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Alfred Drake is considered by many a musical theater legend. He had his share of flops, but his stage presence and lyrical tenor defined many of the roles he originated on Broadway, although he never reprised any of them in subsequent films.

Drake began his stage career in 1935 and by 1937 introduced the title song in Babes in Arms. In 1940 he and Frances Comstock introduced “How High the Moon,” which would enter the jazz standards repertoire, in Two for the Show. He starred as Curly in the ground-breaking musical Oklahoma (1943), opening the show with “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” He triumphed in Kiss Me, Kate (1948) and won three awards, including a Tony, for his role in Kismet (1955).

His last musical was a less than successful stage adaptation of Gigi (1973) after which he turned to Shakespearean drama, winning recognition in the role of Claudius opposite Richard Burton’s Hamlet (1964). He played his last stage role in The Skin of Our Teeth (1975). In 1990 he received a Tony recognizing his lifetime achievements.

-- Sandra Burlingame

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10)

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