Benanti, Gunn and Others To Sing In New 'Allegro' Recording
The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization confirmed today that principal orchestral and vocal work has been completed for the first complete recording of Rodgers & Hammerstein's ALLEGRO. A release date for the recording will be announced shortly.
The all-star studio cast includes Patrick Wilson as Joe Taylor, Jr.; Nathan Gunn and Audra McDonald as Joe's parents; Marni Nixon as Joe's Grandma; Judy Kuhn as Beulah; Liz Callaway as Emily; Laura Benanti as Jennie; and Norbert Leo Butz as Joe's best friend, Charlie.
ALLEGRO also features an ensemble including Judy Blazer, Maureen Brennan, Ashley Brown, and Kathy Morath, as well as a full chorus and a children's chorus. Vocal cameos include appearances by former New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Schuyler Chapin; All Souls Church Reverend Dr. Galen Guenerich; and ALLEGRO's original production assistant, Stephen Sondheim.
Larry Blank conducts the 50-piece orchestra, featuring the original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and dance arrangements by Trude Rittmann.
The first complete recording of ALLEGRO is produced by David Lai and Bruce Pomahac. Ted Chapin is Executive Producer. Bruce Pomahac is musical director, and Ben Whiteley is the choral director (with choral arrangements by Crane Calder).
ALLEGRO (1947), Rodgers & Hammerstein's fourth work together (preceded by the Broadway musicals OKLAHOMA! and CAROUSEL, and the film STATE FAIR), was their first controversial work as well; though it ran for a season and received some rave reviews, it was their first musical to be less than a blockbuster hit. It divided critics and challenged audiences with its unusual approach to storytelling, and a groundbreaking approach to musical staging. ALLEGRO, in the words of its original production assistant, Stephen Sondheim, was "the first really good experimental show."
An original musical, ALLEGRO 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.
"Along with the innovations of the original production, ALLEGRO's score has its own innovative qualities, most of which are simply unknown," says Ted Chapin, President of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. "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 theater 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 sixty years to give the score of ALLEGRO the full attention it deserved," concludes Chapin. "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 sixty years ago."
For updates and more news on the first complete recording of ALLEGRO, please visit www.rnh.com, the website of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.
Photo by Carol Rosegg