Rodgers & Hammerstein's Allegro - First Complete Recording

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Written between two of Rodgers and Hammerstein's biggest hits, "Carousel" and "South Pacific," "Allegro" is one of their least-often performed collaborations; its original 1947 Broadway production was a financial failure, and critical and public opinion was decidedly mixed. Part of the problem must have been its stark departure from the dramatic realism of their earlier work; with its use of a Greek chorus, nearly continuous music even under the spoken dialogue, minimal set, and innovative cinematic cross-cutting between scenes, it was a show ahead of its time. Stephen Sondheim, who was a production assistant for the Broadway run, has written that "Allegro" was "the ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Written between two of Rodgers and Hammerstein's biggest hits, "Carousel" and "South Pacific," "Allegro" is one of their least-often performed collaborations; its original 1947 Broadway production was a financial failure, and critical and public opinion was decidedly mixed. Part of the problem must have been its stark departure from the dramatic realism of their earlier work; with its use of a Greek chorus, nearly continuous music even under the spoken dialogue, minimal set, and innovative cinematic cross-cutting between scenes, it was a show ahead of its time. Stephen Sondheim, who was a production assistant for the Broadway run, has written that "Allegro" was "the first really good experimental show." Another issue is its lack of dramatic focus; the diversity of critical opinion about what exactly it was supposed to be about indicates that the authors in fact were not effective in communicating their vision with any clarity. The second act in particular rushes over a number of fairly complicated plot points without much elucidation. Although the music is inventive and always dramatically apt, the fact that there are no truly memorable, show-stopping tunes also probably contributes to its continued obscurity. It's an intriguing show, though, particularly when viewed as a predecessor of the conceptual musicals of the 1970s and 1980s.

The producers pulled out all the stops for this studio cast recording, the first complete recording of the show, which includes 100 minutes of music. It features veterans Nathan Gunn, Audra McDonald, and Patrick Wilson, and populates the smaller roles with an astonishing array of luminaries, including Marni Nixon, Schuyler Chapin, and Stephen Sondheim (as well as a recording of Hammerstein himself). "Allegro" is absolutely an ensemble piece rather than a star vehicle; the spirited cast, including a very fine chorus of adults and children, works together beautifully, and makes a strong case for the musical. This lovingly produced version of a fascinating footnote in American theater should be of interest to any fans of musical theater.
All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
Between 1943 and 1951, Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote five Broadway musicals, four of which -- Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I -- became huge hits with long runs, million-selling cast albums, movie adaptations with million-selling soundtrack albums, and frequent revivals. The fifth show, which curiously came right in the middle, was Allegro 1947, a flop that was nearly forgotten, preserved only on a 33-minute cast album. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, which administers the songwriters' properties, has an obvious interest in promoting their works, and it is behind this years-in-the-making all-star two-CD studio cast album of Allegro, billed as the "first complete recording." Ted Chapin, president and executive director of the organization, served as a co-producer and annotator on a project that had no deadline, but apparently did have certain budget constraints. The producers first went to Eastern Europe where it's cheaper to hire musicians to have the Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra record the instrumental score, then, over a period of two years, waited out the schedules of a dream cast of Tony Award-winning actors and actresses to overdub their parts one by one. That's a far cry from the single day usually mandated by Actors Equity for the cast of Broadway musical to get together in a recording studio and make a cast album. Allegro, remembered as Rodgers & Hammerstein's most experimental work, has a plot so simple and familiar as to be mundane. Running from 1905 to 1940, it follows the life of a country doctor, Joseph Taylor, Jr. Patrick Wilson, from birth to middle age, as he marries, leaves his small town for a big city and, after becoming disillusioned, leaves his ambitious, unfaithful wife and returns home. Oscar Hammerstein II, whose original libretto was not based on any earlier source, had told similar kinds of stories in such musicals as Show Boat and Music in the Air. His intention, imperfectly expressed, was not simply to illustrate the old adage that power corrupts, but to point out that the trappings of success can distract a person from the work that produced the success in the first place. It's a subtle and hardly universal problem, and it's easy to see how Hammerstein's point might have been missed, especially because the form of Allegro was so unusual. The innovative staging aspects are not apparent on any recording, but the score is also out of the ordinary, relying heavily on choral parts to tell the story, with the main character given relatively little to do the major singing parts go to the doctor's mother, played by Audra McDonald, his grandmother, played by Marni Nixon, and his wife, played by Laura Benanti and some of the major songs given to minor characters notably the one song that successfully emerged from the score, "The Gentleman Is a Dope," sung by Liz Callaway, and "So Far," later interpolated into the 1995 stage version of the 1945 movie musical State Fair, sung by Judy Kuhn. In his liner notes, Chapin says that he wanted "to see if we could experience Allegro in a form that would show what it was, so we could judge for ourselves...whether it deserves attention." That intention is satisfied by the recording, which may give the score its best possible reading. Certainly, McDonald, in such songs as "A Fellow Needs a Girl" and "Come Home," and Wilson, singing "You Are Never Away," provoke a reconsideration of a score that has obvious echoes of its immediate predecessors, Carousel and State Fair. It also recalls some of Rodgers' work with his previous collaborator, Lorenz Hart, not only because of the interpolation of their song "Mountain Greenery" in a 1920s dance sequence, but also because of the similarity of the title song to "Johnny One-Note." But Allegro's music often sounds like retreads of those predecessors, and the heavy use of the chorus makes the story self-consciously literary; its failure as a theatrical work doesn't seem surprising, given that it often comes off less as a musical theater work than as a 100-minute cantata. So, this studio cast recording doesn't seem likely to breed a rash of regional productions or a Broadway revival. But it does bring back, for fans of musicals, some worthy music by one of Broadway's greatest songwriting teams, most of it barely heard in the 60 years since the original production closed. To voice the many brief spoken parts, the producers have done some surprising stunt casting, including the theater critics John Simon and Howard Kissel; Hammerstein's protégé Stephen Sondheim, who, as a teenager, was an assistant on the 1947 production; and even Hammerstein himself, by way of a Dictaphone recording.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/3/2009
  • Label: Masterworks
  • UPC: 886974173823
  • Catalog Number: 741738
  • Sales rank: 6,131

