Schaeffer will reduce cast, clarify story

ARLINGTON, Va. — Signature Theater artistic director Eric Schaeffer, who specializes in rehabilitating troubled musicals, has been granted the rights to rework Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1947 show “Allegro.” It will become part of Signature’s 2003-04 season, with a new book from playwright Joe DiPietro and new orchestrations from Jonathan Tunick.

“Allegro” was certainly no flop, having played for more than a year on Broadway, but it was problematic. Staged and choreographed by Agnes DeMille, it was considered a groundbreaking musical with its minimal scenery, Greek chorus and “Our Town” feel. It had a cast of 40.

Despite a tuneful score that includes “The Gentleman Is a Dope,” “To Have and to Hold,” “So Far” and “You’re Never Away,” it is rarely produced.

It was also a passion of author and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, whose son James, was working on a book adaptation with DiPietro before his death. His widow, Dena Hammerstein, invited Schaeffer to direct the musical at his company.

Schaeffer will reduce the cast to 14 and clarify the story.

The Signature’s upcoming season will also include the Hecht-MacArthur comedy “Twentieth Century,” revised by Ken Ludwig; Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”; a new musical called “The Next Gig,” written by and featuring Jill Sobule; and “The Elephant Man.”

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