by: Sandi Durell
Many Porter aficionados consider this musical to be his gayest and most clever and, at the time it was presented, was tres controversial.
Time to go out into the world and lose your virginity is what Cole Porter had in mind when he wrote “Nymph Errant” in 1933 for Gertrude Lawrence who played the role of the young Evangeline. Looking for a husband was what Eve, here played by a sweet Jennifer Blood, thought she had in mind as a proper English gal (who most of the time loses that English accent in this production) upon graduating a Swiss finishing school. However, her playmates insist she “Experiment” and that she does, traveling the world and always running into her school chums wherever she may be.
The celebrity talent, in this revival by the Prospect Theatre Company at the Clurman Theatre, is Tony Award Winner Cady Huffman, (The Producers), who plays several roles but has a cheeky piece as Clarissa, a Parisian prostitute, where morals fall by the wayside in “The Cocotte.”
Double entendre “Plumbing” sung by Ben (Andrew Brewer) is cleverly noted as pipes are pieced together for fixing.
Eve travels the world to Venice, Greece, Turkey and finally returns to Oxford by way of Paris engaging in sexy encounters with Alexei, Ferdinand & Vassim (all played by an amusing Abe Goldfarb) and Andrew, Heinz and Constantine (a sometimes lewd, sinister but comical Sorab Wadia) seeking to fulfill her naughty thoughts.
There are some clever ensemble numbers including “Sweet Nudity” where cast members change behind a trunk and all wind up wearing smocks of nude bodies. The tough German lesbian Bertha (Amy Jo Jackson) provides a lot of romping amusement; sexy French Madeline (Aubrey Sinn) is quite adorable and Pidge (Laura Cook), the Brit, could double as Liza.
There is some clever staging in Turkey as the girls are sold into slavery and wait impatiently for the Emir to bed them as Haidee leads them in “Solomon.” At Le Follies, back in Paris, Madeline, Miss Pratt (Huffman) and the girls have a go at “Georgia Sand” referring to George Sand and Alfred de Musset – – rhyme and name dropping.
The all too familiar refrain of “It’s DeLovely” (1936) has some musical sequences in Nymph’s “You’re Too Far Away.”
The stage is small in the Clurman and very busy with trunks rolling in and out, along with chairs and pillows, plus the five piece band in one corner, but they seem to manage under Will Pomerantz’ direction and choreography. The costume design by Whitney Locher is right on the money.
One must be a died in the wool Porter fan of old to appreciate this mish mash which may have been she-she at the time, but just doesn’t have the zing for the 21st Century. It runs 2 ½ hours with intermission.
Nymph Errant is based on the original novel by James Laver, with libretto by Romney Brent and here has a new libretto and adaptation by Rob Urbinati. It runs thru July 29th. Clurman Theater, Theatre Row, West 42nd Street, NYC
Photo: Lee Wexler