Review by Taffy Jaffe
21 November 2014
One definition of art is: work produced by human creative skill – to be appreciated primarily for its beauty. One definition of talent is: a special natural ability to do something well. What do you call a production that does everything well? What do you call performers who not only sing and act well but play several instruments at the same time... super talented. Here are twelve performers with extensive theater credits. Where else can they employ all these abilities at once... very few places.
The original Allegro production in 1947 had a cast of 78 and an orchestra of 35. John Doyle directed and designed this revival with no orchestra and only twelve performers. A Doyle signature is to have his actors play instruments on stage. He did it in “Company” and “Sweeney Todd”. I saw the original “Company” and Doyle’s revival. I thought his version enhanced the material, as if the instruments were additional characters. I know everyone doesn’t agree. Some people feel the original should not be tampered with, but I feel Doyle has created a new form.
It is said that Rodgers and Hammerstein created a new form in their first two collaborations; “Oklahoma” and “Carousel” by combining music, dancing and drama. So there was high expectation for their third work “Allegro” where Hammerstein also wrote the book. It was a flop and rarely revived. I can’t imagine the original staging with all those players. Here is a bare stage with audience on three sides. The characters move in an exciting variety of kaleidoscopic designs. As in “Our Town” where there’s a narrator talking to the audicence, here members of the company explain, predict, and give their opinions to us. The lighting design works hand in hand with Doyle’s scenic design to enhance the moods created. The costumes were true to the 1940’s. I wonder where the designer found those incredible two tone ladies shoes.
As for the story, we follow a man from birth to mid life. He is a doctor who eventually faces a crises. The message seems to be “follow your heart” and all will be well. Wonderful sentiment but easier said than done. As for the cast, thanks to all for a treat for my senses.
"John Doyle’s newly glowing interpretation of the lackluster 1947 musical."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"This rare new revival directed by John Doyle doesn’t quite make a case for 'Allegro' as a lost masterpiece, but it’s often hauntingly beautiful. Watching it feels like being in a sepia bubble."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"The Scottish director (Doyle) comes at shows differently than anyone else, and the result here is a musically fascinating production of great grace and charm."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"The show is a must-see for R&H fans and otherwise is a charming curio from the Golden Age of Broadway musicals."
Michael Sommers for New Jersey Newsroom
"Musical theater aficionados, of course, will want to catch this production of the rarely seen work, although its truncated 90-minute running time indicates serious cutting. But much like its original incarnation, this Allegro can only be judged as a noble failure."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
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