Nymph Errant: Cole Porter’s musical fossil dug up Off B'way
Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk Entertainment.com
Where else will you find a love song entitled “Plumbing” sung in a harem in Turkey, accents (French, American, Italian, Greek, German, Russian, British and Turkish) running rampant, a travelogue setting of a stage with steamer trunks and suitcases populated with ingenious props and cost efficient but splashy costumes with spiffy direction of a 1933 musical score with bright and lilting melodies and some very clever words written by none other than Cole Porter? Minor Cole Porter mind you, but Cole Porter nonetheless.
For all those Cole Porter fanatics this is probably on the top of their must see list. Seldom seen, it was written between Gay Divorce and Anything Goes and doesn’t come close to either one although Mr. Porter fancied this his most sexy and sophisticated score.
It is now running until July 29th at The Clurman Theatre – Theatre Row, produced by the Prospect Theater Company who must be congratulated for this daunting and daring undertaking.
They have now joined the ranks of The Mint and TACT and Encores in successfully presenting forgotten but worthwhile shows of a certain age.
This adaptation with a new libretto by Rob Urbinati is based on the original novel by James Laver and the original libretto by Romney Brent.
Nymph Errant is presented as a vaudeville show with short scenes, satirical barbs and lots of musical numbers where Eve (Jennifer Blood) has just finished Finishing School where she and her chums discuss clothes and men prompted by Miss Pratt (Cady Huffman) - head mistress to “Experiment” – and experiment she does traveling from country to country and from man to man looking for romantic love and not wanting to be taken advantage of until Act II when she’s had enough of nothing and is looking unsuccessfully for the wilder side of sexual love.
Her schoolmates show up in the most unexpected places. The wealthy American Henrietta (Sara Jayne Blackmore) the very very British Pidge (Laura Cook) the Germanic Bertha (Amy Jo Jackson) and the French mademoiselle Madeline (Aubrey Sinn).
There is Eve’s Aunt Ermyntrude (Natalie E. Carter) who doubles as Haidee from the deep South and Abe Goldfarb as Pithers, Alexei, Ferdinand and Vassim and the very funny Sorab Wadia as Andre, Heinz, Constantine and Ali - a Eunuch!
There’s one more: the young love interest Oliver/Ben (Andrew Brewer – straight from Indiana making his NYC debut. This guy has good looks, a strong presence and a sweet tenor absolutely right for the period ballads he sings (including Plumbing). I didn’t think young men sang like this anymore. Good for him. A pleasure to hear. Cole Porter would have immediately taken him under his wing.
So sit back and be prepared for the unexpected and a fun if uneven time. It’s extremely entertaining despite the convoluted plot which skips and sings along with great finesse directed by Will Pomerantz who has made some excellent and amusing choices with his cast.
Eve even visits a Nudist Camp. Done with great taste and tongue in cheek the nudists sing a cappella a la nature – undressed to the nines by the gifted designer Whitney Locher. Eve eventually finds true romantic love with her boy next door and together they sing the lovely “How Could We Be Wrong.”
Cady Huffman also shines with her other characterizations – Clarissa a past her prime prostitute, Mrs. Bamberg a brash American who has taken over a Palazzo in Venice and Professor Krauthammer on the Isle of Lesbos.
There’s something for everyone here and you might even see where future writers borrowed from Porter’s wealth of material: The Boyfriend, Cabaret, Nine, Candide and Hello Again.
The onstage band is terrific, missing not a beat and keeping the theatre filled with some wonderful tunes with their delightfully witty lyrics.