note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
This is not the first time the Vokes Players in Wayland (only 20 minutes away from Boston) have trumped the downtown production of a musical. The current Vokes production is my 5th "Nine" --- and although I've enjoyed most of the presentations, I never liked this musical. This time, I did. This time I left the theater humming the Kyrie and I haven't been able to get it out of my head.
Part of the credit for this smart production is director Russel R. Greene who takes every advantage of the compact Vokes space. Your eye is drawn in to centerstage by seven elegant cathedral arches (designed by Stephen McGonagle) which form a semi-circle over the playing area and around David Berti as the mercurial film director Guido Contini.
Even if you're not familiar with Federico Fellini's "8&1/2", "Nine" will make sense, mostly because Berti perfectly captures the character's megalomaniacal charisma. Musical director Mario Cruz makes the singing a priority, and the cast ably negotiates Maury Yeston's intricate harmonies. Berti delivers a white hot performance as this desperate genius --- he's so good he even sings a duet with himself!
Berti gets great support from Sheila Rehrig as his long-suffering wife, from Ceit McCaleb as French spitfire La Fleur, from Peri Chouteau as a sexy concierge, from Candace Hopkins as Guido's earth mother (hilarious when she imparts "news from above" i.e. heaven) --- and from Kristen Palson as the voluptuous Sarraghina. (Palson also graced the Publick theatre's production of "Nine" as a pigtailed German with enthusiasm to spare.)
Part of the joy in attending a lot of local theater lies in seeing familiar performers in widely different roles; this is true here of Berti and Palson, and of Judi Ann Mavon Shattuck whose flamboyant character is quite the opposite of her usual roles.
What a pleasure to see everything come together to serve the material. Yeston and Kopit ought to come see the Vokes production. It's the closest I've seen to the original intent of the show,.