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Act 1. Overture - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (5:23)
  2. 2 Act 1. Opening (Joseph Taylor, Jr.) - Ray DeMattis (3:56)
  3. 3 Act 1. I Know It Can Happen Again - Marni Nixon (1:27)
  4. 4 Act 1. Pudgy Legs (0:15)
  5. 5 Act 1. Dialogue / One Foot, Other Foot - Audra McDonald (0:40)
  6. 6 Act 1. One Foot, Other Foot (3:07)
  7. 7 Act 1. Children's Dance (5:38)
  8. 8 Act 1. Grandmother's Death - Nathan Gunn (1:10)
  9. 9 Act 1. Winters Go By - Marni Nixon (0:51)
  10. 10 Act 1. Dialogue / Poor Joe - Laura Benanti (0:13)
  11. 11 Act 1. Poor Joe - Laura Benanti (0:14)
  12. 12 Act 1. Diploma (0:38)
  13. 13 Act 1. A Fellow Needs A Girl - Nathan Gunn (3:21)
  14. 14 Act 1. Freshman Get Together (with "Mountain Greenery") - Patrick Wilson (0:55)
  15. 15 Act 1. Freshman Get Together (with "Mountain Greenery"). Dream Sequence - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (1:10)
  16. 16 Act 1. Freshman Get Together (with "Mountain Greenery"). Pas de Deux - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (2:12)
  17. 17 Act 1. Freshman Get Together (with "Mountain Greenery"). End Of College - Erin Rech (2:53)
  18. 18 Act 1. Wildcats (0:42)
  19. 19 Act 1. Jennie Reads Letter - Laura Benanti (0:41)
  20. 20 Act 1. Scene of Professors - Charlie Scatamacchia (4:29)
  21. 21 Act 1. So Far - Judy Kuhn (3:08)
  22. 22 Act 1. You Are Never Away - Patrick Wilson (1:45)
  23. 23 Act 1. You Are Never Away (Encore) - Patrick Wilson (1:52)
  24. 24 Act 1. Dialogue / Poor Joe (Reprise) - Laura Benanti (0:25)
  25. 25 Act 1. Poor Joe (Reprise) (0:29)
  26. 26 Act 1. Marjories's Death - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (1:30)
  27. 27 Act 1. What A Lovely Day For A Wedding! - Norbert Leo Butz (2:10)
  28. 28 Act 1. It May Be A Good Idea - Norbert Leo Butz (0:54)
  29. 29 Act 1. Finale - Galen Guengerich (5:57)
Disc 2
  1. 1 Act 2. Entr'acte - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (3:00)
  2. 2 Act 2. Opening - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (0:48)
  3. 3 Act 2. Money Isn't Everything - Ashley Brown (3:41)
  4. 4 Act 2. Dance (Money Isn't Everything) - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (3:07)
  5. 5 Act 2. Dialogue / Poor Joe (Reprise) - Laura Benanti (0:50)
  6. 6 Act 2. Poor Joe (Reprise) (0:13)
  7. 7 Act 2. Dialogue / You Are Never Away (Reprise) - Laura Benanti (1:30)
  8. 8 Act 2. A Fellow Needs A Girl (Reprise) - Nathan Gunn (0:56)
  9. 9 Act 2. Yatata - George Osborne (3:56)
  10. 10 Act 2. The Gentleman is a Dope - Liz Callaway (2:54)
  11. 11 Act 2. Dialogue / Allegro - Norbert Leo Butz (0:10)
  12. 12 Act 2. Allegro - Norbert Leo Butz (3:09)
  13. 13 Act 2. Allegro Ballet - Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra (4:55)
  14. 14 Act 2. Come Home - Nathan Gunn (3:28)
  15. 15 Act 2. Finale Ultimo - Norbert Leo Butz (4:24)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Rodgers & Hammerstein Primary Artist
Larry Blank Conductor
Marni Nixon Vocals,
Katie Geissinger Vocals
Gregory Purnhagen Vocals
Patrick Wilson Vocals,
Liz Callaway Vocals,
Craig Montgomery Vocals
Judy Kuhn Vocals,
Harvey Evans Vocals,
Nedra Neal Vocals
Maureen Brennan Vocals
Bernard Gersten
Howard Kissel
Anthony Piccolo Children's Choirmaster
Bruce Pomahac Musical Direction
Audra McDonald Vocals,
Tim Matson
Danny Egan Vocals
Michael McCoy Vocals
Laura Benanti Vocals,
Nathan Gunn Vocals
Sarah Pillow Vocals
Danny Burstein Vocals,
Adam Alexander Vocals
Kurt Peterson
Viktor Simcisko Concert Master
Norbert Leo Butz Vocals
Rob Shapiro
Judith Blazer Vocals
Schuyler G. Chapin
Ray DeMattis
Gregory Davidson Vocals
Technical Credits
Richard Rodgers Composer
Oscar Hammerstein II Lyricist, Book
Stephen Sondheim Liner Notes
Robert Russell Bennett Orchestration
Scott Lehrer Engineer
Kirk Yano Engineer
Bert Fink Liner Notes
Václav Frkal Engineer
Bruce Pomahac Producer, Synopsis
W. Eugene Smith Cover Photo
Trude Rittman Arranger, Dance Arrangement
David Lai Producer, Mastering
Isaiah Abolin Engineer
Martin Roller Engineer
Elizabeth A. Wright Product Development
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A REVELATION AND LONG OVERDUE

