The Tony Award-winning musical gets impressive treatment from The Players.
By Kay Kipling
You don’t have to be a Fellini lover to appreciate Nine, the Tony Award-winning musical version of the master director’s famous 8 ½. But if you’re at least familiar with the iconic Italian’s work, it may help you get into the flow of this production, which is a tad different from most Players of Sarasota fare.
The play opens with director Guido Contini (Jeff Kin in a bravura performance) seated in the center of the stage (decorated with Roman-looking columns and pedestals). Gradually a horde of women, all dressed in black, file onto the stage: his mother, his wife, his current lover, his ex-lover, and others who play into his past or present in some way. They’re all talking in unison in a sound that builds to cacophony, forcing Guido to pick up his conductor’s baton and bring them, somehow, together into harmony.
That, in short, is what Guido is trying to do with his life. Reaching 40 and a mid-life crisis that affects both private and professional matters, he’s supposed to be making a film for which he has no concept, while the producer is hounding him to start shooting and his mistress is hounding him to marry her. And retreating to a Venetian spa doesn’t get him away from his problems; they all follow him there, as Guido and his younger self, the nine-year-old Guido (Owen Teague, who’s charming), come face to face with some realities Guido’s spent most of his life avoiding.
While there are certainly differences between this musical and the original film, Nine remains true enough to the heart of the piece while adding its own theatrical style. And the Players, under the direction of Bob Trisolini (who also choreographs), is blessed with a strong and diverse cast that makes the evening intriguing.
First off there’s Kin, who’s onstage almost all of the time and has to both propel and watch the action, as a director would. The women in his life are ably portrayed by K.J. Hatfield (his patient wife, Luisa), Sandra Musicante (the heavenly mother who gives him advice), Cece Dwyer (hard-bitten producer Liliane La Fleur, who wants a Folies Bergeres number in the film), Grace Gibbs (his sometimes unwilling muse) and Julianne Randolph as his lover, Carla, who certainly has the sinuous body and moves to put across one of the show’s sexy highlights, A Call from the Vatican. And then there’s Cara Herman, who pulls out all the stops as the woman who first instructed young Guido in the arts of love (and what she can do with a tambourine on Be Italian is quite impressive).
As Guido’s world almost comes crashing down around him, we’re also grateful for Richard E. Cannon’s atmospheric lighting and the sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate costumes by Kaylene McCaw. Applause is likewise due to musical director Joyce Valentine, who brings Maury Yeston’s score to satisfying life. Overall, though, perhaps the most credit goes to Trisolini, who, like Guido and just about any other director, seems to realize that creativity comes out of chaos, and that the result is worth the agony.
Nine continues through April 8; call 365-2494 or visit theplayers.org.