Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rodgers-Hammerstein Tale Gets Twist

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rodgers-Hammerstein Tale Gets Twist

Article excerpt

After the great successes of "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel," and before "South Pacific," Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote "Allegro."

Presented on an almost-bare stage, with a "Greek" chorus and snatches of songs woven into the dialogue, the musical was the most boundary-pushing show they would ever create.

There was some sentiment that it was a great achievement, but most people were sorely disappointed by the unexpected production, and the 1947 show is rarely disinterred.

The Classic Stage Company is, however, presenting a revival. It's not just a revival, though. It's a revival-staged-by-John Doyle, which is something entirely different.

The Scottish director comes at shows differently than anyone else, and the result here is a musically fascinating production of great grace and charm.

Hammerstein's story is similar in feeling to Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" -- a kind of ode to the homely virtues of small-town Americans, with characters set forth as representative figures rather than distinctive individuals.

The story is simple, verging on simplistic.

Joseph Taylor Sr. (Malcolm Gets in the revival) is a dedicated physician, compassionately treating the residents of his small town.

His son, Joseph Jr. (Claybourne Elder), becomes a doctor, as well, responding to the same call to heal as his father.

Despite the misgivings of his mother (Jessica Tyler Wright), Joe Jr. marries his high school sweetheart (Elizabeth A. Davis), a spoiled rich girl who wants him to make lots of money. She persuades him to leave his father's practice and take a post at a big, prestigious Chicago hospital.

Change is in presentation

After a few years, Joe Jr. realizes his mistake, understands he doesn't want to spend his life treating rich hypochondriacs and moves back home to rejoin his father and to do good.

The original, despite its physical spareness, was a very big production, with an enormous cast, including a dancing chorus as well as the speaking one. …

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