Allegro – First Complete Recording
The story begins in 1905 in a small town in the Midwest. Marjorie, wife of Joseph Taylor, the town’s only doctor, has just given birth to a son. Filled with joy, they imagine the entire town celebrating along with them (Opening: Joseph Taylor, Jr.). Grandma Taylor, Dr. Taylor’s mother, arrives to help care for her new grandson as her son leaves to make his daily rounds (I Know It Can Happen Again). As the infant Joe grows to become aware of the world around him, his mother and grandmother watch him take his first steps (One Foot, Other Foot). This is the beginning of his journey through childhood. In a series of children’s games (Children’s Dance), we see him learning to join and eventually to lead his young peer group, becoming the man he will someday be, and meeting Jennie, the girl he will someday marry. Then Joe, Jr.’s childhood symbolically ends as he says good-night to his drowsy playmates, and farewell to his beloved Grandma (Grandmother’s Death). But time passes (Winters Go By), and Joe begins to understand that the people we love are somehow always with us. Taller and leaner, Joe enters high school, the physical changes he is undergoing only adding to the emotional complications he is beginning to face with his childhood sweetheart, Jennie (Poor Joe). Alone at night, and on the eve of his departure for college, he hears his father and mother confiding in each other their hopes that he might someday continue in his father’s footsteps. But Joe hears something else in their concern for him: their abiding love for each other (A Fellow Needs a Girl). The scene changes as Joe arrives for college. At his first dance (Freshman Get Together) we see a gymnasium filled with coeds, first awkwardly pairing off to the beat of an amateur jazz band and then, to the sound of a glamorized society orchestra, imagining themselves as romantic sophisticates (Dream Sequence; Pas de Deux). As the evening wears down, the crowd parts to reveal Joe doing his best to stay off the toes of his exasperated dancing partner. The optimism in Joe’s letters home to Jennie do little to disguise his loneliness or his longing for her (It’s a Darn Nice Campus). However, his need to fit in (Wildcats) eventually brings him to Charlie, big man on campus, a natural with the ladies, and soon to be Joe’s best friend. Back home (Jennie Reads Letter), Jennie has figured out that her ambitions go far beyond becoming the wife of a small-town doctor. But at school, Joe’s every thought seems to be consumed by the girl he left behind (Scene of Professors). His daydreams are filled with her, but his frustrations mount as Jennie fans the flames of his jealousy for her. Finally he succumbs to Charlie’s suggestion that they double-date. But even though Beulah, the girl Charlie has chosen for Joe, sees a future for herself and Joe (So Far), Joe’s passion for Jennie leaves him too exhausted to reciprocate. Counting the days until graduation, Joe finally rushes home to propose to Jennie (You Are Never Away). Eager to accept his proposal, but clear about the kind of life she wants to share with him, Jennie suggests to Joe that their dream of a happy and successful life together may lie outside of his pursuit of a medical career. Joe, who all his life has looked forward to building and running a local hospital with his father, is perplexed (Poor Joe – Reprise). When Marjorie confronts her daughter-in-law-to-be with her own concerns about her son’s future, Jennie becomes adamant. She has no intention of spending her life as the wife of a small-town doctor. But their ensuing battle is cut short when Marjorie succumbs to a fatal heart attack (Marjorie’s Death). Father and son are stunned with grief. But life moves on. Friends and family gather (What a Lovely Day for a Wedding), and Joe’s Best Man, Charlie, tells the crowd why he is happy that it is Joe and not himself who is getting married (It May Be a Good Idea). As Joe and Jennie exchange vows, those closest to Joe, in advent of forever holding their peace, speak their innermost thoughts. Even Joe’s long-dead grandmother and recently deceased mother are presences in this significant moment. “Wilt thou love him, comfort him, and honor him?” Marjorie asks a deeply troubled Jennie. “I will,” she replies, as a jubilant crowd cheers the newly joined couple down the aisle. Only Joe’s mother, aware of what she can foresee, buries her head in her hands and weeps (Finale Act One). Two short years pass and the Second Act opens in Jennie’s and Joe’s back yard. Her dream of Joe entering a successful business partnership with her own father has been dashed by the Great Depression. As she and her friends hang the wash to dry (Money Isn’t Everything), she becomes convinced that moving Joe’s medical practice to a big city is the only way to realize her financial and social ambitions. When Joe reveals that Charlie’s uncle, Dr. Bigby Denby, has offered him a high-paying internship in a big city, Jennie seizes the moment. Joe, who wants to remain in practice with his father, is bewildered by Jennie’s ferocious determination to break up the father-son partnership (Poor Joe). But Jennie, playing her cards carefully, wins the argument (You Are Never Away – Reprise). As he prepares to leave, Joe stops by to collect his medical diploma from the office he shared with his father. Joseph Taylor, Sr., is stung bitterly, but Marjorie is somehow present to comfort him (A Fellow Needs a Girl – Reprise). A crashing chord and we are suddenly in the big city. It is cocktail hour at the grand apartment Joe and Jennie now call home. The room is filled with movers and shakers; everyone is talking at once (Yatata). Jennie’s eyes are firmly fixed on the richest people in the room: Brook Lansdale, Chairman of the Board of the city’s biggest hospital and his wife, the richest and most powerful of all. On the sidelines of the frenzy, Emily, Joe’s diligent nurse, reminds him that his focus has strayed. The patients who really needed him have been replaced by pill-popping sycophants. Saddened and disgusted by the trap into which she sees Joe irretrievably falling, she leaves the party, wondering how she could have allowed herself to fall for Joe in the first place (The Gentleman Is a Dope). But at the hospital, Joe, Emily, and Charlie watch Bigby Denby (head of the hospital) casually fire a long-time nurse (and former flame) who had been pressing for work reforms. The three marvel at the harshness and frantic pace of big-city life (Allegro), and it is clear that Joe is becoming disillusioned with the lack of meaning in his own life (Allegro Ballet). The situation only worsens when Mrs. Lansdale reveals to Joe that her husband has been having an affair with Jennie, which it seems everyone in town has known except Joe. Reeling from this revelation, Joe begins to take stock. The people who continue to matter the most to him have never really left him. “What the hell am I doing here?” he asks. And they answer him (Come Home). Joe is told that the banquet to which he is headed will feature the announcement that he is to replace Bigby Denby as the head of the hospital. It is the threshold in his life that, once crossed, he may never reverse. On the podium, and in front of the people and a way of life he has come to loathe, Joe realizes what he must do. To the shocked crowd he announces that he is turning down the position he has been offered, that he is returning to his home town, to his father and to his family’s roots. He will work by his father’s side at the town hospital his father has founded; he will practice medicine again. As they were on the day he learned to walk, Joe’s mother and grandmother are once again present. And as they were throughout his youth, his friends and family are there to encourage and support him. With Emily and Charlie at his side, Joe takes back his life (Finale Ultimo).
Dr. Joseph Taylor: Nathan Gunn Marjorie Taylor: Audra McDonald Mayor: Ray DeMattis Grandma Taylor: Marni Nixon Jennie Brinker: Laura Benanti Joseph Taylor, Jr.: Patrick Wilson Miss Lipscomb: Erin Rech Chemistry Professor: Howard Kissel Greek Professor: Bernard Gersten Biology Professor: Charlie Scatamacchia Guest Lecturer: Oscar Hammerstein II Philosophy Professor: John Simon English Professor: Ray DeMattis Charlie Townsend: Norbert Leo Butz Beulah: Judy Kuhn Ned Brinker: Danny Burstein Minister: Galen Guengerich Ensemble soloist (Wedding): Schuyler Chapin Millie: Judith Blazer Dot: Kathy Morath Addie: Maureen Brennan Hazel: Ashley Brown Mrs. Lansdale: Georga Osborne Emily: Liz Callaway Mr. Lansdale: Kurt Peterson Dr. Bigby Denby: Harvey Evans Ensemble soloist (Finale): Stephen Sondheim Speaking Chorus: Wayne A. Blood, Cindy Boyle, Carol Cornicelli, Jessica Fortune, Bill Gaden, Mike Hidalgo, Tim Matson, Corey Mitchell El, Erin Rech, Charlie Scatamacchia, Rob Shapiro, Michael Vannoni, Michelle Yaroshko Singing Chorus: Adam Alexander, Katie Banks, September Bigelow, Esther David, Gregory Davidson, Matthew Deming, Nadia DiGiallonardo, James Donegan, Daniel Egan, Colm Fitzmaurice, Katie Geissinger, Ginger Green, Christopher Gurr, Dominic Inferrera, Erin Kemp, Cheryl Martin, Michael McCoy, Craig Montgomery, Nedra Neal, Georga Osborne, Sarah Pillow, Gregory Purnhagen, Joshua South, Katherine Wessinger Children: Lucy Albert, Nadia Briones, Jonathan Makepeace, Yves Mervyn-Leroy, Dylan Moore, Matthew Schechter