Porter's Aged Nymph Goes Astray at Harvard

The undergraduate producer and directors of Nymph Errant took a formidable risk when they chose to produce Cole Porter's classic 1933 musical at the Agassiz Theater.

Usually, directors have extensive theatrical precedents to guide them in staging a new version of an old show. And usually, having seen the show before, directors use a standard version as a basis for their own productions.

But because Nymph Errant had never been fully staged in the United States, director Don Carleton and producer Rob Siedlecki had no such precedent. And they do deserve credit for bringing it to an American stage.

Nymph Errant

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter

Book by Romney Brent

Musical direction by Keith Kessler

Directed by Don Carleton and Dave Harnisch

At the Agassiz Theater

January 12 and 13

But despite a noble effort and some excellent individual performances, Carleton and much of the cast fail to provide the production with the energy and originality it needs.

Romeny Brent's script follows Evangeline Edwards--the nymph errant--as she meanders across the Continent, having been encouraged by her boarding school chemistry teacher to "experiment" with different experiences and, inevitably, with different men. Her romantic interests run the gamut from a lecherous French musical director to a sleazy Greek merchant.

In an effort to give an arguably dated script new life, Carleton tried to adapt the show for a "90s audience" by updating some jokes and casting emcees Donovon Barton and Greg Schaffer to host the performance.

Updating a show is legitimate practice, especially since Brent's plot is somewhat cliched and shallow--typical of '30s musicals. But Barton's and Schaffer's delivery of original material is so strong that it overshadows almost everything else in the show--including Porter's likeable score.

The emcees appear ostensibly to introduce the scenes. But most of their jokes are at the expense of the show's weaknesses, often taking pot shots at corny tap dance scenes and cliched characters. And the emcee's performances are invariably much funnier than anything else in the show.