BWW Reviews: DOMA Presents a Darkly Stimulating NINE
It is practically impossible not to be pulled into the passionately earthy, very Italian world of fictional film director Guido Contini (David Michael Trevino) in Maury Yeston's 1982 darkly breathtaking musical Nine. Guido's mental turmoil, a series of vivid images that come fiercely plummeting into the recesses of the mind, are staged here in every crook and cranny of the entire space. He's desperately trying to create a screenplay piece by piece and at the same time is playing out, in tormented fashion, various events of his personal life from age 9 to 40. An exceedingly theatrical exhibition, to say the least! Apart from the staging, Yeston's exotic score makes the images come provocatively to life. Known for some pretty terrific singing, DOMA accepts the challenges of Nine and with director Marco Gomez pulling out the stops and letting his skilled cast reach for the stars, this production works on many levels, will entertain you, and even make you muse from time to time.
Luisa (Melissa Anjose) declares early on "What I miss most is honesty!" When you live with a vibrant artistic man like Guido, you must prepare yourself for all the phony crap and lies that accompany a life show biz. Producers, one in particular, Liliane LaFleur (Emilia Sotelo), a French bitch on wheels, makes life a miserable pressure cooker for him, but her behavior of wanting what she wants when she wants it is the norm. She's part of all the bull----. Paparazzi surround the spa in Venice where Guido and Luisa are trying to rest, but in his case rest means anguishing over the screenplay that is still not written...and the crew are about to arrive any second. The cameras will turn, and there is nothing on paper to shoot. Another problem Guido faces is his 40th birthday. In midlife crisis, like all men, he looks back on his unsatisfying career accomplishments and on his personal life which includes being brought up by an overly indulgent mother (Michelle Holmes) and suffering through the pangs of being Catholic. I mean who can trust the Cardinal (Ra' Shawn Durell) who is fooling around with several women as he listens to Guido's confession? Oversexed Guido's own attraction to women began when he was a kid (Donovan Baise) as he visited the beach to ogle prostitute Saraghina (Liza Baron) who taught him to let go and "Be Italian". At present, not only is Guido married to a disgruntled Luisa, who is about to leave him due to his indiscretions, but involved with Carla (LovLee Carroll) and his leading lady Claudia (Toni Smith)...and as he scouts the spa for local talent for the new film, this Casanova is fast accumulating quite the dazzling harem of vixens. Will Guido shape up, cut down on the sexual calories, settle for a somewhat happy marriage and give in to making a truly honest film that represents him warts and all? This is at the core of Nine, and even at the end, it is not totally certain as to how far Guido is prepared to go. But remember, overindulgence is expected, he's Italian...
Arthur Kopit's charming book and Maury's Yeston's gorgeous music make Guido Contini's exploration delicious and in this cast, the women are exceedingly caloric and scrumptious. The actresses surrounding Trevino are devilishly fun to watch. Particularly outstanding are Anjose as Luisa (fab delivery of "Be On Your Own"), Sotelo as Liliane (dynamic "Folies Bergeres"), Holmes as mama (wise and beautiful "Guarda La Luna") and especially Smith as Claudia whose exquisite voice, presence and emotional connection to her character's unhappiness are stunning to behold. Trevino looks very much like he could be an Italian director and has a fine voice, and is at his best in the moments of bewilderment and confusion. He unfortunately lacks the charm and animal magnetism of a Casanova; I would like to see him at least lose the glasses, for starters. Kudos to the entire ensemble for their wonderful singing and dancing, which make DOMA's musical executions so special. Amanda Lawson has designed a perfectly functional set with movable pieces which represent various locales and Irvin Jimenez' costumes suit the dark ambiance tot the letter. Rae Toledo has done fine work in choreographing, and Marco Gomez' staging and pacing are terrifically fluid throughout.
Nine's reflective, philosophical attributes are all well and good, but in the long run it's Yeston's memorable music and the beautiful women... and DOMA's abundant strength to fully satisfy its audience's appetites for both that make this Nine winning.