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Call Me Madam is a pure adrenalin shot of circa-1950 zeitgeist, a screwball comedy pulled from the headlines with impeccable timing. The show was conceived as a vehicle for Ethel Merman, at that moment arguably the biggest star in Broadway musicals, and reunited her with Irving Berlin, composer/lyricist of her blockbuster 1946 hit Annie Get Your Gun. A red-hot ticket when it opened on October 12, 1950 at the Imperial Theatre, Call Me Madam proved to be the blockbuster Merman and Berlin hoped for. They were in the very best of hands: George Abbott directed, Jerome Robbins choreographed and the casting was supervised by Abbott’s new young assistant, Harold Prince. The cast included an Oscar-winning leading man (Paul Lukas), the bright new presence of Russell Nype as Mrs. Adams’s lovelorn attaché and – as Merman’s underutilized understudy – the young Elaine Stritch. The capitalization for the entire show came from NBC and its record division, RCA Victor. Unfortunately a big problem loomed as Merman was under contract to Decca Records who refused to release her to star in what was sure to be a hit record. Ultimately, RCA Victor turned to one of its hottest singers, Dinah Shore, to step into Merman’s shoes for the original cast recording. It rose to No. 6 on the Billboard album chart but by the late 1950s, it had been deleted from the catalog. The recording got an LP reissue in 1977 but it disappeared again until this Masterworks Broadway release, and is the first and only authorized CD version of RCA Victor’s Call Me Madam digitally remastered from the original tapes.
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