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*Call Me Madam,* 2/8/19

Susan, Anne Marie, and I saw *Call Me Madam* at Encores on 2/8/19. It's an Irving Berlin musical from 1950, it was written for Ethel Merman. It's a fictionalized version of the story of Perle Mesta, a prominent DC hostess who was made Ambassador to Luxembourg. In the show, her name is Sally Adams and she's Ambassador to Lichtenburg (a made up European country). The aura of Perle Mesta was so strong that the producers printed this statement in the program: "Neither the character of Mrs. Sally Adams or Miss Ethel Merman resemble any person living or dead." Ha!

It was a lovable show, and the score was fantastic, many peppy or lovely songs, expertly worked into the story, full of charm and punch. As with many Encores shows, it was the show that was the star of the show. Which is kind of the point of Encores.

I'll discuss the supporting cast first, and leave the leading lady for last. Ben Davis had the male lead, and he was dreamy. I saw him in *On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever* this summer and he was even better in this. Gorgeous voice, handsome man, oozes charisma. I totally melted both times he and Mrs. Adams kissed.

Jason Gotay played the young man part, and he was so sweet. Cute, but not cute about it, you know what I mean? Lauren Worsham played the young woman part - - I saw her in *A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder,* she was stellar in that. She had less to do in this, not very much singing, and none of it in her best register (she's a high soprano, and this was low for her), which made me wonder why they cast her. But she was rather perfect!

The leading lady, the undisputed star of the show, was played by Carmen Cusack (no relation to John or Joan). She got a Tony nomination a couple years ago for *Bright Star.* I hadn't seen her before and was curious. She did a good job, she's glamorous, has a likable presence, totally holds her own on the stage. I couldn't always understand her words in the songs, and she was the only one in the cast with that problem. She has a little catch in her voice when she goes into her upper register - - it didn't sound to me like a defect, it sounded like a mannerism, and it got on my nerves. After 20 minutes I decided that Donna Murphy would be better in the part, and that belief was confirmed in every scene.

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