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1950s made-for-television musical gem gets DVD release. Bravo to VAI!
on February 10, 2013
Over the last year VAI Home Video has been releasing some wonderful DVDs of television "spectaculars" from the 1950s ,many from the series "Max Liebman Presents". Most have been TV adaptations of Broadway musicals or operettas, such as "The Chocolate Soldier", "Bloomer Girl" and "Kiss Me Kate". All have been wonderful gems now made available for a whole new generation. The problem - if there is one - with these "adaptations, is that the story had to be truncated to fit into the 80-minutes wallowed on TV. This recent DVD release does not have to deal with that issue and may be why it is one of my favorites in the bunch. "Marco Polo" was not a Broadway show. It was created for television with music based on the musical theses of Rimsky-Korsakov (just as "Kismet" used the music themes of Borodin). And like Kismet, "Marco Polo" stars Alfred Drake, Doretta Morrow, and featured dancer Beatrice Kraft.
This show was presented LIVE on television on April 14, 1956 and sponsored by Oldsmobile. Two weeks prior to this one-night telecast, the cast recorded a cast album - that is advertised for purchase at the end of the show. Many of these Lp records are still around but to see the TV show is a true pleasure. The Print is clean of any scratches and the image is one of the sharpest I've enjoyed in the VAI series. The script co-written by Neil Simon - is witty and Morrow comes across as a sensual beauty. There are even specialty acts like jugglers and acrobats to keep you entertained when the talented Drake is not exercising his vocal chords or dueling to keep himself alive.
With the commercials excerpted the running time is 80 minutes but VAI has provided the three Oldsmobile commercials (lasting 7 minutes) as a separate bonue. The DVD insert contains an informative essay as well as the details of the 26 chapters (a nice touch so that you can go direct to a favorite song.)
I anxiously await each new Max Liebman Presents DVD from VAI and am looking forward to what is still in the vaults.
This is a MUST-HAVE for all music theater collectors or those who remember "The Golden Age of Live Television".
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.