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A CurtainUp Review
Nymph Errant

"For a fleeting moment, I believed that it would be wrong to marry the first man I loved. Now I know better." — Eve
nympth errant
Jennifer Blood and Sorab Wadia
You don’t have to be a musical theater maven to associate the name Cole Porter as the composer of such super hits as Anything Goes and his masterpiece Kiss Me Kate. However, you would certainly be considered a Porterphile if you identify him with the virtually obscure musical comedy Nymph Errant, first produced in London as a vehicle for Gertrude Lawrence in 1933.

The legendary Agnes DeMille began her career as a choreographer with this show. It never made it to Broadway for reasons that are quite apparent in the modestly ambitious, ambivalently adapted Prospect Theater Company production.

Despite a score that periodically sparkles with the Porter wit, it will forever be a victim of its inane plot: a rather tasteless charade about a young woman who, having just graduated from a Swiss “finishing school,” travels the world trying to lose her virginity— unsuccessfully. Breezily directed and boasting a new libretto by Will Pomerantz (from the original by Romney Brent who adapted the novel with the same name by James Laver), this lumbering musical romp nevertheless, moves facetiously from one relatively diverting number to another and from one preposterously salacious episode to the next, and with no intentions to be more than mildly titillating.

Barely excusable as a book-driven musical comedy even for its time, Nymph Errant plays like a series of broad and certainly not bawdy revue sketches presided over by Eve (Jennifer Blood) our damsel in heat. As there is no real salvaging of a text that makes no attempt to be more than naughty by insinuation, it would be silly to infer that a semblance of credibility has crept into any of the one-dimensional characters. For the most part, the cast hasn’t achieved even the one-dimensional level that could potentially absolve everyone.

Rarely staying either in the arms or in the clutches of such would-be lovers as a French theatrical producer, a German nudist enthusiast, a no account Italian Count, a melancholy Russian and a Turkish barbarian, among others (all over-caricatured to various degrees by Abe Goldfarb and Sorab Wadia). Eve is also surprised to discover how many of her finishing school friends (Sara Jayne Blackmore, Natalie E. Carter, Amy Jo Jackson and Aubrey Sinn) are also out-sourcing their questionable talent.

Cady Huffman, best known for her Tony Award-winning performance in The Producers, has also been assigned multiple roles. In the beginning of the show, as the bespectacled finishing school science teacher Miss Pratt, she leads the pink lingerie-attired young ladies in one of the musical’s more familiar songs “Experiment,” in which she plants the idea for promiscuity. In other guises, Huffman is, like everyone in the ever cavorting cast, rarely off stage.

A Parisian nightclub provides the setting for buxom Natalie E. Carter to belt out the sexy double-entendres in “The Physician,” and later the bluesy “Solomon” in a Turkish harem. Set designer Brian Prather uses a unit setting with a backdrop of international posters, the stage littered with trunks, luggage and racks that get used as set pieces.

A funny sight gag occurs in an Austrian nudist colony where the cast enters attired in costume designer Whitney Locher’s collection of nude couture. Considering the budget, Locher’s costumes are a wonder. Laughs are plentiful, especially if you can appreciate a line such as this when a Yonkers matron (Huffman) yells out to a dancing chorus of servants on the terrace of a Palazzo, “Off with tap shoes and back to work.” Funniest line of all comes from the black singer Carter who explains her presence in the harem, “I was sold into white slavery.”

I have no complaints regarding the songs from other Porter musicals that have been interpolated such as “Dizzy Baby” (from Paris, “The Boyfriend Back Home” and “Paree, What Did You Do To Me” (from Fifty Million Frenchmen) and “Red Hot and Blue” (Red, Hot and Blue). The score has been nicely arranged and terrifically played by a five-piece band.

There are some treasures in the original score including “It’s Bad for Me,” and “You’re Too Far Away,” the latter beautifully sung by the good-looking and personable Andrew Brewer, as a plumber/co-chorister, and as the boy back home, who manages to stay remarkably unfettered by the loony goings-on around him. He is certainly not fazed by the amoral odyssey undertaken by Eve. As Eve, Blood does not quite project the kind of demure vivacity that might typically ignite a musical such as this. Despite a sweet singing voice, she makes one think about why all the men that Eve encounters might decide to leave well enough alone, and fans of musical theater history are not likely to leave Nymph Errant making it a must see during its brief run.

Nymph Errant
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter, adapted & with new libretto by Rob Urbinati based on the original novel by James Laver and the original libretto by Romney Brent
Directed & Choreographed by Will Pomerantz

CAST: Sara Jayne Blackmore (Henrietta), Jennifer Blood (Eve), Andrew Brewer (Oliver, Ben), Natalie E. Carter (Aunt Ermyntrude, Haidee), Laura Cook (Pidge), Abe Goldfarb (Pithers, Alexei, Ferdinand, Vassim), Cady Huffman (Miss Pratt, Clarissa, Mrs. Bamberg, Professor Krauthammer), Amy Jo Jackson (Bertha), Aubrey Sinn (Madeline), Sorab Wadia (Andre, Heinz, Constantine, Ali)
BAND: Conductor/Piano (James Bassi), Drums/Percussion (Bruce Doctor), Reeds (Josh Johnson), Bass (Dennis Michael Keefe), Violin (Yury Shubov).
Scenic Design: Brian Prather
Costume Design: Whitney Locher
Lighting Design: Cory Pattak
Sound Design: Eric Madison
Musical Director: James Bassi
Musical Arrangements & Orchestrations: Frederick Alden Terry
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Prospect Theater Company at the Clurman Theater, 410 W. 42nd Street
(212) 239 – 6200
Tickets: $51.25 & $66.25
Performances: Tues and Weds at 7:30 PM, Thurs, Fri & Sat at 8 PM, Sun at 3 PM.
From 07/07/12 Opened 07/13/12 Ends 07/29
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/11/12
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