George Abbott was not, in any sense, a political dramatist, but, in the mid-Fifties, he was asked to stage a rally for Adlai Stevenson—an odd choice considering it was Abbott’s 1950 hit Call Me Madam which gave Eisenhower his campaign song, “They Like Ike.” Anyway, he said yes and went down to Madison Square Garden only to find that the Democrats invariably turned up late for rehearsal, which he hated, and, worse, hadn’t learned their lines. He withdrew from the rally.

It’s tempting to see this as some sort of political metaphor. At any rate, it exemplifies Abbott’s approach to his art: he was a practical man of the theater, open-minded about content because he understood that what counts is how efficiently you serve it. I dimly recall saying as much in these pages a few months ago; in fact, since September, I seem to have cited Abbott almost every month, which is strange when you...

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