Photo by Matthew Murphy

Photo by Matthew Murphy

One definition of art is: work produced by human creative skill – to be appreciated primarily for its beauty.  One definition of talent is: a  special natural ability to do something well.  What do you call a production that does everything well?  What do you call performers who not only sing and act well but play several instruments at the same time….super talented.  Here are twelve performers with extensive theater credits.  Where else can they employ all these abilities at once…very few places.

The original Allegro production in 1947 had a cast of 78 and an orchestra of 35.  John Doyle directed and designed this revival with no orchestra and only twelve performers.  A Doyle signature is to have his actors play instruments on stage.  He did it in “Company” and “Sweeney Todd”.  I saw the original “Company” and Doyle’s revival.  I thought his version enhanced the material,  as if the instruments were  additional characters.  I know everyone doesn’t agree.   Some people feel the original should not be tampered with, but  I feel Doyle has created a new form.

It is said that Rodgers and Hammerstein created a new form in their first two collaborations ; “Oklahoma” and “Carousel” by combining music, dancing and drama.  So there was high expectation for their third work “Allegro” where Hammerstein also wrote the book.  It was a flop and rarely revived.  I can’t imagine the original staging with all those players.  Here is a bare stage with audience on three sides.  The characters move in an exciting variety of kaleidoscopic designs.  As in “Our Town” where there’s a narrator talking to the audicence,  here members of the company explain, predict, and give their opinions to us.  The lighting design works hand in hand with Doyle’s  scenic design  to enhance the moods created.  The costumes were true to the 1940’s.  I wonder where the designer  found those incredible two tone ladies shoes.

As for the story, we follow a man from birth to mid  life.  He is a doctor who eventually  faces a crises.  The message seems to be “follow your heart” and all will be well.  Wonderful sentiment but easier said than done.  As for the cast thanks to all for a treat for my senses.

(P.S. Sotto Voce.  I sat in back of a known nastyish critic.  No names, not Ben Brantley.  It was an afternoon performance and he kept nodding off.  Looked more like the day after the night before than boredom.  Caution:  Don’t believe everything you read.)

Allegro-Music Richard Rodgers, Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Directed and Designed by John Doyle

With: George Abud (Charlie Townsend), Alma Cuervo (Grandma Taylor), Elizabeth A. Davis (Jenny Brinker),  Claybourschne Elder (Joseph Taylor, Jr.), Malcolm Gets (Joseph Taylor, Sr.),Maggie Lakis (Hazel), Meegan Loomis (roBeulah), Paul Lincoln (Brook Lansdale), Jane Pfitsch (Emily), Randy Redd (Dr. Bigby Denby), Ed Romanoff (Ned Brinker) and Jessica Tyler Wright (Marjorie Taylor)

Musical Direction & Orchestrations by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, costume design by Ann Hould Ward, lighting design by Jane Cox, sound design by Dan Moses Schreier  Presented by CSC Classic Stage Company, Brian Kullick Artistic Director, Jeff Griffin, Managing Director and Greg Reiner, Executive Director.  At CSC, 136 East 13 Street, 212 352 3101.  Running time: 90 minutes.  Show runs Tuesday  thru Sunday until December 14.