Larry Blank conducts the 50-piece Istropolis Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2009 all-star recording of Allegro, which marks the first complete recording of the musical that played a short run at the Majestic Theatre in 1947. The experimental musical, which followed the wildly successful works Oklahoma! and Carousel, was the first flop for Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Produced by David Lai, Bruce Pomahac and Ted Chapin for Sony Masterworks Broadway, the two-disc, 44-track studio recording boasts the original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and dance arrangements by Trude Rittmann.
Allegro features 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 original Broadway Follies veterans Harvey Evans and Kurt Peterson, as well as Ray DeMattis; New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Schuyler Chapin; All Souls Church Reverend Dr. Galen Guengerich; Lincoln Center Theater executive producer Bernard Gersten; theatre critics Howard Kissel and John Simon; and Allegro's original production assistant, Stephen Sondheim.
Allegro, 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."
The Allegro score includes "So Far," "The Gentleman Is A Dope," "I Know It Can Happen Again," "Come Home," "You Are Never Away," "Winters Go By," "Poor Joe" and the title song.
For further information visit Allegro.