The Info List - Call Me Madam

Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
is a musical based on a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. A satire on politics and foreign policy that spoofs America's penchant for lending billions of dollars to needy countries, it centers on Sally Adams, a well-meaning but ill-informed socialite widow who is appointed United States
United States
to the fictional European country of Lichtenburg. While there, she charms the local gentry, especially Cosmo Constantine, while her press attaché Kenneth Gibson falls in love with Princess Maria.


1 Background 2 Productions 3 Film adaptation 4 Musical numbers 5 Recordings 6 Promotional Appearances 7 In Political Culture 8 Awards 9 References 10 External links

Background[edit] The lead character is based on Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta, who was appointed Ambassador
to Luxembourg
in 1949. The Playbill
distributed at each performance humorously noted that "neither the character of Mrs. Sally Adams nor Miss Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman
resemble any person living or dead." In 1949, Merman and her family were vacationing at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs with Howard Lindsay and his wife Dorothy Stickney. Watching Merman poolside while reading a magazine article about Mesta, Lindsay was struck by how typically "American" she was and immediately envisioned her portraying a colorful character similar to the newly appointed ambassador. When he proposed the idea to Merman, who had little interest in either society or political news, she responded, "Who's Perle Mesta?"[1] Although Merman had announced she was interested in playing a dramatic role in her next project, Lindsay and Russel Crouse approached Irving Berlin and began working on the book for Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
when he expressed interest in composing the score. Berlin's last production, Miss Liberty, had failed to recoup its investment, and he was determined to repeat the success he had had with Annie Get Your Gun. The three collaborators agreed they needed to treat their subject with care to avoid any legal action by Mesta. As the work progressed, Merman conceded she would be willing to sing two or three songs, but eventually accepted the fact she was going to star in a full-scale musical comedy instead of the drama she preferred.[1] Producer Leland Hayward
Leland Hayward
budgeted the production at $250,000. In exchange for the original cast recording and television broadcast rights, he arranged to have it financed 100% by RCA Records
RCA Records
and NBC, with the two sharing 35% of the net earnings. In order to increase the profits, Hayward decided to charge an all-time high of $7.20 for orchestra seats.[1] Hayward hired George Abbott
George Abbott
to direct, and Abbott and casting director Harold Prince auditioned thousands of actors for the twenty speaking roles and twenty-nine chorus members. Raoul Pene du Bois was hired to design sets and costumes, although the wardrobe worn by Merman was the responsibility of Mainbocher.[1] Once the script was completed, everyone agreed that, while it was little more than standard situation comedy material, it was a perfect vehicle for Merman, and that Berlin's score, although far from his best, was tuneful and memorable. It included the comic song "Mr. Monotony", which originally was written for and dropped from the film Easter Parade. Berlin had then included it in Miss Liberty, but it was dropped from that as well. In this instance, the third time was not the charm: during out-of-town tryouts, Merman insisted it be dropped. (In 1988, Sarah Brightman
Sarah Brightman
recorded it for her CD The Songs That Got Away.) To fill the hole its omission left in the second act, Berlin wrote "Something to Dance About" to give the second act a lively opening. When the star requested a duet with Russell Nype playing her lovestruck press attaché, Berlin responded by writing the counterpoint tune "You're Just in Love" and it ultimately became a showstopper at every performance.[1] Productions[edit] Directed by George Abbott
George Abbott
and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, the musical premiered at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut
on September 11, 1950. Reviews were mixed - Variety said it "inspires warm applause rather than cheer"—and Berlin wrote two new songs to bolster the sagging second act. It opened in Boston on September 19, and while The Boston Record thought it offered "only an occasional flash of inspirational fire", it played to standing-room-only audiences throughout the run.[1] With a record advance sale of $2 million,[1] the Broadway production opened on October 12 at the Imperial Theatre, where it ran for 644 performances and grossed more than $4 million.[1] In addition to Merman and Nype, the cast included Paul Lukas, Pat Harrington, Sr., Galina Talva, Lilia Skala, Tommy Rall and Richard Eastham. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times
The New York Times
thought it offered one of Berlin's "most enchanting scores: fresh, light, and beguiling, and fitted to lyrics that fall out of it with grace and humor", and the New York Post called Merman "indescribably soul-satisfying", "a comedienne of rare skill", and "one of the joys of the world."[1] She remained with the show for the entire run and appeared in the limited four-week engagement staged to celebrate the reopening of the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., but her understudy Elaine Stritch
Elaine Stritch
starred in the national tour.[1] The musical opened in the West End at the London Coliseum
London Coliseum
on March 15, 1952 where it ran for 486 performances and starred Billie Worth.[2] An Australian tour commenced in Melbourne
at the Her Majesty's Theatre on September 5, 1953. The production starred Evie Hayes as Mrs. Sally Adams. The show subsequently toured to Sydney
and Brisbane.[3] The New York City Center
New York City Center
Encores! semi-staged concert version starring Tyne Daly, Walter Charles, and Melissa Errico was presented in February 1995.[4] A regional production ran at the Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey, in April–May 1996 and starred Leslie Uggams.[5] Other major productions have starred Constance Bennett, Joanne Worley
Joanne Worley
and Karen Morrow. A summer stock production for the Music Fair theatres starred Martha Raye. The Union Theatre in London produced Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
in the fall of 2012. It was staged and directed by Michael Strassen and starred Lucy Williamson, Gavin Kerr, Leo Miles and Natalie Lipin. It received five nominations at the Off West End Awards and was named as one of the productions when the Union won Best Fringe at The Stage Awards in 2013 alongside The Globe (Best Theatre) Film adaptation[edit] Main article: Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
(film) A 1953 20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
film adaptation stars Ethel Merman, George Sanders, Donald O'Connor, Billy DeWolfe, Charles Dingle, and Vera-Ellen. Musical numbers[edit]

