This is a truly rare, utterly wonderful bit of lost Broadway history.
Alfred Drake was, in his era, one of the leading stars of Broadway -- and while this is no small thing at any time, it's all the more notable since his era was The Golden Age, of the late-40s through the early '60s. He was the original 'Curly' in Oklahoma!, had starred as the lead in Kiss Me Kate and Kismet, all huge hits, and many others. And he's still revered in Broadway circles. He's largely known, though, only through his cast recordings. Other people did these roles in the movies, and he made almost no movies himself. In part that's because he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era, but that's only "in part" -- other than a small, filmed-on-stage production of Hamlet with Richard Burton that had a limited theatrical release, his first film role after the blacklist was long over was a small part in 1983 in Trading Places as the executive of the Board of Trade (demanding payment from the Duke brothers). And even during the blacklist period, he was nonetheless able to do quite a bit of television work, but little of that material is still available. (Most notably, he got the chance to recreate his starring role in Kiss Me Kate in an edited-down TV version on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. But that performance is largely gone.) The reality is that there simply is very little filmed footage of him.
But here, we get Alfred Drake in his prime, and what a performance it is.
This is from a TV show in England, probably around 1960. And it's a remarkable 23 minutes (!) of Alfred Drake singing songs from his best known shows. Best of all, he doesn't just sing them, but performs them in character -- and not only that, but often does monologues from the shows to lead into the songs.
Oddly, though he has a full 23 minutes to work with, he doesn't perform what are probably his most familiar songs -- the title song from Oklahoma! and "Stranger in Paradise" from Kismet. Still, many of the rest are quite well known...and what's fascinating is that among the three least-known songs (from Kismet) probably do the most here to show off why he has such a huge Broadway star. They're vibrant portrayals.
Hey, it's pretty impressive when you can do a 23-minute medley of your hits and actually leave out "Oklahoma!" and "Stranger in Paradise"...and still have it be this superb.
This then is why Alfred Drake was a star. If there's not much other footage of him, happily there is this.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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