Production Fraught With Difficulties

While some students are trying to revive their grades for this semester, a group of thespians is trying to mount a stage revival of Cole Porter's obscure 57 year-old musical, Nymph Errant.

The production, which opened last weekend in the Agassiz Theater, is the first performance of the piece in the United States with full orchestration, said the show's producer Robert M. Siedlecki '91.

"The show started off in London, but it never made it to the States," Siedlecki said. "This is the first time it's a full show here."

Because the musical had not been fully staged since 1933, Nymph Errant's music had to be rescored, and its script updated for a '90s audience.

Paul D. Asimow '90 produced the initial reorchestration of the piece, but after director Donald Carleton '90 judged Asimow's work to be "unplayable," orchestra conductor Matthew M. Tap finished scoring the musical.

"The production is difficult to do because it is untested," said Tap, who wrote additional music for the dances and scene changes.

Tap said, however, that there were also difficulties working with self-proclaimed Porter afficionado Carleton. "The director and I have artistic differences, but it is his show. He's a Cole Porter fan, I'm not," Tap said.

Much of this production was changed in the last week of rehearsals, said Donivan R. Barton '91, who play Ben Wintrop, a Harvard graduate, in the production.

"But it was typical to go on the road, try out a musical in Boston or Buffalo, and rewrite the show every night if it went wrong [in the Thirties when the play was first staged]," said Carleton.

Actors' lines were rewritten in order to make the musical more appealing to a modern audience. "The show is terribly dated. We had to put in extra effort to bring it up to '90s standards," Barton said.

"Things funny in 1933 are not as funny today. We've added things like rim-shots for the audience to make it funny when the audience and the actor both realize that a joke is not funny," said Susan J. Levine '90, who plays the lead role of Evangeline.

Some members of the cast wanted the changes to go further than Carleton was willing to make. "The problem with the fine director we have is that it was hard to get him to agree to make a couple of changes," Barton said.

But producer Siedlecki defended Carleton's choices, saying the director strove for fidelity with the original script in his production.