Allegro Synopsis


In 1905, small-town physician Joseph Taylor and his wife Marjorie celebrate the birth of their son (“Joseph Taylor, Jr.”). As Dr. Taylor returns to work, he imagines his son Joe growing up to become a doctor like himself. Grandma, sitting with baby Joe, anticipates the joy of watching another baby boy grow into a man (“I Know It Can Happen Again”).

Baby Joe has all of his first sensory experiences: eating, playing with a rattle, creating a distinction between his mother and father, seeing his father leave with his bag every day as his mother kisses him goodbye. Grandma notices Joe standing up by himself for the first time and excitedly calls Marjorie over to witness the boy’s new conquest. Together, they watch Joe take his first steps, and celebrate his momentous accomplishment (“One Foot, Other Foot”).

A dance sequence takes Joe Jr. through his childhood, including an introduction to Jennie Brinker, a businessman’s daughter and friend of the Taylors, who loses her nerve when trying to emulate feats of the tomboy girls. At the end of the dance, the children say good night to one another. When Joe’s grandmother dies, Jennie keeps Joe company at home instead of going out to play.

Years pass (“Winters Go By”), and Joe is now in high school and dating Jennie. Bewildered and nervous about interacting with the opposite sex, Joe cannot find the confidence to kiss her (“Poor Joe”). Now 17, Joe is college-bound and hoping to become a doctor like his father. Just before he leaves, he listens to his parents from his bedroom, dreaming about what he’ll become and the girl he will marry (“A Fellow Needs A Girl”).

At college, Joe attends the Freshman Get Together dance in the gym (“Freshman Dance”). While others around him seem to thrive, Joe, in awe of college life on campus, remains a bit of a loner (“Darn Nice Campus”). At a pep rally, the students sing “The Football Song.” Joe embarrasses himself by noticeably falling behind on the customary call-and-response portion of the song (“Wildcats”) and leaves disgraced. Later that day, the freshman star of the varsity football team, Charlie Townsend, approaches Joe, noticing they share a lot of the same classes and are both on the pre-medical track. Charlie asks if he could borrow Joe’s notes and invites him to his fraternity house, leaving Joe elated.

Jennie reads a letter from Joe to her friend, Hazel (Reprise: “A Darn Nice Campus”). Jennie and her father, Ned Brinker, are both concerned over how long it’ll take Joe to become a doctor after school, and Hazel pities Jennie for courting a boy whose mother has such an influence on him.

As Charlie, now Joe’s roommate, makes his way out for a date, Joe declines to join so he may focus on homework. He thinks only of Jennie back home, the only girl he’s ever dated. Charlie leaves after telling Joe to leave the homework out for him to copy.

As time goes on at school, Joe balances Chemistry, English, Biology, Philosophy and Greek, all while maintaining letters from Jennie, who continues updating him on other couples their age who are already married and having children in their new homes. She goes to Europe with her father and meets a new man named Bertram. As their relationship progresses, Joe decides it’s time to “break loose” from Jennie and asks Charlie to set him up with his girlfriend’s sister, Beulah.

After a double date with Charlie and his girlfriend Molly, Joe and Beulah find themselves alone together. Beulah is charmed by Joe’s soft and romantic qualities, and the two get to know each other (“So Far”). When they start to kiss, Joe can’t stop thinking about Jennie. He eventually falls asleep in the middle of their date, offending Beulah.

The next day, Joe receives a letter from Jennie explaining that she’s through with Bertram and will be home in July waiting for Joe to return. Eager for the passing of May and June, Joe is determined to focus again on marrying Jennie. When they reunite, Joe confesses he’s never stopped thinking about her (“You Are Never Away”). But when Joe begins to talk about his passion for helping sick patients get better, Jennie seems disappointed by the prospect of waiting for Joe to become a doctor. Joe says they could marry before then, but Jennie mentions a high-paying job her father has at his growing coal and lumber business. Joe must make up his own mind (Reprise: “Poor Joe”).

Over lemonades, Mr. Brinker hints that Joe might have higher ambitions than supporting his father’s dream of running a small hospital. Marjorie and Jennie have conflicting views over what they want for Joe, leaving Marjorie thinking Jennie is the wrong girl for him. Then, Marjorie suffers a fatal heart attack. Despite both families disapproving, Joe and Jennie get married (“What A Lovely Day for a Wedding”), and the unhappy ghosts of Joe’s grandmother and mother bear witness (“Wish Them Well”).


In the Great Depression, Mr. Brinker’s business has failed, and he is living with Jennie and Joe, who makes a bare living as assistant to his father. Jennie is hanging their laundry, unhappy as a poverty-stricken housewife (“Money Isn’t Everything”). When she learns that Joe turned down a high-paying job as a partner to Charlie’s uncle, a successful Chicago physician named Bigby Denby, Jennie rages at him. Eventually changing her strategy, she convinces Joe to take the job under the notion that it could help pay for his father’s hospital and allow them raise a child (Reprise: “Poor Joe”).

Though sad to leave his father’s practice, Joe accepts the job working with Bigby Denby in Chicago. In planning his exit from the family business, Joe shares compassionate details for continuing care of his patients with his father. Just before Joe leaves, the voice of his mother tells him to stay if his heart is so heavy, and the voice of Charlie tells him people would think he’s nuts for not going. He explains to his father that he’s taking the job for Jennie, and leaves.

In Chicago, Joe finds himself catering to an unfamiliar class of cosmopolitan hypochondriacs (“Yatata, Yatata, Yatata”). Pressured to keep the practice’s high-earning client list happy, Joe must attend parties and participate in their social lives, which leaves less time for caring for the patients who actually might need it. In her new role as socialite wife, Jennie enjoys keeping Joe in line for all his engagements. Due to these distractions, Joe becomes careless, and his nurse, Emily, catches a significant mistake (“The Gentleman is a Dope”).

In a meeting, Dr. Denby congratulates Joe on the mark he’s made on the practice so far, both medically and socially. When an important hospital trustee, Mr. Lansdale, demands the quashing of a nurse’s labor protest, Denby instructs Emily to fire the oldest nurse who’s worked at the hospital for 30 years. Joe, Emily and Charlie commiserate with each other about the exhaustingly dizzy pace one must maintain to work among the Chicago metropolitan elite (“Allegro”).

Over time, Joe becomes increasingly disillusioned by his job in the big city and thinks often about his patients back home who, to him, are more worthy of a doctor’s time and knowledge. He learns Jennie is having an affair and realizes that he stopped loving her long ago, but was too distracted to see it. As Joe takes in this development, his mother and a chorus of his friends from home make an appeal for him to return (“Come Home”).

Joe is off to the position of Physician-in-Chief at the Chicago hospital, replacing Denby, who is being “kicked upstairs.” At the dedication of a new pavilion at the hospital, Joe publicly declines the position, deciding instead to return to his small hometown to work with his father.  Accompanied by Emily and Charlie, Joe sets off, leaving Jennie in Chicago (Finale: “One Foot, Other Foot”).