State of the Union

Jeffrey Magee

in Irving Berlin's American Musical Theater

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398267
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933358 | DOI:

Series: Broadway Legacies

                   State of the Union

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Berlin’s final stage shows, Call Me Madam (1950) and Mr. President (1962), take their character from his work with playwrights Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, who, by the early 1960s had enjoyed one of the longest collaborations in American theater history. This chapter explores the common themes in their two musicals with Berlin. Both shows feature a likeable, well-meaning protagonist thrust into the center of national and international politics and into situations that test the durability of personal relationships. The protagonists, striving to do the right thing, confront their limitations, and ultimately preserve their integrity even as they suffer public embarrassment. As it turned out, that description ultimately fit not just the characters but also Lindsay, Crouse, and Berlin themselves. While Call Me Madam could rely at least on the star presence of Ethel Merman, several fine songs, and a strong musical comedy libretto, Mr. President finished as a commercial and artistic failure.

Keywords: musical comedy; politics; Howard Lindsay; Russel Crouse; Ethel Merman

Chapter.  16859 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music ; Popular Music

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