Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Allegro premiered in 1947 and got a mixed press. Broadway audiences, who had just seen Oklahoma! and Carousel, were very disappointed. Today there are going to be a lot of musical buffs and Rodgers and Hammerstein aficionados who will want to see its European premiere at Southwark Playhouse, flaws and all, regardless.

The script is a 20th-century morality play exploring the problems of personal integrity in a money-oriented, rat-race society. A young man thinks the best thing in life is to become a doctor just like his dad and granddad before him. But what sort of doctor should he be? Should he be a rich and successful one in Chicago servicing the rich or should he be a poor one in the small Midwestern town where he was born, servicing the poor? The hero (played by Gary Tushaw) is a man of principles, an honest Joe, the sort of guy you would find in a Frank Capra movie. So you know he will do the right thing.

The story (its format taking its inspiration from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town) begins with his birth in 1905 and goes on to cover childhood, college, marriage (to an ambitious and selfish woman), life in the big city, and ends when he is 35 with his return home.

The music is pleasant. The book is mawkish. Even Hammerstein thought it was pretentious and too preachy. He wanted to correct its flaws but he never got around to it.

When it comes to staging musicals on the Fringe, Thom Southerland is the master. Fresh from his big success with Titanic, he achieves, as always, amazing things in a tiny space. So does his inventive and witty choreographer Lee Proud; and especially so for the show’s title song.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is showing at the National. For many readers stories about schoolgirls will bring back happy memories of Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil, Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and, perhaps, Mary O’Malley’s Once a Catholic. When I think of schoolgirls, I think of Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s – not the films, but the actual spiky, anarchic cartoons.Lee Hall’s adapation is from Scottish novelist Alan Warner’s awarding-winning 1998 novel, The Sopranos, a celebration of 17-year-old choirgirls behaving extremely badly. Hall admits that his play is more like a gig than a play. Dialogue, production and acting all have a raw energy and relentless vulgarity.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection