Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Cheeky Nymph Errant at 42nd Street Moon
The 42nd Street Moon company is currently presenting a concert version of the 1933 Cole Porter musical Nymph Errant at their small theatre to sell-out Porter fans. Nymph Errant opened in London on October 6, 1933 starring the great Gertrude Lawrence. Porter's score was met with great enthusiasm by the London critics and a new Porter hit was acclaimed. However, this was during the world wide depression and the musical lasted only five months. There was talk of taking the musical to New York with Ms. Lawrence but her health problems precluded a Broadway opening. There was also talk of Fox filming the production but musicals were on the wane then and nothing became of it.
While we were in London in 1982, we were most fortunate to see a concert version of the musical at a Sunday night performance at the Drury Lane Theatre. It had a stellar cast that included Lisa Kirk, Alexis Smith, Maureen McGovern, Andrea MacArdle, Larry Kirk and Elizabeth Welch. Ms. Welch, who introduced "Solomon" in the original 1933 production, repeated her number on that grand night. I had already been in love with three of the songs from the production from a recording that was done by Gertrude Lawrence. The songs were "Experiment", "The Physician," and "Nymph Errant". To see this show performed live was an experience I will never forget.
I was happy to learn that Greg MacKellan was going to present a concert version of this British musical. The only showing of the Porter musical in the United States was in 1982 at the Equity Library Theater in New York. There had been talk of mounting a full scale revival but it fell though.
42nd Street Moon has done a creditable job on this complex musical. It is a hard musical to mount and I give Greg great credit for presenting this complicated show. He has created an intelligent and funny revival of a musical you would probably never see anywhere outside of 42nd Street Moon.
The story focuses on Evangeline, recent finishing school graduate who sort of trollops around the world with a variety of men hoping she will be fulfilled sexually. She travels all over Europe and even to a Turkish harem and she does this with her virtue intact. There are plenty of innuendo's in the lyrics and dialogue she has with various men.
Caroline Altman as Evangeline does a creditable job on several numbers. However, I felt that the ending of the first act when she sings "Nymph Errant" could have been much stronger. I also wish that the complete chorus would have sung this wonderful song to its fullest. She was like a nymph "flying" around the stage and this was unnecessary. She did well with "The Physician." Porter's lyrics are among his cleverest with lines such as "I knew he thought a lot of my medulla oblongata. But he never said he loved me". She goes down the complete female anatomy in this song. It could have been a little stronger but after hearing the great Lawrence sing the song, no one can compare with her.
The strongest member of the group was Steve Rhyne, a handsome young man with a great voice. His performance as a suicidal Russian was excellent. He is a major talent here in the Bay Area. There was some miscasting and I wish the chorus would have not been so cutesy for a small theater. Some were overacting in that field. Millissa Carey was great as the chemistry teacher and she sang one of the most popular songs, "Experiment," beautifully. All in all, this musical was treated with a sort of cheekiness that it deserved, and is great fun. It still has one more week end and will be followed with Meg Mackay in Call Me Madam.