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Submitted by Michelle Guillot

Call Me Madam (1953?)
Programme notes

Anton Walbrook, the unpredictable, had his own great and faithful public guessing when it was announced he was to be leading man in an American Musical. A Musical moreover, so they had heard, possessing all the verve, zest, strident bravura and action of the American political set-up. How would the suave, polished, tender and romantic Mr. Walbrook fit into this alien scene, they wondered. Their idol answered their queries on the first night of Call Me Madam, by strolling on to the stage as Cosmo Constantine, the handsome, debonair cabinet minister of Lichtenburg. And, of course, the audience discovered that Cosmo possessed all the attractions of Anton. "But, of course," said the doubters, "we knew he would be wonderful - why hasn't he appeared in a Musical before?" Anton Walbrook replies to this question with a delightful story against himself:

"I have appeared in a Musical; an operetta in fact, but, alas, it didn't run" He proceeds to explain that an enthusiastic theatre director in Berlin asked him to play the leading role in a new operetta. "Have you heard my voice," asked Anton. "Yes," said the director who appeared to be more concerned with having a personality in the piece than a voice. Rehearsals proceeded daily in a smallish room with only a piano. The composer who had written some semi-operatic numbers for the part looked in each day, beamed and was delighted to observe that the star was saving his voice for the Grande Premiere. At the dress rehearsal the composer, himself conducting a full orchestra, took up his baton and got the shock of his life when Anton's tiny tenor was completely drowned under the orchestration. Impatiently rattling his baton he said, "Now you must sing full force please -- give it all you've got." "That's what I'm giving," said Anton. Almost in tears the composer murmured brokenly, "And I wrote this music for a voice like Tauber's." Then losing all control he screamed, " This is the worst piece of miscasting I've ever seen in my life!"

To add to Anton's discomfiture, a girl friend, after witnessing the first performance said, "Anton, darling, please promise me one thing."

"But of course, my dear," he replied, "What is it?"

"Please, never, never sing on the stage again."

Anton has found it only too easy to keep his promise.

But in spite of these shattering experiences, Anton finds himself making a success of his two haunting numbers in the present production. "Of course, they're not operatic arias," he smiles, and adds slyly, "But then one can't sing opera and dance as well."

Anton Walbrook is certainly a name which has appeared alongside an amazing variety of characters on stage and screen. His great versatility may not be realized even by his countless admirers, who under the spell of a dominant personality more often remember the actor rather than the part.

Since last here in The Wild Duck, at the St. Martin's, in 1948, Anton Walbrook has made the outstandingly successful LaRonde; starred on the continent in a Kurt Gotz play, Dr. Praetorius; played the Olivier role in a German translation of Christopher Fry's Venus Observed; and more recently, has starred as Strauss in an Austrian film, Vienna Waltzes, made in his home town of Vienna.

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