Theatre Mirror Review>"Nine"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone


Mansfield Music and Arts Society current show is the Tony Award winning musical "Nine" by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston and is based on Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical film "8 1/2". The original show opened on Broadway on May 9, 1982, ran for 729 performances, won 5 Tony's including Best Musical while the revival opened on April 10, 2003, ran for 283 performances and won 2 Tony's including Best Revival. The show focuses on Guido Contini, who is dreading his 40th birthday and facing a mid-life crisis, which is blocking his creative impulses and entangling him in a web of romantic difficulties in the early 1960's. It is about Guido and the seventeen women in his life, who first appear as an orchestra he mentally conducts. His last three films have been flops and he is at a Venitian spa trying to repair his crumbling marriage to his wife, Luisa. His mistress, Carla, also in Venice calls him providing him with considerable distraction. Guido is also enamored with his former protege, Claudia Nardi, the actress and can't decide which of the three women he wants. His demanding Parisian producer Liliane LaFleur insists he create a movie for her, even though he doesn't have the slightest idea for a film. Tormented, Guido becomes 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 being with the whore on the beach. Guido is inspired by Claudia being in Venice and decides to write a movie based on his life called Casanova. After the film rehearsals begin, 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, Guido 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. Director Meg Quinn, music director Shannon Manley, and vocal coach Allison Flores cast some of the best performers around in these roles. They create a thrilling theatrical performance that the audience thoroughly enjoyed and rewards with a thunderous ovation as its reward.

Meg blocks the show beautifully using the entire theater. She also gives topnotch direction to them with her keen insight to all these characters and all the performers have marvelous Italian accents. Guido's baptism into sexuality with Saraghina takes place in the first act while the closing number of Act one "The Bells of St. Sebastian shows how the church destroyed Guido's life at the tender age of nine. This dramatic moment and the one at the closing of the show where Little Guido displays more sense on hhow to handle life than his older self, tugs at your heartstrings. Meg makes these moments sublime, bringing tears to the audience eyes especially the last scene. Her set designers do magnificent job with the art work for the set. A word of praise for Spencer Seligman and Glenn Fournier and the lighting changes throughout the show help set the mood for each scene. The splendid lighting is by Meg and Marc Thomas. Shannon and Alison obtain the best vocals from the cast in Maury Yeston's lush score. The chorus numbers pack a punch with their harmonic beauty while the solos are outstanding, too. The dance numbers shine especially the Follies number, the Bells of St. Sebastian and the Grand Canal section.

Jay Silvi tackles the huge role of Guido Contini and makes it his own. He gives a tour-de-force performance and stays onstage during the entire show. Jay plays this complex character wonderfully and displays his baritone voice in "Guido's Song", shows his inner turmoil in "I Can't Make this Movie" and deep emotions in "Long Ago". Jay becomes the child of nine in the "Be Italian" number, making it a light and funny moment in his life. He 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 song "Only With You" is lovely and "The Grand Canal" with the women is triumphant. Jay's relationship with all the women in this show is astounding and his relationship with Jack Price as Little Guido is heartfelt, warm and convincing, too. Jay sings "Getting Tall" with Little Guido. Bravo! Jack is dynamic as Little Guido. He keeps you glued to your seat whether he is singing in his beautiful boy soprano voice or acting up a storm in the comic and dramatic scenes. stays in character throughout the show.

Lovely brunette,Jennifer Mischley plays Luisa, Guido's long suffering wife. She is terrific in this role, displaying her mezzo soprano range in "My Husband Makes Movies" where Luisa defends Guido to the nosy intrusive press members and in the show stopping "Be On Your Own" where she stuns the audience with power and punch as she decides to leave Guido for good. Luisa is an internalized character and isn't as showy as some of the others, but Jennifer's strong portrayal makes her standout in this show. Another gorgeous brunette, Cat Umano plays the ultra sexy, Carla excellently. She isn't only beautiful but has a sensational voice to go with it. Cat's first number "A Call from the Vactican" is a comic jazzy, striptease song where she dances around Guido with hardly a stitch on while her second number is the poignant and emotionally charged "Simple" where she realizes Guido is only using her for her looks. This latter song elicits many tears from the audience at her rendition. I last reviewed Cat as Janet in "Drowsy Chaperone" at Company Theatre. She stole the show as Janet. Shannon Manley does double duty in this show as Claudia as well as music director. Her fabulous soprano voice soars in the choral numbers but she really captures the hearts of the audience in her splendid solo "Unusual Way" where Claudia explains her fascination with Guido. "Unusual Way" is my favorite song in the show. Shannon displays her dramatic chops in the scene where Claudia realizes Guido is misusing her in his Casanova movie. Meg has Claudia and Carla walk out on Guido together at the end of "Simple".

The rest of the ensemble is just as talented as the leading players. Katherine Joy is topnotch as Guido's mother as she handles the sensitive scenes with Little Guido and some humorous ones with Jay as Guido. Her lovely song "Nine" with the women explains the happiest moments of Guido's life and delivers a touching rendition of it with the others. Leslie DiOrio plays Saraghina, another comic role in this show. Her song "Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian" is dynamic as she teaches Little Guido how to seduce women in a very amusing way. This song impacted Guido's view of women, influencing him along the way. Irina Gott sparkles and stops the show at Liliane LaFleur, the French producer who flirts with the men in the audience as she sings about her days in "Follies Beregeres". She belts this out to the crowd as Little Guido gives her a white feather boa. Another comic performance is by Alexandra Rickoff as Mama Maddelena as she sings and dances in the staccato number "The Germans at the Spa" while doing clever shtick and funny dance to it.Laura Gustafson plays the comic role of Stephanie, the bitchy critic who despises Guido's movies.Kudos to the whole cast and crew who deliver a sensational show at Mansfield Music and Arts Society, making it the must see show of the Spring season. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Nine" (6 - 22 June)
@ 377 Main Street. MANSFIELD MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide