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|Rodgers & Hammerstein||Primary Artist|
|Anthony Piccolo||Children's Choirmaster|
|Bruce Pomahac||Musical Direction|
|Viktor Simcisko||Concert Master|
|Norbert Leo Butz||Vocals|
|Schuyler G. Chapin|
|Oscar Hammerstein II||Lyricist, Book|
|Stephen Sondheim||Liner Notes|
|Robert Russell Bennett||Orchestration|
|Bert Fink||Liner Notes|
|Bruce Pomahac||Producer, Synopsis|
|W. Eugene Smith||Cover Photo|
|Trude Rittman||Arranger, Dance Arrangement|
|David Lai||Producer, Mastering|
|Elizabeth A. Wright||Product Development|
Posted October 1, 2010
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.
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Posted May 5, 2009
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