With his deep, baritone, vocals, Alfred Drake (born: Alfred Capurro) reigned over Broadway during the 1940s and ‘50s. Best known for his portrayal of Curly in Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1943 musical, Oklahoma, he debuted such classic songs as "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning", "Surrey With A Fringe On Top", "People Will Say We're In Love" and the title tune.
Drake appeared in some of the era's most influential productions. Making his stage debut in Mikado, in 1935, he starred, with Mitzi Green and Ray Heatherton, in Babes In Arms, two years later. With music composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and choreographed by George Balanchine, Babes In Arms was one of few musicals to be successfully staged at the height of the Depression.
The 1930s offered only a hint of Drake's versatility. In the 1940s, he co-starred, with Burl Ives, in a folk musical, Sing Out Sweet Land", in 1944, portrayed a union organizer in a revival of Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock in 1947 and appeared in an updated version of The Beggar's Opera, composed by Duke Ellington. He capped the decade as star of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate.
Drake continued to find interesting roles in the 1950s and early-60s. Although he turned down an offer to portray the lead in The King And I, in 1951, he showed his strength in the role when he substituted for Yul Brynner for several weeks. He received a Tony award for his portrayal of Hadji, a street poet who becomes Wazir of Baghdad, in the 1953 folktale, Kismet, and made his television debut, in 1957, in a Hallmark Hall Of Fame production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, Yeomen Of The Guard. He appeared, with Richard Burton, in John Gielgud's Hamlet, in 1964.
Making his final Broadway appearance, in a 1973 revival of Gigi, Drake continued to make occasional appearances in films, including Trading Places in 1983, and television for the remainder of his life. With his passing on July 25, 1992, Broadway lost one of its greatest leading men. ~ Craig Harris