Lincoln Center Cast – 1965 / Music and lyrics by Robert Wright & George Forrest, based on themes by Alexander Borodin
Starring: Alfred Drake, Anne Jeffreys, Lee Venora, Richard Banke, Rudy Vejar, Albert Toigo, Henry Calvin and Anita Alpert
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10)
Review: My first contact with this musical was the MGM movie starring Howard Keel and Dolores Gray, that was deliciously kitsch and I remember falling in love with some of the songs.
The show, which opened on Broadway in 1953, won the Tony for Best Musical and it’s star, Alfred Drake, won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Years later, in 1965, he lead the Lincoln Center production of the show and he sounds simply great in this recording. At his side, Anne Jeffreys is a terrific Lalume and sings her numbers with gusto. As the young couple in love, Lee Venora and Richard Banke sing their songs with sweet operatic voices.
Composers and lyricists Robert Wright & George Forrest adapted the beautiful music of Alexander Borodin and transform it into a melodious, beautiful and funny musical score, the kind no one writes anymore. I love the way the Arabian melodies blend perfectly with the Broadway traditional sound. My favorite tracks are the unforgettable “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” and “Stranger in Paradise”. Of course I can’t resist the delights of Lalume’s songs “Not Since Nineveh”, “Bored” and “Rahadlakum”. There are other great songs, like “Night of My Nights”, “And This is My Beloved”, “The Olive Tree” and the comic “Gesticulate”. There’s also a strange one, “Zubbediya” sung by Anita Alpert in the style of Yma Sumac. Curiously, I realized that “He’s in Love” sounds too much alike to one of the songs of MISS SAIGON, “The American Dream”.
If you never listened to KISMET you’re in for a pleasant surprise. If you already have the score, this recording is a delightful rendition of it!