When all a country has to offer is babies and cheese, it’s little wonder they need help. Enter the good old USA with their helpful loans and Bob’s your side of chicken. Except, that’s not quite how things pan out.
‘Call me Madam’ is set in 1950, in the years following World War II, when Truman was rolling out the Marshall Plan to help finance the economic recovery of devasted European countries. If you’re thinking this is political, don’t, it’s purely a backdrop for what is essentially a double love story.
At a time when women were expected to make home, Sally Adams (Rosemary Ashe), is bound for the Grand Duchy of Lichtenburg in her newly appointed role as ambassador. Her creds: Parties and socialising. Next, enter Cosmo Constantine (Richard Gibson), a man who cannot be bought, a man who has nobleness reeking from his penniless pockets. Throw in Sally’s charming assistant, Kenneth, (Daniel Breakwall) and Princess Maria (Beth Burrows), plus a cast of excellent supports, and you have the makings of a plot that steps back in time to an era when money does not solve everything.
The beauty of this musical written by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, is its simplicity. It may be billed as political satire, and perhaps when it originally premiered in 1950 that was the case, but today, it’s the love stories and characters that really sing to the audience. Packed with toe-tapping scores and an excellent live band, I particularly enjoyed ‘The Ocarina’ and ‘It’s a Lovely Day Today’. This is brought to life in the intimate enclave of Upstairs at the Gatehouse which provides the audience with a special closeness rarely found in London playhouses. Despite being a smaller stage, this is a professional production that smacks of big theatre qualities.
‘Call me Madam’ may not have complicated plots and multi-layered characters, but it has a quaintness and charm that makes it a delightful watch. In these difficult days, ‘Call me Madam’ will most certainly make you smile.
‘Call me Madam’ continues at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until the 10th October with tickets available from www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com
Reviewer: Samantha Collett
Reviewed: 14th September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★