Theatre Mirror Reviews"Nine"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Little Theatre of Fall River's current show is the Tony Award winning musical "Nine" by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston and is based on Federico Fellini's film "8 1/2". The original show opened on Broadway on May 9, 1982, running for 729 performances and winning 5 Tony Awards including best musical while the revival opened on April 10, 2003, running for 283 performances and winning 2 Tony's including best musical revival. "Nine" concerns the travails of Guido Contini, a forty year old Italian movie director and the seventeen women in his life, who first appear as an orchestra he mentally conducts. Guido whose last three films have been flops, is suffering a mid-life crisis at the worst possible time. He is vacationing at a Venetian spa trying to repair his crumbling marriage to his wife, Luisa, and while there his mistress, Carla, also in Venice calls him providing a considerable distraction. Guido is also enamored of his former protege, Claudia Nardi, the actress and can't decide which of the three women he wants. His demanding Parisian producer, Liliane LeFleur makes matters worse by insisting he create a movie musical for her, even though Contini hasn't the slightest idea yet, for a film. Tormented, Guido is haunted by three earlier moments in his life when as a child of nine, he was fawned over by his mother, introduced to sexuality by the exuberant whore Saraghina and punished at his parochial school for having gone to visit Saraghina on the beach. With Claudia in Venice, Guido is inspired to create a movie based on his life called Casanova. The film rehearsal begins immediately but during it Luisa feels Guido is airing their private life to the world and he also alienates the other two women in his life. Abandoned by Luisa, Carla and Claudia and with the film doomed to failure. Contini becomes seriously disoriented and fantasizes suicide. Happily he is saved by the specter of his nine year old self, Little Guido, who urges him to grow up past the age of nine, which Guido finally does. Director Roberto Soares and music director Robert Matthew Perry cast some of the best performers around in these roles. They deliver a terrific musical extravaganza for the appreciative audience who rewards them with a resounding ovation at curtain call.

Roberto directs the show wonderfully with his inventive blocking and insight into each of the characters in this show. Guido's baptism into sexuality with Saraghina takes place during their scene in the first act. "The Bells of St. Sebastian" at the end of Act 1 shows how the church destroyed Guido's life at the tender age of nine and Roberto has Guido in a crucifixion pose during this number. This dramatic moment and the one at the end of the show where Little Guido shows more sense than his older self in how to handle life, tugs at your heartstrings. Roberto makes the mood sublime, leaving you in tears as all the ladies hug Guido goodbye while Little Guido finally leads them up the stairs. The show ends with Guido on stage left and Luisa clad in red on stage facing each other. Robert obtains the best from his topnotch orchestra as well as the most glorious sounding vocals from the cast in Maury Yeston's lush score. The chorus numbers pack a punch with their harmonic beauty and the solo numbers are outstanding, too. The dance numbers shine especially the Follies number, which amps up the energy of the first act, the St. Sebastian number and the Grand Canal section. The fabulous costumes are by Greg Silver, Paula Arruda and Aaron Gendrau-Visco. The black ones represent the somber mood of the first act (I personally don't care for everyone in black) and by the end of the show everyone is clad in white.

Bobby Sylvia tackles the huge role of Guido Contni and makes it his own, giving a gut wrenching, tour-de-force performance in which he never leaves the stage. He displays the many layers of this complex character and shows off a powerful tenor voice which soars off the charts in "Guido's Song", while he shows the inner turmoil of Guido in "I Can't Make This Movie" and poignancy in "Long Ago". Bobby becomes the child of nine vocally in the "Be Italian" song, making it a funny and light hearted moment in his life. Both Guidos play the tambourine with Saraghina. Bobby handles the comic moments with finesse with Carla, Liliane and the others as well as the dramatic ones in his argument scenes with Luisa and his confrontation scene with his mother. The romantic "Only With You" is lovely and "The Grand Canal" with the women is triumphant. Bobby's relationship with all the women in the show is marvelous and his relationship with Preston DaPonte as Little Guido is heartfelt, warm and convincing, too. Bobby's falsetto soars in "Getting Tall" with Little Guido. Bravo! Preston is dynamic as Little Guido. He keeps you glued to your seat whether he is singing in his beautiful and strong boy soprano voice or acting up a storm in the comic and dramatic parts, staying in character throughout the show. Little Guido is hugged or kissed by the women at the end of the show.

Janet Silveira Maynard plays Luisa, the long suffering wife of Guido. She has a mezzo voice, displaying it in "My Husband Makes Movies" where Luisa still defends Guido to the nosy intrusive press and in the show stopping "Be On Your Own" where she stuns the audience in this intense dramatic song when she decides to leave Guido at last. Luisa is an internalized character and isn't as showy a role like the other characters but Janet's strong portrayal makes her standout in this show. Veronique Thomaes-Sylvia plays the ultra sexy, Carla. She isn't only beautiful but has a powerful voice to go with it. Veronique's first number, "A Call from the Vatican" is a jazzy, striptease song where she dances around Guido with hardly a stitch on. Her second number is the poignant and emotionally charged "Simple" where she realizes that Guido is only using her for her looks. He has made fun of her in his Casanova movie and she becomes fed up with the abuse, deciding to leave him. Nadine Goulet plays Claudia. Her fabulous soprano voice soars in the choral numbers but she really captures the hearts of the audience in her solo "Unusual Way" where she explains her infatuation with Guido and is my favorite song in the show. Nadine also shows off her strong acting ability in the dramatic scene when Claudia finally realizes that Guido is using Liliane to play her in the Casanova movie. Roberto has Carla and Claudia exit together at the end of "Simple".

The rest of the ensemble is just as talented as the leading players and their voices blend together beautifully. Heather Bodnar is topnotch as Guido's mother as she handles the sensitive scenes with little Guido and some humorous ones with Bobby as Guido. Her lovely song "Nine"with the women explains Guido's happiest moments of his life and they deliver a poignant rendition of it. Lisa Huntington plays Saraghina another comic role in this show. Her song "Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian" is dynamic as she teaches Guido how to seduce women in a very amusing way. This song impacted on Guido's view of women and influenced him along the way. Lisa has a powerful belting voice which is heard in the group numbers. Robbie Burke sparkles and stops the show as Liliane LaFleur, the French producer who flirts as she sings about the wonderful days of "Follies Beregeres" which she belts out to the crowd. She receives a gift from Little Guido, a long black feather boa delivered by him in a huge gift box. Another comic performance is by Maryann Goulart as Mama Maddelena. She sings and dances in the staccato number "The Germans at the Spa" doing clever shtick and a comic dance to it. She also plays the courtesan in Casanova which is based on Carla, keeping the audience in stitches with her antics. Kudos to the whole cast and crew who deliver a sensational show in Fall River. Be sure to catch, "Nine" because it is the must see show of this spring season.

"Nine" (17 - 20 May)
@ Bristol Community College, FALL RIVER MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide