Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
I recently attended a concert version of Kismet put on by the 42nd Street Moon. It was a two-day run featuring a 23-piece orchestra and 22 members of the chorus. I saw the original production in the Los Angeles-San Francisco Civic Light Opera pre-Broadway run in 1953 in Los Angeles. Kismet then went to Broadway where it debuted at the Ziegfeld Theatre in 1953. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical that season and Alfred Drake won a Tony playing the public poet sometimes called Hajj.
MGM produced the Cinemascope version with Howard Keel as Hajj. Ann Blyth played daughter Marsinah and Vic Damone played the Caliph. The musical has rarely been revived.
For the score, Robert Wright and George Forrest adapted the music of Russian composer Alexander Borodin and added lyrics to the themes. Charles Lederer and Luther Davis wrote the book, based on the play by Edward Knoblock.
At 42nd Street Moon, the full orchestra and chorus were pitch perfect and stunning. Chris Vettel played Hajj the poet and had splendid vocal chops when singing "Rhymes Have I," "Fate" and "The Olive Tree." Jennifer Mitchell played Marsinah and had spirited singing chops in "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and the reprise of "Strangers in Paradise." Noel Anthony wonderfully played the Caliph with his glorious voice on a rendition of "Strangers in Paradise" and "Night of My Nights." Elise Youssef rocked as Lalume in "Rahadlakum" along with Chris Vettel.
Jason Graae brought humor to the role of the Wazir of Police. His rendition of "Was I Wazir?" was certainly entertaining. "And This Is My Beloved" sung by whole group was harmoniously energizing.
I happen to love Borodin's music and it was a glorious night listening to "Strangers In Paradise," "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," "The Olive Tree," "Night of My Nights," and "Sands of Time."
42nd Street Moon presented Kismet June 2 and 3rd, 2017, at Marines Memorial Theatre, Sutter Street, San Francisco.