Act I

"Mrs. Sally Adams" "The Hostess With the Mostes' on the Ball" "Washington Square Dance" "Lichtenburg" "Can You Use Any Money Today?" "Marrying For Love" "The Ocarina" "It's a Lovely Day Today" "The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me)"

Act II

"Lichtenburg" (Reprise) "Something To Dance About" "Once Upon a Time Today" "They Like Ike" "You're Just in Love" "The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me)" (Reprise) "It's a Lovely Day Today" (Reprise) "Mrs. Sally Adams" (Reprise) Finale

Recordings[edit] In a highly unusual situation, two LP albums of the score were released. The recording rights had been granted to RCA Victor, which had invested in the show, but Merman was under contract to Decca Records, which refused to allow her to record the original cast album. Decca issued a 10-inch LP featuring Merman singing some of her songs, accompanied by arranger-conductor Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra and Chorus, with vocalizing by Dick Haymes
Dick Haymes
(who joined Merman in the show's biggest hit, "You're Just in Love", their single reaching Billboard magazine's number 30 for a week) and Eileen Wilson (who sang "It's a Lovely Day Today" with Haymes). RCA Victor
RCA Victor
went ahead with the original cast album replacing Merman with Dinah Shore. Merman was called back into the Decca studios to record additional songs from the show, and the label quickly re-released the album as a 12-inch LP under the title Ethel Merman: 12 Songs from Call Me Madam. The Victor album sold reasonably well, attaining the sixth spot on the Billboard popular album charts, but the LP was out of print from 1956 until RCA Red Seal reissued it briefly in 1977. Peaking at number two on Billboard's popular album charts, Merman's Decca recording, which would appear on MCA Records
MCA Records
beginning in 1973, stayed steadily in print until the end of the LP era. Merman's Madam album currently is available on a Decca Broadway CD, which also features Merman singing four Cole Porter
Cole Porter
tunes from the stage score of Panama Hattie
Panama Hattie
(1940). Merman also is heard on the film soundtrack album (with Donald O'Connor and George Sanders), issued in 1953 as a 10-inch album, also on the Decca label. Scoring fifth position on Billboard "s popular albums charts when first released, the soundtrack, taken out of print in 1957, was reissued in 1981 by Stet Records on a 12-inch LP which also contained songs from the film scores of Guys and Dolls (1955) and I'll Cry Tomorrow
I'll Cry Tomorrow
(1955). The Merman soundtrack has not been legally updated to a CD. A 1995 Broadway concert cast album, featuring Tyne Daly, Lewis Cleale, Christopher Durang, Ken Page, and Melissa Errico, is available on the DRG label. The original London West End cast recording, starring Billie Worth, has been released on the Sepia label. Promotional Appearances[edit] On the premiere episode of The Big Show ( NBC
Radio) on November 5, 1950, original Broadway cast members Ethel Merman, Paul Lukas, and Russell Nype appeared in the first half-hour (of the hour-and-a-half program) and performed songs from the score in order of their appearance in the production, while host Tallulah Bankhead
Tallulah Bankhead
