With the aftermath of the Great Depression at hand and a life full of possibilities in front of him, Joe Taylor – an average Joe every-man – is faced with a mid-life crisis wondering where his life path ultimately taking him. Allegro follows Joe’s life, as he looks to find his place in the world. Written by Oscar Hammerstein II with an original score by Richard Rogers, Allegro is having its first professional European run, 70 years after its Broadway debut. Their third piece, following Rogers and Hammerstein’s acclaimed Oklahoma and Carousel, Allegro may be rooted in a post-depression Chicago, but it charts a man’s internal conflicts that a modern day audience can relate to.
The life of Joe Taylor Jnr is charted, beginning with his birth, and the audience witness the loss of his mother and grandmother, his childhood, raised by an all-encompassing and caring community, his decision to follow his father’s footsteps into medicine and the difficult decisions that he faces as an adult during college and then moving to Chicago. There we see Joe struggle to balance his desire to return home with the wants and needs of his childhood sweetheart Jenny; while she pines after wealth and riches, Joe wants to return to the caring clutches of home.
Gary Tushaw is the kind-hearted Joe Taylor, and plays the part with genuine gentle-ness, capturing the true essence of Joe’s nature and needs. The hole that his mother left is evident and as he searches for a place of purpose, the audience relate to his disorientated state of mind. Jenny’s distinct and forceful nature is perfectly captured by a manipulative Emily Bull. Her sweet facade with Joe leaves the audience hoping he’ll see past the act.
The orchestra and singing was powerful and playful, with the cast embracing the nature of the songs and Rogers’ score. Although several of the numbers leave you a little idle, with what seems like endless lyrics. The choreography by Lee Proud is well executed, allowing the audience to be immersed, if only for just a few minutes in a different world. The ensemble is snappy and together, with innovative direction constantly adapting the minimalistic set, comprised of two large ladders, interchangeable boards and large metal frames, designed by Anthony Lamble.
Overall, the production is entertaining – and ground breaking-ly modern for its time. Curious as to why it took so long for its European debut to come around, it all seems quite evident after your first hour in the theatre. The ensemble were stellar and full of energy, but the musical itself is a little bland. Allegro lacks the sass and attention to detail that you would usually see in the West End and I don’t quite expect to see it there any time soon.
Allegro runs at the Southwark Playhouse until September 10.