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Call Me Madam

Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin

Book: Russel Crouse & Howard Lindsay

THE original programme for CALL ME MADAM contained the following information: "The play is laid in two mythical countries. One is called Lichtenburg, the other is the United States of America."

The curtain rises in Washington, D.C., where Sally Adams is being sworn in as the new Ambassador to Lichtenburg. ("Where the hell is Lichtenburg?" she inquires with her customary directness, when the swearing-in ceremony is over.) She has appointed young Kenneth Gibson, a serious student of economics and international affairs, to her embassy staff. When Kenneth tries to sound out Sally's views on Lichtenburg's economy, and discovers she is completely innocent of any information, he inquires how she came to be an Ambassador. With no less candor, Sally tells him ("I'm the Hostess with the Mostes' on the Ball"). Sally then arranges a gala farewell party for her many friends in both political parties ("Washington Square Dance").

In a public square in Lichtenburg the townspeople have been waiting for hours for their new Ambassador. But, apparently, she has lost her way en route to the duchy. When she finally arrives she is given a royal welcome and introduced to Lichtenburg's striking Prime Minister, Cosmo Constantine. Taken with him, Sally immediately inquires if Lichtenburg needs any money from the United States and is taken aback to learn from the Prime Minister that he considers any loan from Washington unthinkable for his government.

A few weeks later Cosmo escorts Sally to the lively Lichtenburg Fair (paid for out of Sally's personal funds). The place is alive with gaiety and activity ("The Ocarina"). Here Kenneth meets the lovely Princess Maria of Lichtenburg for the first time, and impresses her with his immense fund of information about her country. He is at once completely captivated by her beauty and charm ("It's a Lovely Day Today").

As time passes, Sally proceeds to create consternation in Lichtenburg. She is brash, unconventional, uninhibited, and her actions and speech have created shock. Cosmo, however, is more than ever delighted with her, to Sally's immense satisfaction ("The Best Thing for You Would Be Me").

But word has come back to Washington about Sally's undiplomatic behavior, and three Congressmen are sent to investigate. They appear at a lavish Embassy Ball, where they are flabbergasted to learn that Lichtenburg is one place that refuses to consider a loan from the United States. The Congressmen also take time out to do a bit of politicking of their own by maintaining that they have found a candidate for the United States Presidential election of 1952 ("They Like Ike"). While all this is going on, Kenneth is oblivious to anything and everything except his growing love for the Princess ("You're Just in Love").

Sally is finally recalled to Washington; but Kenneth stays behind in Lichtenburg to help build there a hydro-electric plant and to marry the Princess. Cosmo comes to Washington to get a decoration, and when Sally and he meet again they finally recognize that they, too, are in love.

CALL ME MADAM was first produced at the Imperial Theatre on October 12, 1950, with Ethel Merman as "Sally", Paul Lukas as "Cosmo" and Russell Nype as "Kenneth". It enjoyed a run of 644 performances.

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This document was originally published in The Complete Book of Light Opera. Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 890-1.

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