filled in story notes between songs (although accidentally missing one story cue). Merman sang "The Hostess With the Mostes' on the Ball," then Lukas sang "Lichtenburg," then Merman sang "Can You Use Any Money Today?" and "The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me)," and finally Merman sang "You're Just in Love" with Nype.[6] In Political Culture[edit] Known as "Madam Speaker", when United Kingdom's Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd
was assigned the chair of Deputy Speaker
Deputy Speaker
(1987 - 1992), backbencher Peter Pike asked her: "What do we call you?" and drawing from her show business years, Boothroyd replied: "Call me Madam."[7][8][9] Awards[edit]

Tony Award for Best Original Score Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Merman) Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Nype) Tony Award for Best Stage Technician (Peter Feller) Theatre World Award (Nype)


^ a b c d e f g h i j Kellow, Brian, Ethel Merman: A Life. New York: Viking Press 2007. ISBN 0-670-01829-5, pp. 121-142 ^ Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
listing broadwayworld.com, accessed March 3, 2009. ^ "Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1981-1990" books.google.com, accessed March 4, 2018 ^ Encores 1995 listing broadwayworld.com, accessed March 3, 2009. ^ Klein, Alvin. "From Washington to Lichtenburg via Berlin", The New York Times, April 21, 1996. ^ The Big Show from November 5, 1950 The Big Show - Single Episodes from the Old Time Radio Researchers Group at the Internet Archive, accessed November 6, 2010. ^ "Betty Boothroyd: To Parliament and beyond". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved August 24, 2016.  ^ " Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd
Facts". biography.yourdictionary.com. Retrieved August 24, 2016.  ^ "Profile : Madame Speaker : Britain's Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd
gets high marks for efficiency, humor--and toughness". articles.latimes.com. Retrieved August 24, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
at the Internet Broadway Database Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
at guidetomusicaltheatre.com

v t e

Musicals by Irving Berlin


Annie Get Your Gun As Thousands Cheer Call Me Madam The Canary The Century Girl The Cocoanuts The Cohan Revue of 1918 Face the Music Louisiana Purchase Miss Liberty Mr. President Music Box Revue Stop! Look! Listen! This Is the Army Top Hat Watch Your Step White Christmas Wise Guy Yip Yip Yaphank Ziegfeld Follies


Alexander's Ragtime Band Annie Get Your Gun Blue Skies Call Me Madam Carefree The Cocoanuts Easter Parade Follow the Fleet Hallelujah Holiday Inn On the Avenue Second Fiddle There's No Business Like Show Business This Is the Army Top Hat White Christmas

See also Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin

v t e

Tony Award for Best Original Score


Street Scene by Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill
(1947) Kiss Me, Kate
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(1949) South Pacific by Richard Rodgers
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(1950) Call Me Madam
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by Irving Berlin
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(1951) No Strings
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