Tom’s Perspective on Allegro
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

Tom’s Perspective on Allegro

After our successful fall run of The Cottage, APAC is now looking ahead to our Spring Mainstage, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro.  As a musical which hasn’t had a full production in New York City since it’s Broadway run in 1947, it might not be the most well known musical, definitely not the best known of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s. Tom wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to a little of its history and explain how he fell in love with it.  

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I’ve been working in musical theater for most of my life…first as an actor in middle and high school, and later as a director when I moved to New York City for college. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve “geeked out” on the art form, listening to cast recordings and devouring the history.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro was one of those musicals where I could tell you all of the reasons it was important to the history of the genre (the first concept musical! the first director/choreographer! the first female director! the first fluid staging, sans in-one scenes! the experimental use of a Greek chorus! the influence on Stephen Sondheim and his later work!), but I admit that I never really got to know the show itself.

2008 Studio Recording

2008 Studio Recording

When I took over as Artistic Director of APAC in 2008, I started reading and re-reading tons of musicals, as I was now tasked with the job of programming APAC’s annual season. Around that time The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization produced a beautiful studio recording of the full score to Allegro. The first time I read and listened to it I bawled at the end—there are moments in this show that are as moving as the best stuff the legendary team ever wrote. There were also parts of the script that perplexed me enough that, although I kept it on my short list for APAC, I would pass it over every year when it came time to pick our next musical.

Last summer, my friend and mentor Pat Hoag Simon (also APAC Advisory Board Member) convinced me that I should give it another look. She also introduced me to Bruce Pomahac, Director of Music at The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Bruce has been a champion of my ideas for the production and an endless fountain of insight and knowledge into the material. Bruce later introduced me to R&H President Ted Chapin, who was equally as supportive. When my trusted collaborators Christine O’Grady (choreographer) and Julianne Merrill (musical director) met the project with the same enthusiasm, I knew it was the right choice for APAC.

Original Cast

Original Cast

Popularly considered the first “concept” musical (one in which the overall themes are more important than the plot), it can be difficult to describe Allegro to someone. In a nutshell, the story follows a small-town boy who studies to be a country doctor like his father. Circumstances lead him down a career path far from his original intention, resulting in an existential crisis. The thing I find so affecting about the story is how Rodgers and Hammerstein choose to take us through it. It’s the telling of this tale that gives it its power—the book, music and lyrics, and hopefully our staging. The more I dig into it, the more I realize it’s a treasure trove of theatrical possibilities and one I’m positive APAC audiences will respond to.

The truth is, maybe I just wasn’t ready to direct Allegro when I first read it.

I think I’m ready now.

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