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Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!

wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/7/12 at 09:28pm
I can't let the day go by without expressing my continuing admiration for the late and truly great Alfred Drake. I was fortunate to see him perform live twice, once in KEAN (which did not play for very long) and once in the Lincoln Center summer production of KISMET. Both performances were beautifully acted and sung, but his performance as Hajj the Beggar was one of the most memorable of my theater-going life to date. Bless you, Mr. Drake, wherever you are singing - I am sure the angels appreciate your talent, too.
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/8/12 at 07:22pm
I would appreciate it if anyone who saw Drake as Claudius could share any recollections of that performance. I was out of the country at the time, and only heard about Liz-and-Dick in connection with HAMLET, and not anything Shakespearean.
fredric47
Chorus Member
joined:7/18/04
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/8/12 at 09:35pm
I totally envy you! I was around,albeit 9 years old,for "Kean," but wasn't included in the group of relatives that went to see that show for my maternal grandfather's birthday. "Kismet" played our local Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia on its limited post Lincoln Center run tour; but again I wasn't taken to see it. I also regretting passing on the opportunity to see him as Honore Laschailles in the 1973 Broadway stage version of the Lerner and Loewe film musical, "Gigi."
The only time I did see the great Alfred Drake on stage was at the Kennedy Center when he played Mr. Antrobus in Jose Quintero's bicentennial staging of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth." He was adequate in the role; but alas, there was no singing.
Thank goodness for my collection of original cast albums on which Alfred Drake appeared in starring roles. I learned to sing the roles of Curly, Fred Graham, and Kean by imitating his classic sounding baritone voice. He is my all time favorite leading man of the musical theatre.
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/8/12 at 10:04pm
I wish that someone had thought to interview him, and put a biography of his life together, including his recollection of originating so many iconic roles. But I understand that he was a modest and very private person, so it might not have been an attractive idea to him.

His singing (and speaking) voice was so beautiful, very warm and effortless. I love the clip from KISS ME, KATE that was on "Stage Tube" for his birthday. One minute he is hamming it up as he recalls the crazy performance when Fred met Lily - and all of a sudden, no more mugging for the "audience" - he is looking into her eyes and singing the words to her as though he means them. I am so glad that the shortened version broadcast on TV is available on dvd - grainy black and white but the voice and the presence come through.
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jayinchelsea
Broadway Star
joined:4/9/09
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/9/12 at 09:02am
Alfred Drake set the standard for what a Broadway musical leading man should be. I too saw him in KEAN, and he was magnificent (listen to not only his singing on the OBCR, but his amazing acting in the final number, Apology?) and then again in the LC revival of KISMET, where he effortlessly commanded the stage.

He did a few nonmusical plays (SONG OF THE GRASSHOPPER, not a success, and the Burton HAMLET) and a somewhat pale imitation of Chevalier in GIGI, but those performances in KEAN and KISMET have stayed with me all my adult life, and it's a shame that he is not better known. Yes, we had Richard Kiley and John Raitt and we still have Stokes and once in a while Hugh Jackman, but Drake was the gold standard. There's a tape floating about of him doing KISS ME KATE for tv from the late 50s, catch it if you can.
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Quiche2
Broadway Star
joined:7/20/12
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/9/12 at 09:06am
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!

Happy Birthday.

Theatre is my life. No one can take that away from me.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/9/12 at 11:53am
Yes, Alfred Drake was the gold standard.

I, too, remember him in Kean. He was great in that sumptuous musical.

He also handled comedy deftly. He was very good in a short-lived comedy that deserved a better fate, Those That Play the Clowns. He did a nice job in Song of the Grasshopper as well.
Ed_Mottershead
Broadway Legend
joined:10/20/05
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/9/12 at 12:19pm
Hi,Wonkit,

I saw the Burton Hamlet in 1964. I regret to say that Drake didn't make one kind or impression or another on me in that role. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't great either. Burton was having one of his walk-through-the-role nights, so it remained to Hume Cronyn as Polonius to steal the show.

Unfortunately for me, this was my only experience seeing Drake live on stage. I grew up listening to Kiss Me, Kate and Kismet and thought he was exemplary in both. He truly did set the standard, not only because of his voice, but because of the sophistication and the line delivery. As has been noted, Kiss Me, Kate is available on DVD, so be sure to check it out.

Another aspect of Drake that may have been forgotten were his appearances in the Stratford Connecticut seasons in the late 1950s. I never saw him, but remember that he did play Iago to (I think) Earl Hyman's Othello and Benedict to Katharine Hepburn's Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.
BroadwayEd
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/9/12 at 07:00pm
Thank you so much, Ed, for the report. If I had a time machine, I am now certain that I would go back to see him as Benedict!

I seem to recall that he was training/trained as a cantor before deciding on a secular singing career. His voice is so beautiful.
Ed_Mottershead
Broadway Legend
joined:10/20/05
Happy Birthday, Alfred Drake!
Posted: 10/9/12 at 11:03pm
Hi, again, wonkit,

Drake was Italian (nee Capullo) and once auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera (back in the 1930's). Many fine singers started out as cantors but I'm sure Alfred Dranke wasn't one of them. Whatever, the voice was glorious. As was he.
BroadwayEd

 
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