How Do You Approach a Show Like Allegro?

No, seriously…I’m asking. 

I’m not all that enamored by the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection - sacrilege, I know - but it is pretty understandable why this show in particular is never revived (and not just because it was a notorious flop). Even with John Doyle condensing the run-time and doing an entire production overhaul, Allegro - playing at Classic Stage Company - is one hodgepodge of a story that, we are told, was an extremely personal account for its creators.

To be fair, it can be quite pleasant in some parts. But that’s mostly because it is easy to go along with any production where the music is quaint and lovely (seriously, Richard Rodgers knew what he was doing here) and the ensemble comes to play. And I mean the latter quite literally. Every time I did a double-take, each cast member pulled out an additional instrument to jam out on without skipping a beat. I couldn’t even keep track of who was playing what and when; the ensemble was not fucking around in that regard!

But the story, you guys…the story. What is that? I know the themes of being true to yourself and maintaining the principals instilled in you when you are young have their worth (and are practically a staple in musicals of that era), but Joseph Taylor’s journey could not be more un-engaging. Not a single blip of tension as to whether or not he will marry Jennie or his “should I stay or should I go” dilemma (regarding moving to Chicago to pursue a better-paying doctor’s position or to stay out in the suburbs as an assistant at his father’s struggling practice). The stakes are consistently low, the characters are paper-thin and the dialogue and the lyrics don’t amount to much…there is a point to all of this and while Doyle’s production puts forth a sizable effort, Allegro is a nice to watch, but impossible to really get immersed with.

And I know Doyle already had re-envisioned a lot of this show, but I believe there was one more change to be made. At the beginning of the show, Joseph is born and by the end, he’s in his mid-thirties. One actor - Claybourne Elder, in this instance - plays him from start to finish. Here’s a thought…how about an actual child plays Baby Joe as opposed to having the Basketball player-sized Elder crawl around on stage like a baby/toddler/manboy? Awkward. Seriously.

I really want to see another revised production of Allegro. No really; this is, like, one of only a few musicals by R&H that (1) aren’t runaway successes (i.e Pipe Dream and Me and Juliet) (2) aren’t produced 15 times a year and (3) don’t pull from that awful R&H trope of “here’s a topical issue that we’re gonna reduce to some trivial affection because fuck it” approach. Allegro has a fine concept and potential…when the cast is singing and dancing and playing their instruments, the show is on the right track. But everything else about this production needs the vaudeville hook and to correct itself at once.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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