In the spring of 1956, Alfred Drake, the veteran Broadway star known for his starring roles in Oklahoma! and Kiss Me, Kate, and Doretta Morrow, who had also appeared in shows and films, were just finishing a run on Broadway and in London in Kismet that had continued since the musical opened in December 1953. That show, a tale of the East in which the music was adapted from Borodin, must have seemed perfect preparation for their participation in the television musical The Adventures of Marco Polo, another tale of the East in which Clay Warnick and Mel Pahl's music was based on themes borrowed from Rimsky-Korsakov. And so they were. Planned as a one-hour live TV show, the musical adapted well to a Columbia Masterworks LP. The small cast -- consisting of the two principals (Drake, of course, was Polo; Morrow was several different women), two supporting actors, and a chorus -- recorded a cast album on March 30, two weeks before the April 14 broadcast on NBC. As part of the production, Drake as Polo provided spoken bridging material that makes his peripatetic, episodic story comprehensible even to the listener without access to the TV program. Edward Eager's lyrics are adequate, if not quite as clever as he may have supposed them to be, and he is assisted mightily by Drake, turning in a typically commanding performance, and by Morrow, who handles the many ballads well. Polo gets into and out of one scrape after another with humor and bravado, and the show follows his story well. The cast album disappeared for decades before being brought into the digital age by DRG on CD in 2003; the restoration should inspire new productions. Theater fans should rejoice at having a lost album featuring Drake and Morrow back in print.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Adventures of Marco Polo, musical|