Broadway…to which I reply, “poppycock!” How about “The Cradle Will Rock”, just for a starter? That’s a pretty wonderfully “out-there” show. And by ’47, Kurt Weill had been working on Broadway for a while and had done “Johnny Johnson”, and then “Lady In The Dark” in 1941, surely either of them a more experimental, “really good” (and interesting) show than Allegro. But then, I find I disagree with much of Mr. Sondheim’s critique of Broadway shows and writers, while still admiring most of his own work enormously. There, did I cover my bases? I would agree with him about Allegro – that it’s a fine, experimental musical, waiting for the experiment.