Allegro (musical)

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Musical dates
Original title: Allegro
Original language: English
Music: Richard Rodgers
Book: Oscar Hammerstein II
Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
Roles / people

Singing roles:

  • Joe Taylor
  • Dr. Joseph Taylor
  • Charlie Townsend
  • Ned Brinker
  • Marjorie Taylor
  • Grandma Taylor
  • Jennie Brinker
  • Beulah
  • Emily West
  • Hazel Skinner
  • Millie
  • Dot
  • Addie

Speaking roles include:

  • Dr. Bigby Denby
  • Brook Lansdale
  • Mrs. Lansdale
  • Harry Buckley
  • Pastor
  • Molly
  • Miss Lipscomb
  • A football coach
  • Five lecturers

Ensemble group (with solos), dance ensemble, children, choir

Allegro is a musical by the author duo Rodgers and Hammerstein from 1947. It tells the life story of an American small-town doctor from birth to his mid-thirties using the means of epic theater .


I. act

The doctor Joseph Taylor lived with his mother and wife Marjorie in a small American town shortly after 1900. They are happy to see the birth of their son. Doctor Taylor, who has given birth to so many babies, jokes with his wife how the whole town gets into a festive frenzy with joy and praises the arrival of Joe Taylor Junior. The latter grows up like most other boys. You experience your childhood from your inner perspective: the first impulses of consciousness, learning to walk, the death of your grandmother and, above all, the encounters with Jennie Brinker, who was born on the same day as him. She is "the girlish kind of girl and always will be" and quickly becomes the person who fulfills all of Joe's thoughts and longings.

In college, which is all about football and flirting, Joe, who prefers to study and like his father and grandfather to be a doctor, remains an outsider. Joe's roommate Charlie also uses Joe to steal money, clean shirts, and lecture notes from him. However, over time, they become good friends. From Jennie's letters, Joe learns that her wealthy father, Ned, took her on a trip to Europe to find a good match for her. Distraught Joe travels to her and declares his love for her. In order not to have to wait many years before Joe becomes a doctor and earns enough money, Jennie wants him to get into Ned's coal and building materials business. Marjorie Taylor fears Jennie's materialism and craving for recognition, but she dies early and cannot prevent the misfortune that foresees her. Joe stays with medicine, but he marries Jennie before graduation.

II. Act

Ned has lost everything as a result of the stock market crash and now lives in modest circumstances with Joe and Jennie. After all, Joe has work as his father's assistant. He receives an offer from Charlie's uncle, Dr. Bigby Denby, whose favor he aroused as an intern and who runs a large clinic in Chicago as well as a fashionable private practice. Jennie is appalled that Joe would rather stay in his birthplace and turn down the chance for fortune and reputation. She uses all female tricks, not least the prospect of a baby. With a heavy heart and to the great sadness of his father, Joe gives in.

In the metropolis, Joe will soon be receiving private patients and influential personalities for cocktails in his apartment every afternoon. Jennie is in her element as an elegant hostess. Charlie, now also a doctor at Denby's clinic, always drinks too much and accompanies the event with cynical jokes. Joe is frustrated with the ailments of the rich and famous who want to be treated with cures and injections of vitamins. He finds a loyal soul in the courageous nurse Emily, but to her chagrin he overlooks the deeper feelings she has for him.

The good company is led by the soap millionaire Brook Lansdale, who as trustee also determines everything that goes on in Denby's clinic. At his instigation, a veteran nurse is fired because she has committed to 8-hour shifts. Lansdale wants to appoint Joe as head of the clinic, as Denby is slated for an even higher position. But at the ceremony, Joe, who has just learned of a relationship between Lansdale and Jennie, reconsidered and declines the appeal. Together with Emiliy and Charlie he returns to his father's hometown, where he feels connected to people and where his skills as a doctor are really needed.

