Monday 10 April 2006

Nymph Errant

On Sunday afternoon we went to see Lost Musicals doing Cole Porter's Nymph Errant at Sadlers Wells Theatre. They do concert/semi-staged performances of unusual musicals, usually with piano accompaniment. Nymph Errant was commissioned by C.B. Cochrane as a vehicle for Gertrude Lawrence, it was premiered in London and tailored to English Taste, as such it never had a Broadway premiere and was not revived after the original run. A recent revival in Chichester substantially re-wrote the book which has as a strong element of non-PC xenophobia.

Lost Musicals produced it in its original version with a cast of 15 playing some 29 named roles. The show concerns the adventures of Evangeline, the Nymph Errant of the title who, after leaving finishing school, tries to sleep her way around Europe but completely fails and returns home after a year still a virgin and promptly falls in love with her aunts gardner. During the course of her travels she bumps into various school friends who have ended up hooking up with a variety of dubious men.

Issy van Randwyck was wonderfully charismatic as Evangeline. She gets the lions share of the songs and Randwyck put them over beautifully. She was perhaps not quite as over the top in The Physician as Gertie Lawrence herself was, but van Randwyck was a pleasure to listen to.

Gay Soper played a number of roles and got 2 songs. One a lovely little number for an ageing cocotte, being put out of business by the modern, racy young women. And as the Chemstry Mistress at the Finishing School she sang Experiment to very great effect. This is one of the show's best known numbers and Soper put it over well.

The original show starred Elisabeth Welch (as a member of the Emir's harem) who sang Solomon during the original run. Even in her 70's Welch retained this number in her repertoire. At Sadlers Wells, Thelma Ruby showed that age (she's over 80 I believe) and experience counted for a lot in putting over a song, even with limited vocal equipment; her account of Solomon quite rightly brought the house down.

The remained of the cast, playing multiple roles and singing the choruses, worked hard and many displayed a wonderful variety of accents (French, German, Italian, American, Greek, Turkish, English etc.). The musical was succinctly and effectively staged, with much amusingly suitable business to go with Cole Porter's underscoring.

Cole Porter and his librettist, Rodney Brent, retained one joke until the last parft of the 2nd Act. They signalled a big romantic number from far off, Evangeline and Ben (a plumber who'd rescued her from the Emir's Harem) alone together in the romantic desert. Cue one of Porter's big tunes and Ben sings a romance to plumbing.

One of the advantages of Lost Musicals presentations is that they are done unamplified, so you are given the chance to hear actors and singers performing directly without the benefit/hindrance of amplification. They are doing Flower Drum Song next, but its probably booked up already!

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