Although Patti LuPone appears on the cover of this album, it is and should be at least co-billed to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri, since about half of the running time is taken up with the orchestra's instrumental treatments of Irving Berlin material in four medleys: "Berlin Goes to Hollywood," "Call Me Madam Dances," "Monte Carlo Ballet" (which is the extended "Let's Face the Music and Dance" sequence from the film Follow the Fleet), and "Patriotic Overture." LuPone is practically a guest artist, seemingly employed primarily to channel the spirit of Ethel Merman, whose vocal style she is able to evoke, while avoiding Merman's stentorian tendencies, on such Merman-identified songs as "There's No Business Like Show Business," "The Hostess with the Mostes'," "I Got Lost in His Arms," and "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly." LuPone is a delight whenever she opens her mouth to sing, but she is largely straight-jacketed by the arrangements, many of them original but played without much verve by the ever-correct but often stodgy Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Only on the relatively obscure "Lonely Heart," sandwiched in the middle of a medley, does she get a moment to show the kind of emotional force of which she's capable.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Call Me Madam|