With his rich baritone and intense looks, Alfred Drake (1914-1992) defined the classic Broadway leading man. Originating roles in such landmark musicals as Oklahoma!, Kiss Me Kate, and Kismet, Drake won Tony and Drama Critics Awards, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. But despite his many appearances on cast recordings, Drake has never headlined a solo CD…until now. The U.K.’s Stage Door label has announced the April 26 release (May 3 in North America) of Lucky to Be Me: A Life in Music, a 2-CD set that will earn a spot on every musical theatre fan’s shelf. The 51-track collection has one disc entitled The Studio Recordings (including selections from the aforementioned musicals as well as tracks from West Side Story, Roberta, On the Town, and Carousel) and one disc of Demos, Live Performances, and Other Rarities sourced from the late Drake’s personal archives. This disc features rare live appearances, rehearsals, practice recordings, and even auditions representing Drake’s performances from musicals and operettas throughout his career; later shows like Kean and Zenda are even represented. Theatre historian George Dansker has worked with Stage Door in compiling this first-of-its-kind anthology of Broadway’s consummate leading man. Pre-order now at Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.!
But that’s not all coming from Stage Door and Alfred Drake. Sing Out, Sweet Land! opened on Broadway at the International Theatre in the final days of 1944 and resided there for 104 performances. Starring Drake, Burl Ives, Juanita Hall (South Pacific), Bibi Osterwald, and Alma Kaye, the musical by critic Walter Kerr featured a score of traditional folk tunes as well as original material by John Mundy, Edward Eager, and Elie Siegmiester. Decca recorded the musical for an album of 78s, later reissued on 10-inch vinyl LP. Stage Door’s CD premiere of this rare cast album is joined by another Decca rarity: the 1950 studio cast recording of Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley starring Drake and Jane Wilson. Weill, who supervised the recording, composed original choral music to support another array of classic folk melodies such as “Down in the Valley” and “The Lonesome Dove.” This release, made possible via current U.K. public domain laws and part of the labels’ Collectors’ Series, is limited to 500 units. Like Lucky to Be Me, the two-for-one release of Sing Out, Sweet Land!/Down in the Valley arrives in stores on April 26 and can be ordered at Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.!
Kritzerland has another pair of new show music releases currently available for pre-order. First up is the original cast recording of the all-too-little-known 1963 off-Broadway musical The Streets of New York. With book and lyrics by Barry Alan Grael and music by Richard B. Chodosh, the show featured David Cryer (father of Two and a Half Men star Jon) and Ralston Hill, as well as (unheard) standbys Julia Migenes and Conrad John Schuck. Though the cast album (recorded in 1964) was previously reissued on CD in 1995 by AEI, Kritzerland has given the sound a considerable sprucing-up courtesy of mastering engineer James Nelson.
The label is also bringing together the incidental music for three plays on a special CD: Elmer Bernstein’s Laurette, Laurence Rosenthal’s Rashomon, and Alex North’s Death of a Salesman. (North would later adapt many of his themes for the film version.) All three of these short but powerful scores have been issued on Kritzerland before – the former paired with Bernstein’s score to Prince Jack, and the latter two together. But for this release, the label has enlisted restoration specialist Chris Malone to substantially improve the sound. Both titles are limited to 500 copies and due before the second week of May, but those who order directly through Kritzerland can expect them to ship a few weeks early.