Call Me Madam, a fictionalized account of the life of Washington hostess and ambassador to Luxembourg Pearl Mesta, was Irving Berlin's final hit Broadway musical. It was also his second collaboration with Ethel Merman, who had starred in his most successful show, Annie Get Your Gun. Opening October 12, 1950, Call Me Madam settled in for a run that eventually totaled 644 performances, making the commercial prospects of a cast album bright. Unfortunately, there was a glitch. The show had been financed by RCA Victor Records, who claimed the cast album. But Merman was an exclusive recording artist for Decca, one of RCA's major rivals. The result was two albums: RCA replaced Merman with Dinah Shore, while Decca replaced the rest of the original cast with Dick Haymes, Eileen Wilson, and a chorus. The Decca album got out of the gate first and, featuring the show's star, was bound to be the more successful anyway; it just missed topping the charts. Merman is, of course, the recording's chief asset, as she belts out seven of the album's 12 songs (the original EP and 10" LP versions had only eight tracks, but they were quickly superseded by a 12-track 12" LP), including "The Hostess With the Mostes' on the Ball" and "The Best Thing for You." Her duet with Haymes, "You're Just in Love," was the hit of the show, reaching the Top 40. Haymes was in typically good voice on his solo, "Once Upon a Time Today." The best of the choral numbers was the prophetic "They Like Ike," which featured an unidentified soloist. When MCA reissued the album for the CD era, it added the four songs Merman recorded in 1940 for the Cole Porter show Panama Hattie, among them the attractive duet with Joan Carroll, "Let's Be Buddies."
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Call Me Madam, musical|
|Panama Hattie, musical|