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The Dress Circle: Three Lesser-Known Musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein

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Sadly, not every musical can be a hit, and even the most revered composing teams are subject to “off days.” We’re going to sample three of those “off-days” created by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein on this week’s Dress Circle (4/10 7:00 p.m.) as we look at their lesser-known works “Allegro,” “Me and Juliet,” and “Pipe Dream.” Why are they lesser-known? Although they had decent runs with “Allegro” running 315 performances after opening in 1947, “Me and Juliet” running 358 performances beginning in 1953, and “Pipe Dream” running the least with 246 performances from 1955 to 1956, none of these three were ever made into films, and none of them were ever revived on Broadway.

“Allegro” was a huge piece and has the distinction of being the first musical with direction and choreography by a woman, Agnes de Mille. It looks at the first 35 years in the life of Joseph Taylor, Jr., from his first steps to the moment when he comes to his senses and realizes where and with whom he belongs. The show featured a huge cast broken into singing, dancing, and acting choruses as well as the named characters.

“Me and Juliet” is a love letter to Broadway and features a story about a theatre company mounting a musical with all of the drama on and off stage. Critics complained that the plot was weak, and audiences were confused by the production which quickly shifted from on stage to backstage through the ingenious sets of Joe Mielziner. The book may have been “weak,” but the score features some absolutely lovely songs.

“Pipe Dream” was based on the sequel to John Steinbeck’s novel “Cannery Row” entitled “Sweet Thursday,” one he supposedly wrote hoping it would be turned into a musical. Sadly, audiences were bored by the story which had been whitewashed by Hammerstein who removed so much of what he thought was questionable in the book that he destroyed several of the characters and just about everything that was interesting. No one was happy with this show, most of all Steinbeck who was reported to say he was sorry he’d ever said yes to Rodgers and Hammerstein writing it.

Join us for an hour of songs which you may not know but will hopefully act as introductions to some shows you’ll want to explore.

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Ted Otten is co-host of The Dress Circle
Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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