Nine is a musical Based on Fellini’s semi-autobiographical movie 8 ½ (1963) Though a musical, it does not shy away from examining some psychological depth along the way. Film director Guido Contini – played here by Anthony Scundi – has found that late in his career, his processes have stalled somewhat, and he is unable to develop his next script, or indeed even form a cohesive idea about it. He is under pressure from is backer, he is under pressure from his wife, and a number of his previous stars who want more control over their roles, and are tired of being kept on long strings on a more personal level.
Contini it seems is unable to form an idea unless he has at least fallen in a deep infatuation with the women in intends to cast, and only then does he form a plotline, inevitably based on how he constructs her in his mind as a woman. Unfortunately by this stage, these people – often not trained actors at the point of him casting them – are weary of the repetitive tropes of his imagination. He flashes back to formative moments, and two women in particular form his ideas of women – his mother, and a prostitute he visited at an improbably early age. Now, surrounded by all of these women wanting a piece of him, his dream has become his nightmare.
At one point the press confront his wife Luisa Contini – played here by Alana Tranter – with his infidelities. Her response in the song My Husband Makes Movies powerfully explains the relationship between his infatuations, and the fantasies that take flight to be captured on the screen, revealing enormous understanding on her behalf. Her central confession in the song – out of earshot of the reporters – reveals her own personal struggle with the situation, and the complexities of her character are so artfully shown.
Scundi captures the essence of the man both driven and tortured by his memories and desires. Contini’s mother was played with nuance and subtlety by Ana Mitsikas. The prostitute Sarraghina was played with wild animal sexuality by Bronte Florian. Kershawn Theodore as the child Guido stole the hearts of the audience.
Visually, the presentation is splendid. The costume design of Meredith Cooney beautifully evoked the period. Lighting and sets by Tom Willis and Michael Ralph were simple but effective in defining the feel of places – well done
It is a young cast, beautifully trained – the chorus work in particular was tight and accurate. Solos were all well sung. A big highlight for me was the Folies Bergères chorus/dance number – this really popped with energy and colour. This is also no doubt due to the choreography of Michael Ralph.
The band on this night early in the season showed some less than accurate playing, and balance issues showed at times too. Doubtless these are aspects that will very quickly be sorted as the run continues, but it does highlight the challenges faced by companies such as this putting on such ambitious work on the very tightest of budgets. Clearly rehearsal time is limited, and this is a meaty and challenging score, full of marvellous detail.
Of course, the wonderful thing about companies such as Stageart is that for a fraction of the ticket price of seeing the full scale versions of these shows, Melbourne gets to enjoy such well produced shows with all of the energy of the bright new young talent coming through cutting their teeth on seriously pro repertoire. We get to see the future stars on the way up in productions such as these, and this is indeed exciting.
Nine – the Musical at Chapel Off Chapel October 13th 2018
Produced by Stageart
Book by Arthur Kopit, Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston