Welcome to the start of a second week on THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT. On this Musical Theatre Monday, we’re continuing with “The Three Best Cole Porter Shows That You’ve Never Heard Of.” Last week’s was Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929). Here is #2 on our list….
2. Nymph Errant (10/06/33 – 02/17/34)
This neurotic and exotic musical played London in late 1933 and early 1934. Though the film rights were sold, Nymph Errant was never filmed nor produced on an American stage until the early ’80s. Based on the novel of the same name by James Laver, this musical comedy starred Gertrude Lawrence as Evangeline, an Englishwoman fresh out of school, touring the continent with an assortment of men. The object of her travels: sex. Of course, she finds herself progressively frustrated through each of the story’s many locales…
Cole Porter once said that this was perhaps his personal favorite score. Certainly it is one of the most sophisticated. The most popular tune to emerge from the show was “Experiment”, a ditty that begins the show encourages our leading lady to do just that! Lawrence’s numbers included: “It’s Bad For Me”, “How Could We Be Wrong?”, “Back To Nature With You”, the title song, and the delicious “The Physician.” In it, Evangeline bemoans her love for a doctor who was too busy with her various body parts to return her affection. Here’s a sample of Porter’s clever lyrics:
He said my bronchial tubes were entrancing,
My epiglottis filled him with glee,
He simply loved my larynx
And went wild about my pharynx,
But he never said he loved me.
He said my epidermis was darling,
And found my blood as blue as could be,
He went through wild ecstatics,
When I showed him my lymphatics,
But he never said he loved me.
~ From “The Physician”
Other fabulous numbers from the score include an ode to bosoms in the aptly titled, “Si Vous Vimez Les Poitrines” (Do you know what that means? “If You Like The Breasts”), and a song given to Elisabeth Welch entitled, “Solomon”, which she belted out as one of the wives in a Turkish harem. This number was reportedly birthed on Porter’s trip to a Turkish palace and inspired by the distant wailings of the sultan’s concubines. Another notable number, the hauntingly beautiful, “You’re Too Far Away”, was cut from the score, but recorded in the 1989 songs-only concert.
Here are a few more of my favorite lyrics from this naughty show:
A cheated, defeated cocotte am I,
On the page of this age, just a blot am I.
Since the girls known as chic
Have invented new technique,
I’m afraid, in my trade, not so hot am I.
As ladies smart make love’s art so delectable,
The boys about won’t take me out–I’m too respectable,
And on my tombstone, I trust,
Will be written: “Excuse the dust
Of a past, but outclassed cocotte.”
~ From “The Cocotte”
And when night falls without apology
You can give me a lesson in biology.
For I so want to go when you do,
Back to nature with you.
~ From “Back To Nature With You”
You can purchase the recording of the 1989 concert here:
In summation, this is probably Cole Porter’s sexiest and wittiest score. The songs are fun, the story is exciting, and this show is like a cave filled with hidden wonders. I would love to see a fully realized revival of this show. After all, it was Cole’s favorite score.
Come back next week for my final post in “The Three Best Cole Porter Show That You’ve Never Heard Of.” And tomorrow is Sitcom Tuesday with “The Ten Best I LOVE LUCY Episodes of Season Two.”