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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at New York City Center


  Ph: Stephanie Berger

Encores!' latest take on Irving Berlin’s 1950 musical comedy Call Me Madam starring Carmen Cusack as a D.C. socialite turned diplomat offers a telling reminder that star vehicles don’t just drive themselves. It takes the right motorist behind the wheel to make the show rev on all cylinders. 

As Sally Adams, a role custom-built for belter Ethel Merman, Cusack, a Tony nominee for the Steve Martin musical Bright Star, has a pretty voice and stage presence, but the character yearns for bigger-than-life brass and sass, and you can’t simply summon that if it’s not in your DNA. As a result, the show, in residence at New York City Center Feb. 6-10, offers a smooth but unremarkable ride. 

The story by Russell Crouse and Howard Lindsay blends politics and star-crossed passion in a romanticized riff on a Truman-era occasion, when “hostess with the mostest” Perle Mesta was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg. Here, it’s cash-strapped Lichtenburg, where Sally lands and immediately goes gaga for high-ranking official Cosmo Constantine (Ben Davis, dreamy all around), while her assistant Kenneth (Jason Gotay) falls for the out-of-bounds Princess Maria (Lauren Worsham, deliciously daffy). 

When all is sung and done, the plot is just an excuse for bouncy Berlin tunes, including the gems “You’re Just in Love” and the much-reprised “It’s a Lovely Day Today.” Directed by Casey Hushion and choreographed by Denis Jones, Call Me Madam is most notable as a pleasant trip down memory lane to when – so it goes on stage – Democrats and Republicans shared respect, cocktails and a good time together. Imagine that.


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