A rubdown with a velvet glove

Arlington Nagle JrSpeaking of Irving Berlin, as I was, I’m reminded of the time we went to see the Conrad Weiser High School production of his 1950 Broadway musical Call Me Madam.

I think the only reason we went to see it was because our family doctor’s son, Arlington Nagle Jr., had a part in it.

And my aunt and uncle Jane and Allen lived just a hop, skip, and a jump from the school, so that made it convenient to get tickets, etc.

In the event Dr. Nagle’s son had a relatively small, non-singing part, as I recall, the Grand Duke of the Duchy of Lichtenburg I think.

But I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

The girl who played the part that Ethel Merman had created on Broadway was absolutely wonderful; even after all these years I can still remember a few bits of business that she did that had me and the whole audience in stitches.

But what I remember most of all is a couple of the songs that impressed me on first hearing. “It’s a Lovely Day Today”, of course, is one of Berlin’s most ingratiating tunes.

And then there’s “You’re Just in Love”.

I don’t think I had ever heard anything quite like it before. The young romantic lead of the show complains in a sweet lyrical melody that he’s losing sleep but he doesn’t know why. “Stars that used to twinkle in the skies / Are twinkling in my eyes / I wonder why.” 

Then the older but wiser Merman character does what she does best. In full belt mode she lets loose with a great Berlin tune that diagnoses the problem, concluding with “There is nothing you can take / To relieve that pleasant ache / You’re not sick / You’re just in love.” 

But what really knocked me out was that then the two of them sang what I had thought were two separate songs together in perfect counterpoint. I doubt that I even knew what counterpoint was in those days. I had heard duets before, sure, but nothing quite like that. Duets were when people sang the same words in harmony or perhaps in a sort of statement/response or echo.

Here are Donald O’Conner and Ethel Merman singing it in the movie version of the show:

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