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Queens Chronicle

‘Allegro’ given second chance to shine in Astoria

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Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2014 10:30 am

The composer Richard Rodgers once said, “Of all the musicals I ever worked on that didn’t quite succeed, ‘Allegro’ is one I think most worthy of a second chance.”

Rodgers would likely have been pleased with the current incarnation of the rarely seen musical by the Astoria Performing Arts Center, which maintains its tradition of presenting shows that are too often overlooked.

The third in the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations, “Allegro” was seen as groundbreaking at the time of its Broadway premiere in 1947.

The show is often credited as the first “concept” musical, incorporating then-startling elements that have since been more commonly employed, including a thematic approach to storytelling and an ensemble that serves as a Greek chorus.

The show tracks the journey of Joseph Taylor, Jr., from birth to age 35, as he travels from the tranquility of his small hometown to the hectic din of big city life.

Director Tom Wojtunik has staged the production so that one scene evolves seamlessly into another. Simple set pieces are rearranged by the actors themselves to indicate each of the show’s locations.

Choreographer Christine O’Grady has so closely interwoven the dances into the action that it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish her work from Wojtunik’s.

Musical director Julianne B. Merrill oversees the nearly uninterrupted flow of melodies with precision.

While no songs from the show emerged as huge hits, several are deserving of wider recognition. “A Fellow Needs a Girl” is a poignant reminder of the human need for companionship and support, “So Far” reveals the thoughts of a young woman at the beginning of what she hopes will be a long-lasting relationship and “You Are Never Away” is a lilting paean to the blissful state of being in love.

Mark Banik is appealing in the central role of Joe, singing in a light but pleasant voice. As his parents, Daniella Dalli and Andy Lebon are a well-matched pair. They make their duet, “A Fellow Needs a Girl,” one of the show’s most tender moments. Dalli’s solo rendition of “Come Home,” in which she beckons her son to return to his roots, is touching.

Manna Nichols displays a pretty voice as Emily, who eventually captures Joe’s heart. She does justice to “So Far,” traditionally sung by a different character, and takes on her late-night number, “The Gentleman Is a Dope,” with assurance.

Crystal Kellogg does a nice job as Jennie, Joe’s childhood sweetheart, though Tony Perry is miscast as her father. Jean Liuzzi makes for a memorable grandma. Joshua Stenseth is appropriately energetic as Joe’s college roommate Charlie.

The set design by Stephen K. Dobay, costumes by Summer Lee Jack, sound by David A. Thomas and, especially, the evocative lighting by Dan Jobbins all contribute to the show’s nostalgic feel.

‘Allegro’
When: Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., through May 17
Where: Good Shepard United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St., Astoria
Tickets: $18, $12 for seniors

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