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Stephen Sondheim’s Thoughts on ALLEGRO

 

The 1994 Encores! production of Allegro—back when the cast lugged scripts and wore their own cocktail dresses.

 

A stripped-down revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s experimental 1947 musical Allegro is currently playing at Classic Stage Company. It marks the first time the show has been seen in New York since a 1994 Encores! production that starred Stephen Bogardus, Karen Ziemba, Christine Ebersole, and Celeste Holm. On that revival's opening night—March 2, 1994—Stephen Sondheim spoke about the show’s formal innovations and his memories of working on the original Allegro (he was a gofer). Here are his remarks:

"Allegro was a seminal experience in my theatrical life, and luckily it coincided—rehearsals and out-of-town tryouts—with my summer vacation from college. Oscar said, “How would you like to work on it?” and for twenty-five dollars a week that’s what I did. I typed the script and got coffee. I listened to Agnes de Mille maltreat singers, and I watched the growth of this quite remarkable show. I might not be quite so attracted to experimental musicals if I hadn’t gotten my feet wet with Allegro.

It was, I believe, the first commercial attempt to tell an epic story in popular music terms—to tell an entire man’s life, not from birth to death but from birth to regeneration. It’s about a fellow who loses his way. It occurred to Oscar to use a Greek chorus as a Broadway chorus, not only to comment on the action but to explore the inner thoughts of the main characters."

Read more about Stephen Sondheim's history with Rodgers & Hammerstein's Allegro on the NEW YORK CITY CENTER blog, THE CENTER.

 
The wedding scene from the Encores! production of Allegro.

 

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