Cole Porter’s wittingly naughty Nymph Errant is not a long-lost gem: It is gaudy costume jewelry, of the kind worn by those who can afford real jewels but enjoy playing silly dress-up sometimes. With a picaresque book by Romney Brent, the musical—which played London in 1933 but never went to Broadway—follows a proper English girl named Evangeline (Jennifer Blood), who, having ended finishing school, sets off to the Continent in search of erotic adventure. The whole thing is slathered in thick French sauciness; there is even an ode to the Gallic bosom, “Si Vous Aimez les Poitrines.” A few bright spots from the score have survived in cabaret (“Experiment,” “It’s Bad for Me,” “The Physician”), but most of the show is throwaway stuff.
Nymph Errant would be well suited to, say, a concert staging at the York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti series. Prospect Theater Company, however, has given it a full-scale production, with a radically new book by Rob Urbinati—Evangeline now has a cute young gardener (Andrew Brewer) waiting for her at home—and several songs added from other Porter shows. Broadway’s Cady Huffman camps it up mightily in four featured roles, and the rest of the hardworking cast, prodded by director Will Pomerantz, keeps the energy high when possible. You admire the effort, but the result is a muddle: a gingerly Candide that seesaws between self-consciously clever bits and equally self-consciously vulgar ones. (This ostensible tale of sexual liberation has an icky streak of misogyny.) The audience titters politely and such, but nothing quite lands. There is no harm in trotting out a trifle now and then, but for all its ingenuity in polishing and resetting it, Prospect bobbles the bauble.—Adam Feldman
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