Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On CALL ME MADAM At City Center
For City Center's 75th Anniversary Season the series is reviving one of its own revivals, the musical Call Me Madam. Featuring a memorable score by Irving Berlin and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, Call Me Madam centers around a brassy ambassador to the fictional European nation of Lichtenberg.
The show pokes fun at a far more polite and being political world and includes standards such as "It's a Lovely Day Today" and "Something to Dance About," along with Berlin's most famous counterpoint duet, "You're Just in Love." Directed by Casey Hushion with music direction by Encores! Music Director Rob Berman and choreography by Denis Jones,Call Me Madam will run for seven performances only February 6 through 10 at New York City Center.
Call Me Madam stars Carmen Cusack, Ben Davis, Jason Gotay, Darrell Hammond, Adam Heller, Carol Kane, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Brad Oscar, Randy Rainbow, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Lauren Worsham. The ensemble includes Florrie Bagel, Daniel Berryman, Taeler Elyse Cyrus, Leslie Flesner, Ta'Nika Gibson, Christopher Gurr, Leah Horowitz, Javier Ignacio, Max Kumangai, Matt Loehr, Brandt Martinez, Skye Mattox, Timothy McDevitt, Harris Milgrim, Bethany Moore, Mary Page Nance, Robert Roby, Kathy Voytko, Sumi Yu, and Ricardo Zayas.
Jesse Green, The New York Times: That at any rate is the impression left by the pulse-lowering Encores! production of "Call Me Madam" that opened on Wednesday at City Center, directed by Casey Hushion and starring Carmen Cusack in the Merman role. Ms. Cusack, a strong performer in other circumstances - she emerged gleaming from the wreckage of "Bright Star" in 2016 - is overpowered here by material that, if it can work at all today, can do so only when rough-handled by a mauler.
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: By no means a classic musical, Call Me Madam is nevertheless a classic style musical of its time, offering 1950s audiences some good laughs, some pleasing new tunes and a big star performance. And you didn't have to take out a loan or access a government program to afford tickets.
Matt Windman, amNY: "Call Me Madam" exposes the central challenge of the Encores! series (which generally does superb work): to breathe life back into musicals that often feel dated and problematic by today's standards. With great casting and direction (as well as Rob Berman's consummate musical direction, with a full orchestra), Encores! can work wonders. But every now and again, it lays an egg. This is one of those times.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: It would be terrific to report that the series' new production was equally invigorating. Sadly, Carmen Cusack, who was Tony-nominated for her Broadway debut in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's Bright Star, doesn't quite have the larger-than-life presence necessary to lift this flimsy star vehicle. She does, however, have a gorgeous voice and charm to spare, and these assets, along with Irving Berlin's terrific score and some deftly amusing supporting performances, make this Call Me Madam enjoyable if not spectacular.
Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: The answer is: Kinda well. The new Call Me Madam satisfactorily delivers what they used to call a good old-fashioned musical, with sly cracks from the jokebook interrupted by a parade of brightly tuneful but not especially relevant songs. This is accomplished in high fashion, with some enjoyably charming turns from the players; the ministrations of a fine ensemble, under the tutelage of choreographer Denis Jones; and that old devil Encores orchestra tooting away at Don Walker's orchestrations with abandon under the steady baton of Rob Berman.
David Finkle, New York Stage Review: With Cusack energetically leading the way, under Casey Hushion's smart direction and in any number of smart Jen Caprio outfits (were those capri pants?), the cast does an outstanding Call Me Madam reprise. Davis, Gotay, and Worsham show off hot pipes throughout. Because Berlin supplied "The Washington Square Dance" and "The Ocarina" (with the lyric "Dance to the music of the ocarina"), choreographer Denis Jones has two numbers that demand agile terpsichore and does well with there and elsewhere. The reliable Rob Berman enhances Berlin with his 29-piece (!) orchestra.