This 1955 Cole Porter hit hardly qualifies as obscure, thanks to its reasonably faithful film version, a Turner Classic Movies staple. But the resourcefulness of London's Lost Musicals, a 16-year-old institution dedicated to reviving the best of American musicals -- an Encores!/Musicals Tonight! hybrid -- gives audiences the chance to see how the stage show differed.
On opening night, the lights came up on a large cast in formal wear -- no mufti for them -- and company founder and director Ian Marshall Fisher conducted a charming interview with co-writer George S. Kaufman's daughter, Anne Kaufman Schneider.
The show is, of course, derived from the Ernst Lubitsch screen classic "Ninotchka" and concerns a stern Russian commissar (Valerie Cutko) sent to Paris to bring home a delinquent composer (Mitchell Greenberg) who's enjoying himself too much. Instead, she falls in love with the city and a charming American agent (Daniel Gerroll) who has the composer working on a Hollywood film.
Cutko, who cuts a strikingly imperious figure, perhaps lacks the glamour of Hildegarde Neff and Cyd Charisse, but she otherwise acts and sings with just the right style. Nina Hennessey is another bright spot as a sassy Hollywood star, though she misses the aggressive vulgarity of her two production numbers, resourcefully staged by Fisher. Gerroll's genial charm overcame some first-night tentativeness, and Tom Mardirosian, Robert Ari, and Wally Dunn are amusing as Ninotchka's bumbling countrymen.
Greenberg surprised everyone during the "Red Blues" number with some virtuoso piano playing. Music director Lawrence Yurman is the assured master of the eighty-eights the rest of the evening.
When the Astaire-Charisse movie version came out, it was generally regarded as superior to Broadway, and the movie does indeed work better than the book-heavy stage adaptation. But coals to Newcastle or not, kudos to Fisher for resurrecting the legendary Broadway version so entertainingly.