Thursday, August 09, 2018

50 Favourite Musicals: 39: NINE (1982) (Maury Yeston)

The 50 shows that have stood out down the years and, as we get up among the paint cards, the shows that have become the cast recording of my life:


First performed: 1982, 46th Street Theatre, NY
First seen by me: 1997, Donmar
Productions seen: one

Score: Maury Yeston
Book: Arthur Kopit
Plot:  1960s Venice; Guido Contini, a famous film director, wrestles with the subject of his overdue next film while thinking of the women in his life, both current and in the past...

Five memorable numbers: FOLLIES BERGERES, BE ON YOUR OWN, MY HUSBAND MAKES MOVIES, UNUSUAL WAY, BE ITALIAN

It's odd how you come to some musicals... I came to NINE through Elaine Paige's "Be On Your Own" on an 1983 album 'Stages'; the song intrigued me with it's compelling, snaking through-line that calls out an unfaithful lover.  I was so intrigued I bought the Broadway cast album and found that in it's original setting, it wasn't Paige's 80s power pop ballad but a downbeat, powerful, cold-as-ice dismissal.  The more I played the album, the more I was drawn into Maury Yeston's thrilling musical of Federico Fellini's film "8 1/2"  that gives a dizzying array of numbers to his lead character Guido and the women in his life: his long-suffering wife Luisa, his mistress Carla, his favourite actress Claudia, his producer Liliane and in his memory, Saraghina, the ample prostitute he desired as a boy.  Tommy Tune famously made his original production a chic black & white-themed show in which Raul Julia was the only male (along with a boy actor) in a cast of women.  I finally got to see the show in David Levaux's Donmar production which made a virtue of it's small playing area but still flooded the stage to show us Guido's vision of "The Grand Canal".  Laconic Larry Lamb played Guido and he was surrounded by some great musical actresses: Clare Burt, Eleanor David, Sara Kestelman and, in particular, Susannah Fellows who brought real heartbreak to Luisa, and a show-stopping turn from Jenny Galloway as the voluptuous Saraghina.  Despite the clunking screen version, this is a show that could definitely take a revival...

The 1982 Tony Awards delivered a shock when NINE beat the highly-touted DREAMGIRLS to Best Musical along with winning four other awards; the telecast immortalized the late Kathi Moss' rattling performance as Saraghina and her big number "Be Italian"...

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