Southwark Playhouse, London – until 10 September 2016
Allegro is the third musical born from the long standing genius that is the duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein. While neither their most successful piece, nor their most daring and despite it being a somewhat lacklustre story, Allegro still holds all of the charm and sophistication associated with R&H musicals.
The story follows the life of Joseph Taylor, Jr., born to a middle class family in small town America. The son of a doctor, he grows up to follow in his father’s footsteps and training as a medic and trudging through the hardships of college, medical school and all the worries that come with it. Thom Southerland’s direction is, as ever, expertly executed with the onstage action proving beautifully slick. Paired with Lee Proud’s choreography, the cast deliver compelling performances without going over the top. Anthony Lamble’s minimalistic set design of rolling set pieces and not much else is also beautifully flexible, making for easy interchanges between time frames.
Dean Austin has done an immaculate job with the band, affording a fine respect to Richard Rodgers’ music, giving a rich and full sound that is only aided by the acoustics at Southwark. As Joseph, Gary Tushaw’s performance is excellent. He plays the polite and quiet leading man with a gentleness that makes you sympathise with him on all of his decisions. Playing opposite him is the spritely and brash Emily Bull, who plays Jennie Brinker, Joe’s eventual wife. Her voice is strong and she plays the free spirited character with a care free energy that, despite her ending up as a rather conniving woman, is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise average story.
The most wonderful and truly gripping part of the production is the use of puppetry to display Joseph in his much younger years. The cast’s control of the simplistic yet hugely effective puppet, adds a further dimension to the performance.
The Southwark Playhouse is building a reputation for extraordinary theatre. While Allegro might not be the most gripping of its recent productions, it is still a joy to watch.
Runs until 10th SeptemberReviewed by Charlotte DarcyPhoto credit: Scott Rylander