LP0197. KEAN, Original 1961 Broadway Cast, w.Alfred Drake, Oliver Gray, Joan Weldon, Lee Venora. 6-eye grey label stereo Columbia KOS 2120, in gatefold jacket.
“Having successfully dealt with Grieg (SONG OF NORWAY) and Borodin (KISMET), the composing team of Robert Wright and George Forrest turned to the music of Camille Saint-Saëns as the basis for their score for KEAN, which opened on November 2, 1961 at the Broadway Theatre. Based on a comedy by Jean-Paul Sartre, itself inspired by a play written by Alexandre Dumas, the book by Peter Stone told the story of Edmund Kean, a hard-living, hard-drinking British actor, who was known as the greatest thespian of his age (he was born in 1787 and died in 1833). To portray this colorful character, the flamboyant Alfred Drake seemed an ideal choice. And the seductive Lee Venora as his love interest added the right spice to the proceedings. Yet, in spite of its impressive pedigree, the show failed to find an audience, and closed after playing only 92 performances.”
- Masterworks Broadway
“Alfred C. Drake, the award-winning performer who created the lead role in OKLAHOMA! and other stage hits and sang many of Broadway's most beloved songs, after his universally acclaimed appearance as Curly in OKLAHOMA! in 1943, went on to star in the original casts of KISS ME, KATE in 1948 and KISMET in 1953, the 1973 revival of GIGI and many other shows. His rich baritone voice introduced Broadway audiences to songs that endured among Broadway's most popular classics.
Mr. Drake's performances earned many awards. He won his first Drama Critics Award for playing Curly in OKLAHOMA! in 1943 and his second for Hajj in KISMET 10 years later. KISMET also garnered him the Tony Award and in 1990 he received a special Tony Honor of Excellence in the Theater for his body of work. In 1981 he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He recorded several cast albums and other records as well, including CAROUSEL with Roberta Peters.
Although his musical roles brought him fame, Mr. Drake was also a serious actor and played in many dramas. His stage performances included co-starring with Richard Burton in HAMLET in 1963, and with Katharine Hepburn in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING in 1957. His last major drama was in Jose Quintero's production of THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH in 1975.
Elliot Norton, then a reviewer for THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, was among many critics struck by the moment when the curtain rose in OKLAHOMA! and Mr. Drake began singing ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'’. He wrote about the first night: ‘In that scene and song, American musical comedy took a new turn away from stilted nonsense towards something like truth and beauty. And Alfred Drake, because he got all that into his manner, his bearing and his exuberant natural singing voice, became in effect the herald of a new era’.
Brooks Atkinson of THE NEW YORK TIMES wrote of KISS ME, KATE that ‘Mr. Drake has become about the most valuable man in his field’, and wrote of KISMET: ‘Alfred Drake gives a superb performance. He sings like a thoroughbred and with one of the best voices in the theater. But Mr. Drake is also an immensely resourceful actor’.”
- BRUCE LAMBERT, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 July, 1992