    Flop is not a word usually associated with Rodgers and Hammerstein, but for this show, it applied. Coming after Carousel and before South Pacific, Allegro just didn't live up to its expectations, and until the release of this recording, it couldn't. The Original Cast Album, released by RCA, is a major disappointment. RCA simply didn't have the finesse that Columbia did in recording Broadway cast albums, and Allegro highlights all the flaws. The songs included on the original release are flat and truncated, and even though the show did have some hits (think the charming ballad, So Far, and the wonderful novelty number, The Gentleman Is a Dope), their appeal is completely lacking in the original recording, and the other eight pieces included on that compilation are entirely forgettable.

    This new release, however, supervised by the R&H organization, is an eye-opener, and brings Allegro, warts and all, to a new public. This time, there are very few warts. The cast for this release includes the sublime Audra MacDonald, and that by itself should be enough to commend it. Beyond the cast, offering the complete score brings out the sheer beauty of the piece. All the hallmarks of a Richard Rodgers score, flowing melodies, eminently singable lines, and lush-and-lovely waltzes are all here. Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics are brimming with intelligence, wit, and heart, and are masterfully paired with Rodgers' music. But Allegro simply tried too hard and asked too much from a post-war audience to find the mass appeal of Oklahoma! or, surprisingly, Carousel.

    Unlike those shows, Allegro was original material, set in the present. And perhaps, it was too insightful for its own good. Particularly in the second act, Allegro highlighted some of the issues of its day that are even more disconcerting now. Patients suffering from angst and anxiety, visiting a physician, and demanding the newest pill to pop, may have offended an audience just beginning to live a life that imitated the art they were seeing on stage. But in the 1960's, the Rolling Stones gave us "Mother's Little Helper," and TV today peddles every pill known to science. Who would have guessed that R&H were so far ahead of their time? And who would have guessed that Allegro would finally come into its own?

    The extras included with this recording are every bit as good as the score. The essays are honest and straightforward and bring a sense of completion to the show. Full lyrics and some candid photographs are also included in this excellent release. It may take a little time and study for you to fully appreciate the genuine pleasures of this long ignored musical, but the effort is worth your investment. Perhaps a revival will soon be in the works, but in the meantime, this much is certain: Allegro is a flop no more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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