Over the weekend I was listening to Spotify and I heard a musical I’d never heard before by Rogers and Hammerstein II, as you can tell by this post title it was Allegro. Allegro was the third collaboration between Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It seems like from what I’ve read Rogers and Hammerstein, who had already changed musicals forever with Oklahoma wanted to change it again with Allegro, unfortunately that did not happen. Yes, there will be spoilers to follow, but it is unlikely that many of you have seen Allegro before.
Allegro sounds like an interesting show as it follows a man as he grows up Act 1 covers birth to college and end with his marriage to his girl back home, Act 2 is his adulthood with takes place in the Depression until age 35. It has a bit of a feel of Our Town with a Greek Chorus who pops up here and there and the stage was empty, with props and projections helping indicate setting. The story is simple a guy Joseph Taylor Jr. wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a doctor in his home town but when the Depression hit Joseph and his new wife, his long time sweetheart, are experiencing poverty for the first time in their lives. So Joe is persuaded to go to the big city and earn some money to build a hospital in town, his father’s wish, and have enough money to raise some children. However when he gets to Chicago he realizes that this is not the job he really wanted as he is dealing with hypochondriacs and attending cocktail parties. Joe is offered the job of physician-in-chief of the hospital and Joe finally has a revelation if what to do and he refuses the position and return to home with a nurse who admires him from Chicago and his friend from college.
I read about the musical online and found that Stephen Sondheim indicated that it was a metaphor for what happened to R&H who after Oklahoma and Carousel were in demand all over the place. In Frederick Nolan’s book about the pair’s music he says “Reexamined today, Allegro‘s main fault seems to have been that it was ahead of its time, the integration of story and music far too advanced even for audiences now becoming accustomed to musicals which actually had stories.” This is the most experimental musical that R&H did as they were afraid to alienate their audience. However we must be thankful for Allegro as without it we might not have had the Pulitzer Prize winning musical South Pacific.
Allegro is one of the handful of lesser known musicals by Rogers and Hammerstein along with Pipe Dream and Me and Juliet. It would be really cool if these musicals got a second chance on stage, as I for one would love to go see all three of them.