Terry and Mauricio and Dave and I went to see 42nd Street Moon’s production of Call Me Madam last night. The production is fun and the performances are very good, but oh my god what a threadbare script it is. The show wasn’t written to tell a story that anybody wanted to tell, it was written to show off its star’s personality. There’s hardly a line of dialogue that has any intrinsic wit or excitement or character or even basic dramatic craft in it; everything is tailored to give the illusion that there’s some kind of slight story going on while actually letting Ethel Merman play herself and be entertaining while doing so. Klea Blackhurst seems to me to be Merman’s equal as a singer, and certainly could have run circles around her as an actor, but this show isn’t about any of that, it’s about being Ethel Merman, and I don’t see much reason to do Call Me Madam now that she’s not available. Some shows ought to be treated like football jerseys and retired with the star performers who wore them.
Many of the songs are terrific, of course, so the show has a lot of entertaining moments, too. Maybe someday somebody will take the songs and stitch together a new script tailored to the personality of somebody new.