On Musicals

5 Things to Know about Call Me Madam

February 6, 2019 by New York City Center

Five things to know about Call Me Madam, returning to City Center February 6-10, 2019.

  1. Call Me Madam marks the second time in Encores! history that we’re reviving one of our own revivals. This classic musical was the highlight of the second season of Encores! and we are delighted to bring it back to our stage to honor the legacy of Encores! in our celebratory 75th Anniversary Season. Tyne Daly starred in the 1995 production, a role now inhabited by Tony-nominee Carmen Cusack.

    Tyne Daly as Sally Adams

  2. The music of Irving Berlin has been no stranger to City Center audiences over the course of our 75-year history. His 1932 musical Face the Music was presented by Encores! back in 2007. Later that same year, his music was featured in the Encores! presentation of Stairway to Paradise, an original musical presentation featuring songs and sketches from classic Broadway revues, a genre in which Irving Berlin thrived. Most recently, his most well-known musical, Annie Get Your Gun, was featured as our 2015 Gala Presentation, starring Tony-nominees Megan Hilty and Andy Karl, after having its first City Center production back in 1958!

  3. Call Me Madam was inspired by the real-life figure of Perle Mesta, a Washington socialite who served as the Ambassador to Luxembourg in a time when the world of politics was mostly comprised of men. Call Me Madam was written in an era where musicals were written and produced extremely quickly, and the musical premiered on Broadway only one year into Perle Mesta’s four-year term as an Ambassador.

  4. The story of Perle Mesta was originally slated to be a straight comedy rather than a musical. It wasn’t until book writer Howard Lindsay saw Ethel Merman–the original Sally Adams–sitting by a swimming pool that he had the idea to create a satirical musical that used comedy and theatrical convention to lightly spoof the politics of America at the time. Luxembourg became the fictional “Lichtenburg,” and the writers even included a tongue-in-cheek note in the original Playbill that read: “Neither the character of Mrs. Sally Adams nor Miss Ethel Merman resemble any person living or dead.” 

    The cast of Call Me Madam dressed as citizens of Lichtenburg

  5. While the setting of Call Me Madam might not be a real country, the national instrument of Lichtenburg–the ocarina–is indeed a real musical instrument! Rarely seen or heard of by contemporary audiences, get ready to see this rare wind instrument in action as the ocarina takes center stage once again in the first act of the musical. Watch a sneak peek of the ocarina in rehearsals!