Music numbers

I. act

  • "Overture"
  • "Opening: Joseph Taylor, Jr." - Taylor, Ensemble
  • "I Know It Can Happen Again" - Grandma Taylor
  • “Pudgy Legs” ensemble
  • "One Foot, Other Foot" ensemble
  • "Children's Dance - Grandmother's Death" - Grandma Taylor
  • "Winters Go By" ensemble
  • "Poor Joe" ensemble
  • “Diploma” ensemble
  • "A Fellow Needs A Girl" - Taylor, Marjorie
  • "Freshmen Get Together - Dream Sequence - Annabelle Solo"
  • "End of College Dance - A Darn Nice Campus" - Joe, Ensemble
  • "Wildcats" - Joe, Ensemble
  • "Jennie Reads Letter: A Darn Nice Campus (Reprise)" - Jennie
  • “Scene of Professors” ensemble
  • “So Far” - Beulah
  • "You Are Never Away" - Joe
  • "You Are Never Away (encore & aftermath)" - Joe, Ensemble
  • "Poor Joe (Reprise)" ensemble
  • "Marjorie's Death"
  • "What a Lovely Day For A Wedding" - Ned, Ensemble
  • "It May Be A Good Idea for Joe" - Charlie
  • "Finale I. Act" - Grandma Taylor, Ensemble

II. Act

  • "Between act music - Opening II. Act"
  • "Money Isn't Ev'rything" - Jennie, Hazel, Millie, Dot, Addie
  • "Money Isn't Ev'rything (dance)"
  • "Poor Joe (Reprise)" - Ensemble (men)
  • "You Are Never Away (Reprise)" - Joe
  • "A Fellow Needs A Girl (Reprise)" - Marjorie
  • "Ya-ta-ta" - Charlie, Ensemble
  • "The Gentleman Is A Dope" - Emily
  • "Allegro" - Charlie, Joe, Emily, Ensemble
  • "Allegro Ballet" - Charlie, Joe, Emily, Ensemble
  • "Come Home" - Taylor, Marjorie, Ensemble
  • "Finale Ultimo" - Joe, Emily, Charlie, Ensemble
  • "Bowing and closing music"

Orchestral line-up

1 flute (also plays piccolo), 1 oboe (also English horn), 2 clarinets in Bb, 1 bassoon, 3 horns, 3 trumpets in Bb, 2 trombones, 1 tuba, percussion (1 player), piano and strings (orig. 4 / 3/3/2/2)

Work shape

Librettist Oscar Hammerstein II pursued the goal of his life to show real characters in his pieces and to find new forms for entertaining music theater. For Allegro, for example, he did without a stage design in the traditional sense. The action takes place on a moving stage with only minimal decorations as well as projections and background brochures. The most striking design element is the use of an ensemble group based on the example of the choir in ancient Greek drama. Here, however, this choir does not just comment on the plot, but rather expresses the inner world of the main character, singing or speaking rhythmically. This is particularly true for the description of Joe's childhood: Here the choir turns directly to the audience and says what Joe thinks, for example: “A strange place. And those big-headed things won't help you ... Suddenly, crawling is no longer good enough for you. Well, there they stand and watch you. So go ahead! ”The figure of Joe himself is never visible; the other protagonists also allude to the audience when they mean Joe. The actor Joe does not appear in person until late in the first act: He is introduced in an original way at a dance evening in college, in which a persecutor only finds him out of the group of awkward young people after a few failed attempts.

All these means do not just want to present the material in an original way - the designation of the main character as "you", their identification with the audience and the form of the ancient drama give the event a cosmopolitan character and make Joe a prototypical figure. As a modern everyone he seeks real life but is seduced by money, fame and the confusions of the heart. In addition, Allegro also tells a piece of history through more than three decades of stock market crashes, trade union movements, scientific and technical progress and shows aspects of life in the USA: the roots of the national self-image in rural areas, the regulation of public life through private financing, the typical college career, the promise of prosperity and advancement for everyone, etc.

Telling a parable-like story using means such as an empty stage and choral commentary is what Allegro has in common with epic theater. Hammerstein's model was primarily Thornton Wilder's style-defining drama Our Town , which premiered a few years earlier and which also addresses life in a typically American small town over the course of time.

The musical conception is also innovative in Allegro , which is noticeable at first glance due to the large number of musical numbers. Just as the empty scene breaks through the theater of illusions, the music should also be 'deconstructed'. Although there are songs, ballets and purely instrumental numbers in Allegro, as before, the vocal parts in particular are sometimes short and episodic, do not assert themselves as independent units, are broken up, suddenly merge or break off. The main characters have less to sing than usual, and the two hittable numbers "So Far" and "The Gentleman Is A Dope" are assigned to secondary characters, namely Joe's college flirt Beulah and Emily, who was introduced late in the play. In the second act, the structure appears more conventional than in the first, with more 'classic' ensemble numbers and the receding choral commentary. This is in line with the fact that the superficial life in the big city is now depicted and Joe's inner voice is atrophied. One of these numbers gives the musical its title: "Allegro", the musical term for something moving and lively, becomes a symbol for the agitated, constantly revolving big city life.

The fact that its structure changes in the course of the piece is probably due to the lack of time in the creation. While Hammerstein had spent a whole year on the first act, the second had to be completed in a shorter time. All in all, Allegro appears to be an innovative forerunner of modern musicals with a higher musical content and stronger interlinking of action and music. In the joint work of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the musical is considered their most advanced. With the follow-up work South Pacific they returned to a scenic and musically more traditional form, albeit with an unusually modern and serious subject. The reason for this was probably the shared response to Allegro and the authors' strong will to succeed.


According to close confidants like Stephen Sondheim , Hammerstein reflected in Allegro on his own life experiences as an established Broadway author who had lost sight of his original convictions. He incorporated many memories into his account of Joe's youth, including the early death of his mother. As the son and brother of doctors, Rodgers also took a strong interest in the subject and, contrary to his custom, began composing before the libretto was finished. The original orchestrations are by Robert Russell Bennett , the dance numbers are arranged by Trude Rittmann. For the historical coloring of the college combo, the authors resorted to the song " Mountain Greenery " by Rodgers & Hart from the 1920s.

Hammerstein had thought of a piece that, like Wilder's Our Town, could later be adapted for college or amateur performances with a minimum of sets and many small roles . In the case of the professional premiere production on Broadway , its conception resulted in a comparatively large amount of effort, especially due to the constant movement and change of stage and light, and presented the direction with unusual challenges. For this purpose, the choreographer Agnes de Mille was won, who was already in Rodgers' and Hammerstein's predecessor works Oklahoma! and Carousel had created great dance numbers in which the psychology of the characters is revealed. Jo Mielziner was responsible for the stage design and lighting, and Lucinda Ballard for the costumes.

The rehearsals as well as the previews in New Haven and Boston were overshadowed by tension behind and mishaps on the stage. The Broadway premiere took place on October 10, 1947 at the Majestic Theater under the musical direction of Salvatore Dell'Isola, including John Battles as Joe and Lisa Kirk as Emily. The reviews ranged from enthusiasm to rejection; Hammerstein reflected on this contradicting reception in his later foreword to the libretto and declared that he had been misunderstood: He did not want to say that simple people are better than rich - rather, he wanted to show the destructive powers with which a person of integrity who is useful to the common good can see myself confronted. The Broadway series closed after the comparatively small number of 315 performances on July 10, 1948; then the production went on a US tour of 16 cities over 31 weeks.

In addition to the original recording from 1947, Allegro is available in a modern complete studio recording from 2009 on CD, with Audra McDonald and Nathan Gunn among others . While the musical experienced numerous productions in North America, the European premiere only took place in 2016 in London's Southwark Playhouse; in this production Joe was present on stage as a child by means of puppet shows. Allegro has never been performed in German-speaking countries .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ethan Mordden, Rodgers & Hammerstein , New York, NY 1992, p. 97
  2. Hugh Fordin, Getting to Know Him: A Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II , Jefferson, NC 1995, pp 254
  3. Thomas S. Hischak, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia , Westport, CT 2007, p 7
  4. Frederick Nolan, The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein , Cambridge, MA 1979, new edition 2002, p. 173
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid., P. 170
  7. ^ William G. Hyland, Richard Rodgers , New Haven, CT, p. 167
  8. Fordin, p 252
  9. ^ Carol Easton, No Intermissions: The Life of Agnes de Mille , Jefferson, NC 2000, p. 266
  10. Nolan, p. 172
  11. dated January 12, 1948, performance material (on loan), The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization
  13. Original label : RCA Victor; Re-released on CD in 1993 by Masterworks Broadway
  14. Label: Masterworks Broadway, No .: 88697-41738-2; Republished in 2012 in the collection box “Rodgers & Hammerstein - The Complete Broadway Musicals” by Masterworks Broadway (Sony), No. 88725-41696-2