Benanti, Butz, Callaway, Kuhn, McDonald, Wilson and More Featured on Allegro Recording

News   Benanti, Butz, Callaway, Kuhn, McDonald, Wilson and More Featured on Allegro Recording A starry cast — including Tony Award winners Laura Benanti, Norbert Leo Butz and Audra McDonald — has been assembled for the first complete recording of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Allegro, which features a 50-piece orchestra.
Nathan Gunn and Audra McDonald at the recording sessions for the first complete recording of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Allegro.
Nathan Gunn and Audra McDonald at the recording sessions for the first complete recording of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Allegro. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization confirmed to Playbill.com that principal orchestral and vocal work has been completed for the recording, which will be released on a date and label to be announced shortly.

The cast of the recording boasts Patrick Wilson (The Full Monty, Oklahoma!) as Joe Taylor, Jr.; Nathan Gunn (Camelot) and Audra McDonald (Ragtime, Carousel, Master Class) as Joe's parents; Marni Nixon (My Fair Lady, Nine) as Joe's Grandma; Judy Kuhn (Les Misérables, She Loves Me, Chess) as Beulah; Liz Callaway (Baby, Cats, Miss Saigon) as Emily; Laura Benanti (Gypsy, Into the Woods, Nine) as Jennie; and Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Wicked, Is He Dead?) as Joe's best friend, Charlie.

The Allegro ensemble features Judy Blazer, Maureen Brennan, Ashley Brown and Kathy Morath as well as a full chorus and a children's chorus. Vocal cameos are made by New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Schuyler Chapin; All Souls Church Reverend Dr. Galen Guengerich; and Allegro's original production assistant, Stephen Sondheim. In fact, Sondheim once referred to Allegro as "the first really good experimental show."

The orchestra, which recorded the original orchestrations penned by Robert Russell Bennett and Trude Rittmann's dance arrangements, was conducted by Larry Blank. Bruce Pomahac is musical director, and Ben Whiteley is the choral director (with choral arrangements by Crane Calder).

Among the songs that will be heard on the new recording are "A Fellow Needs a Girl" (Gunn, McDonald), "Come Home" (McDonald), "You Are Never Away" (Wilson), "The Gentleman is a Dope" (Callaway) and "So Far" (Kuhn). The 1947 musical Allegro was Rodgers and Hammerstein's fourth collaboration, following the Broadway musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel and the film "State Fair." Although it ran for a season, it was the first R&H musical to divide critics and be less than a blockbuster. The original cast included John Battles, Stephen Chase, William Ching, John Conte, Annamary Dickey, Lawrence Fletcher, Julie Humphries, Roberta Jonay and Harrison Muller, among others. Agnes de Mille directed and choreographed.

A recording of the 1947 Broadway production was made, although that original cast album only includes about 30 minutes worth of material. No other Allegro recording has been made until now.

The musical, according to press notes, "tells the story of an earnest country doctor, Joseph Taylor, following his life from cradle to adulthood, and his journey — both literal and moral — from small town to big city, and back again. The score is unconventional: fragments of song move in and out of the action like passing thoughts; melodies flit by in one scene only to take hold and blossom in the next. Major songs are given to minor characters, while the central character has comparatively little solo work.  A chorus provides spoken commentary and sings aloud inner thoughts. Original director/choreographer Agnes de Mille's extended ballet sequences are reflected in intriguing orchestral pieces."

In a statement Ted Chapin, president of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, said, "Along with the innovations of the original production, Allegro's score has its own innovative qualities, most of which are simply unknown. To do justice to the show that Rodgers & Hammerstein created, I have long wanted to capture the score in a way that explains to us all how the musical tapestry of Allegro was conceived. It is almost through-composed, using elements of songs in fascinating, dramatic ways – which has led people to assume incorrectly that it is a lesser work. After all, Allegro comes chronologically between Carousel and South Pacific, so it's not as if Rodgers & Hammerstein had lost their talent. My hope is that this recording will introduce this extraordinary work to musical theatre lovers in the best way possible – and I am thrilled that we have been able to attract such a stellar group of artists to join us.

"It has taken more than 60 years to give the score of Allegro the full attention it deserved. We've taken a lot of care to make it sound as close as possible to the way Messrs. Rodgers and Hammerstein created it over 60 years ago."

The Allegro recording is produced by David Lai and Bruce Pomahac. Ted Chapin is executive producer. For more information visit www.rnh.com.