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Long-forgotten Rodgers & Hammerstein musical has lessons worth remembering

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Public Domain
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote some of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time, but their show "Allegro" wasn't one of them.


Broadway musicals have covered a dizzying array of subjects. It may be hard to believe, but that list includes the life and trials of a young physician.

On this evening, 69 years ago, the medical musical "Allegro" opened on Broadway.

Although it’s long been forgotten, University of Michigan medical historian Dr. Howard Markel believes the lessons taught by "Allegro" are worth remembering today.

"Allegro" was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the duo responsible for the wildly successful "Oklahoma!," "Carousel," and "South Pacific," among others.

But "Allegro" didn’t do quite so well.

“This was not a hit,” Markel said. “It was a mega flop.”

The musical follows the life of one Joseph Taylor Jr., who grows up in a small town and follows in his father’s footsteps to become a physician. Taylor eventually moves to the big city with his childhood sweetheart to chase the promise of a well-paying position at a big hospital.

Following a few misdiagnoses and some marital problems, Taylor decides to go back to the town where he grew up and “become a real doctor as opposed to a ‘show doctor’ at the big city hospital,” Markel said.

“It really tells you to follow your dreams and to follow the things that you know are right, as opposed to being persuaded by money and really infatuated with material success,” he told us.

Listen to our conversation above for more about "Allegro" and its legacy.

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