1953 Original Broadway Cast

Kismet [Original Broadway Cast 1953]

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Lyricists and musical adaptors Robert C. Wright and George Forrest first succeeded on Broadway in 1944 with Song of Norway, in which they turned the music of Edvard Grieg into show tunes as a means of giving him a stage biography. In subsequent years, they attempted to repeat this trick with Victor Herbert, Franz Lehar, and Heitor Villa-Lobos, all without success until they hit upon the curious idea of using the music of Russian composer Alexander Borodin in a musical adaptation of Edward Knoblock's 1911 play Kismet, a fable about a poet-beggar in Baghdad who becomes emir in a single day and marries his daughter off to the caliph. Originating (as had Song of Norway) with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association, the production moved to Broadway on December 3, 1953. With a newspaper strike raging in New York, there were no reviews and no print advertising, but Tony Bennett's cover recording of "Stranger in Paradise" from the score (its tune adapted from Borodin's "Polovetsian Dances") had hit the pop charts a week earlier, and its rising popularity drew customers to the show. It also had a superior cast going for it, led by well-established Broadway star Alfred Drake (Oklahoma!, Kiss Me, Kate) and Doretta Morrow (moving up from her supporting role in The King and I), and also featuring two stars on the rise in their first important roles, Richard Kiley and Joan Diener. It was this duo, in fact, who got to sing "Stranger in Paradise," while Morrow handled the tuneful "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," and Drake had fun with "Rhymes Have I," "Fate," and "Gesticulate." As a score, Kismet managed to sound exotic yet still familiar, and the original Broadway cast performed the songs to perfection, making this an outstanding album. Kismet won six 1954 Tony Awards, including those for best musical, leading actor (Drake), and composer (Borodin, who had been dead for 67 years!). It ran 583 performances on Broadway. This album peaked at number four in the Billboard chart, where it was listed for 23 weeks.

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