Rodgers and Hammerstein are the most successful partnership in Musical Theatre. Writing such iconic shows as Oklahoma, Carousel and South Pacific. In fact Allegro was their third creation after Oklahoma and Carousel and is said to be the most personal to their lives. An epically proportioned production the original cast was more than two hundred strong. So why haven’t many Rodgers and Hammerstein aficionados heard about it and why has this never been performed in the UK? Is this forgotten musical best placed as just that or have we been missing an absolute gem?
The definition of Allegro is “brisk or rapid tempo” and this musical is indeed a whistle-stop tour of someone’s early life. Joseph Taylor Jnr (Gary Tushaw) is born into a loving family. His father (Steve Watts) is a village doctor and it is immediately assumed that Joseph Jnr will follow in his footsteps. Watched on by his doting mother Marjorie, (Julie J Nagle) and Grandma (Susan Travers) we see Jnr do just that as he attends college, university and med school. Of course along the way we witness the usual distractions like girls, money and wayward flat mates.
The cast in this production, it has to be said are a collection of some of our finest musical theatre actors currently gracing the professional stage. Expertly directed, as always, by Thom Southerland this imaginative use of space and adaptation is an absolute joy to watch from opening to closing numbers.
Gary Tushaw takes the pivotal role and gives a brilliant performance, managing to give you the feeling that you are joining him on his journey through life. Encouraging our leading man to stray from his wholesome village doctor life to the charms of the big city and ultimate wealth of private practice is Emily Bull as wife Jennie. Her verve for life and determination to succeed is apparent throughout and you can’t help but feel her struggle even if it is misguided at times. Susan Travers as grandma is the epitome of a family matriarch and her illustrious career of performance experience is more than evident. Cad Charlie Townsend is played by Dylan Turner, a cheeky and fun role played to the hilt by Turner who as always is a charismatic dream to watch.
Other noteworthy mentions go to Julie J Nagle (mother Marjorie) present at all the key moments in Jnr’s life, her lead in “Come Home” was both poignant and beautiful. Both fathers, Steve Watts (Dr Taylor Snr) David Delve (Jennie’s father), Katie Bernstein as Emily who sung the title song along with Turner, Tushaw and ensemble with verve, Leah West and Cassandra McCowan.
However I could have equally name checked every single person in this sixteen strong cast. The ensemble numbers were absolutely delightful, the harmonies heavenly (under the superb Musical Direction of Dean Austin) and choreography by Lee Proud, innovative, interesting and perfectly executed. The musical numbers in this production may not be well-known but they are exquisite none the less
So returning to my original question should this show have remained forgotten or is the absolute gem that we’ve been waiting for? For me it is definitely the latter of these statements. The plot is not the most intricate or engaging, more an observational piece on generational differences. However it is the quintessentially Rodgers and Hammerstein score that is absolutely sublime. This show is full of life, hope, and is a joyously well performed production.
It is a travesty that we haven’t been able to see this professionally performed before now and I salute the creative team whom have resurrected this sensational show. Like the definition of the title Allegro is going to be over all to soon. I’d encourage you to make haste and visit Southwark Playhouse before it’s too late.
Allegro – Southwark Playhouse until 10th September
presents the profesional
European première of
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Presented by special arrangement with
R&H Theatricals Europe
77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD
Friday 5 August –
Saturday 10 September
Times: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm Tuesday & Saturday matinee
Ticket prices: £25.00
(Monday-Wednesday evenings and Tuesday and Saturday matinees)