Forrest Richards’ star turn makes this Golden Apple musical worthwhile.
By Kay Kipling
Some musicals are ensemble pieces from the start; others just demand a star at the center of it all. Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam is definitely one of the latter; no matter who is cast in the other roles, the pivotal one of Washington hostess-turned-ambassador Sally Adams makes or breaks the show.
Fortunately, the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre has Forrest Richards in the role, and from the moment she steps onstage as the upbeat, outgoing and hard-to-resist Sally, she’s got things under control. Less brassy than Ethel Merman, who originated the role more than 50 years ago, but still with plenty of spunk, charm and oomph, Richards delivers, whether introducing herself as the Hostess with the Mostess on the Ball or falling instantly in love with a dignitary of the fictional country—Lichtenburg—to which she’s assigned by President Harry Truman.
For anyone under the age of 50, the mention of Truman may throw you a little; yes, this is definitely a period piece in many ways, with frequent mentions of politicians and important figures of the ‘50s era you may not recall. That doesn’t matter so much, but the old-fashioned, formulaic storyline (apologies to the memories of playwrights Lindsay and Crouse) may have some younger audience members wondering, “Is that what musicals were like way back then?”
Well, yes, they often were, so just sit back and enjoy Richards (wearing some flattering costumes), nice choreography by Dewayne Barrett and all those Berlin tunes, most notably, of course, You’re Just in Love, a spirited duet highlight of the show that comes near the end. In other roles, Sarah Farnam and Andrew Arrow have their romantic moments as a princess and a diplomat who, like Sally and her beau, fall instantly in love; as that beau, Cosmo, Roy Johns sings well and looks the part, although he doesn’t seem very European in his presence or speech.
Still, the evening belongs to Richards, and we’re mostly willing to overlook any creaks or cracks in the show thanks to her. Call Me Madam is set to run through June 17; call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com for ticket info.