Cady Huffman shines in Prospect Theater Company's pleasant, but flawed, production of Cole Porter's 1933 musical.
Boasting a bevy of tunes by Cole Porter, the show couldn't be more buoyant musically, but a new libretto, which attempts to fuse sentiment and winking comedy, from Rob Urbinati, and some curiously somber moments in director Will Pomerantz's staging undermine the piece's inherent merriment.
The show's heroine, Eve (Jennifer Blood), doesn't intend for anything unusual to happen as she leaves school. In fact, she's determined to get home to marry Oliver (Andrew Brewer), the gardener on her aunt's estate to whom she's engaged. But when she meets Andre de Croissant (Sorab Wadia, in one of several amusing roles) on a train, and he convinces her that he can make her the next star of the follies show he produces in Paris, she decides that she should perhaps experience a bit more of the world.
Eve and Andre have a parting of ways at the seaside resort that he takes her while he's raising money for his show, and she quickly rebounds with a depressive Russian composer (Abe Goldfarb), who convinces her that they might find happiness together. Soon enough, though, he's turned his eye toward another, and Eve finds herself with a German nudist. As Eve ricochets from man to man and from city to city, she also runs into classmates from school quite coincidentally.
Some of the girls, like Madeline (made a delicious flirt by Aubrey Sinn), take up with Eve's male friends, while others, such the butchly Teutonic Berthe (a no-holds barred performance from Amy Jo Jackson), are relatives of the guys.
It's light-as-air travel, which even when marauding Turks arrive on the scene while Eve's in Greece, but the events are often muddied -- and made laughable rather than simply silly -- by the self-referential tone Urbinati's new libretto takes. "Oh, no. Not a dance number." Berthe exclaims at one point. Equally problematic is Urbinati's reimagining of Berthe as a caricatured lesbian.Pomerantz further complicates the show's already conflicting tones by attempting to reference some of the darker elements of continental society in a comic manner. While in Paris, another of Eve's school chums, Pidge (Laura Cook, who somehow brings to mind both Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett), offers an almost performance-art rendition of "Red, Hot and Blue" (one of several interpolated numbers) as if in a nod to the avant-garde movements of the period.
Much like her character, Blood maneuvers the piece with temerity and charm. She even has the chance to display her skills as a physical comedienne once Eve has decided that she no longer wants platonic relationships on her travels, but rather ones that are sexually satisfying.
The true star of the evening, however, is Cady Huffman, whose comic zest shines brightly not only as Eve's teacher, Miss Pratt (who ultimately shows a racier side), but also as a gauche American, a faded prostitute, and the pseudo-Olympian who catches Berthe's eye. In each of these turns, her flair and fearlessness trounce any problems that one may have with this undeniably pleasant, but flawed, tuner.