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
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
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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