Review: NINE at The Marcelle Theatre

The production Runs Thursdays through Sundays until March 25th.

By: Mar. 04, 2023
Review: NINE at The Marcelle Theatre
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Turning forty, a midlife crisis, extramarital affairs, a failing marriage, the inability to process the overstimulation, descent into a nervous breakdown, are all themes of NINE, the musical adaptation of Frederico Fellini's semi-autobiographical 1963 film "8-1/2." In NINE, filmmaker Guido Contini is battling his demons as he tries to save a failing marriage and develop a script for a movie following several cinematic flops. While Guido struggles with writer's block, he is also grappling with how to rationalize his many sexual relationships. The original 1982 production won five Tony Awards including best musical, topping DREAMGIRLS and JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. In retrospect, the overrated NINE pales in comparison to the two shows it beat for the Tony Award. In 2003 the Roundabout Company produced a star-studded Broadway revival with Antonio Banderas, Jane Krakowski and Chita Rivera. That production won two Tony Awards, Best Revival of a Musical and Featured Actress in a Musical Tony Award for Krakowski in the role of Carla.

NINE, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Arthur Kopit is New Line Theatre's current production running Thursdays - Sundays through March 25th at the Marcelle Theatre. Overall, NINE is far from a perfect show. Yeston has written a passable score that has moments that are melodic and beautiful with adequate vocal arrangements. The biggest issue with his score is the repetitive and overly simplistic lyrics. Kopit's book effectively uses a chorus of all female characters in the rest of the company to represent the cognitive intrusions that are driving Guido toward his mental breakdown. Despite the marginal quality of the script and score, New Line's production is passionate, compelling and enjoyable.

Directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan have assembled a female company of thirteen powerful female voices that meld magnificently and make this score come alive. Their directorial vision uses a static set, designed by Rob Lippert, to dissect the complex relationships that Guido has with the women in his life.

Cole Gutmann as Guido uses his presence and charisma to ignite Guido's sexual arrogance. On stage for the entire production, Gutmann sinks into his mental breakdown in an honest and raw performance as he tries to handle the complications from his relationships with the women in his life. He effectively conveys how the stress of Guido's womanizing, the memories of his serial philandering, and his inability to produce his work are driving him toward an emotional collapse.

Gutmann is terrific and handles his part of the score with significant ease, but what makes this show literally sing, is the ensemble of 13 women who perform most of the score. Their ability to harmonize and blend their voices as a company is first rate. "Ouverture Delle Donne," "Folies Bergères," "Be Italian," and "The Grand Canal" have the more multifaceted vocal arrangements and this company handles these numbers with sophisticated aplomb.

Each of the women in the company handle their individual roles splendidly. Lisa Karpowicz effectively conveys a wife's struggles in an unhappy marriage. She deflects her emotion with "My Husband Makes Movies" to attempt to convey contentment publicly, but her emotional portrayal of the toll Guido's infidelity takes on their marriage is obvious through her physical acting choices. Sarah Wilkinson, as the mistress Carla, seduces Guido with her boudoir calisthenics in an overly sexualized performance of "A Call from the Vatican." Kimmie Kidd-Booker leads an over-the-top, campy rendition of "Folies Bergères." She breaks the fourth wall to playfully engage the audience. Finally, Ann Hier Brown (Guido's muse Claudia) and Stephanie Merritt (Guido's mother) emotionally convey their frustration and hurt resulting from Guido's life choices. Both Brown and Merritt have the most remarkable voices among the cast and deliver unforgettable vocals.

Sarah Porter's costume design is elegant and is the best of the artistic aspects of this show. Beyond the costume design, there were a few minor technical theatre issues with this performance. The New Line Band, led by conductor and keyboard player Dr. Jenna Lee Moore, perform the score satisfactorily, but at times their volume overwhelms the actor's voices. Matt Stuckel's lighting design is inconsistent leaving actors in the shadows during their solos. Kimmie Kid-Booker's facial expressions were priceless during her performance of "Folies Bergères" and it was unfortunate that some of her work was not well-lit. Finally, Chris Kernan's choreography was basic and clunky at times, especially when Guido was dancing with his women.

New Line Theatre has again put together an overall performance that is entertaining and enjoyable. This production of NINE succeeds because of the quality performances of every member of the cast and their ability to deliver strong vocals. NINE continues its run through March 25th at the Marcelle Theatre. For more information visit newlinetheatre.com To purchase tickets visit metrotix.com




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