I consider myself in some ways an honorary Italian. I eat pasta for breakfast, I like my espresso strong, wine (yes), fast cars (yes, please), I have oft bruised innocent bystanders with my wild gesticulating during casual conversation, and I think shoes are amazing though I live for passionate excuses to take them off. Having see 8 1/2 and Nine the film, I was intrigued to attend Nine at City Lights and see how the story plays on stage.
The opening sequence is stunning. Rarely do you see so many women on stage. Rarely do you have the pleasure of seeing so many women (who grace the stage in their every shape, size, hair color, age and persona) so perfectly costumed. This cast is exquisitely tailored in elegant, graceful, sexy, cohesive, thematic, period appropriate clothing (including 3 pairs of stunning red shoes my closet surely would not mind acquiring) and it is eye candy for the straight female, boys how you must feel being in that audience, I can only imagine.
This stage is full of talent. The cast is gorgeous looking for sure and with a few exceptions the performances were quite strong. The wonderful staging, delightful choreography, effective technical design all added to the show’s pleasure arsenal, but in the end, I think this story, this musical, and the original source material based very much on Fellini’s life, is an acquired taste. It can be deep, brilliant, satirical, enjoyable, and the very essence of art imitating life and life mirroring art. It can be. To some it most certainly is no matter its format. But, for me, although many wonderful acting and vocal moments, despite wanting to revel in the eccentricity and complexity of the piece, I couldn’t get all the way there.
I think one of the challenges is that Guido is one of the hardest roles a man can play. He has to make the audience fall in love with him from the opening frame, the opening note. We cannot ease into him, he can not grow on us, we need to get him from the get go. He has to be dripping with charisma. He needs to be the guy that all the girls want and guys want to be. No small task. He needs to be… Italian in every sense of the word. This chemistry is essential and I didn’t see it working everywhere it needed to. Without our Guido charming the pants off us (literally) the women become compromised, we take them less seriously, we find them less sympathetic and quite frankly less interesting. We need to “not blame them” for loving him and if we don’t see how they could and still put up with his philandering ways, we DO blame them.
I saw humor, I saw angst, I saw lust and I saw emotional arcs within this ensemble, but I didn’t see or rather FEEL enough chemistry connected it all to absolutely love this show. I did like it though. So, a spicy 3 ½ out of 5 jewels in the tiara for the visually gorgeous, Nine which plays at City Lights Theatre Company through August 28th.