Review of Nine at New Line Theatre

    Nine is a neglected show even though it received the Tony Award for best musical in 1982 and another Tony in 2003 for best revival of a musical.

    It should be no surprise that the local company addressing the neglect is New Line Theatre. The show’s rarity is reason enough to see New Line’s production. An even better reason is the excellence of the score and the staging.

    At the start of Nine, the film director Guido Contini is in the throes of a midlife crisis. His wife of 20 years, Luisa, is frustrated with his lack of attention to their marriage. As she tries to get through to him, he is distracted by the imaginary voices of other women.

    Guido’s professional life is equally troubled. He has signed a lucrative contract to direct a new movie, but he has no idea what it will be about. As the date to begin shooting approaches, he is no closer to having script to show his producer. Guido’s anxiety over the film drives him even further into his interior world.

    The basis for this plot is Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece, . The idea for adapting the film came from Maury Yeston, who wrote the music and lyrics for Nine. Playwright Arthur Kopit wrote the book.

    The show’s debt to a black-and-white film is honored in Sarah Porter’s all-black costumes and the white cubes and risers in Rob Lippert’s scenic design, which splits the audience into two facing groups.

    After making their entrances, the 13 women in the cast take seats on the cubes and risers, which are at one end of the stage. At the opposite end, Guido stands on a platform while conducting the women in the overture. The risers, the platform, and the space between them are cleverly used in Scott Miller and Chris Kernan’s direction and Kernan’s choreography.

    The end of the overture is also the end of Guido’s harmonious relationship with the women in his life. It is entirely appropriate for all the women to remain on stage as Act One proceeds because they are all in Guido’s mind, which is where much of the action takes place.

    As Guido, Cole Gutmann displays a rich voice and a fine sense of drama. The splendid women in the cast include:

    • Lisa Karpowicz as Luisa Contini, Guido’s wife
    • Sarah Wilkinson as Carla Albanese, Guido’s mistress
    • Ann Hier Brown as Claudia Nardi, a film star who is Guido’s muse
    • Kimmie Kidd-Booker as Liliane LaFleur, Guido’s producer, and a former headliner at Folies Bergères
    • Kat Bailey as Dian
    • Kathleen Dwyer as Mama Maddelena and Annabella
    • Brittany Kohl Hester as Juliette and the voice of little Guido
    • Chelsie Johnston as Renata
    • Kay Love as Our Lady of the Spa
    • Sarah Lueken as Saraghina, the prostitute from whom young Guido learned about love
    • Stephanie Merritt as Guido’s mother
    • Julia Monsey as Lina Darling and Olga
    • Gillian Pieper as Stephanie Necrophorus

    Musical director and keyboardist Jenna Lee Moore leads a fine band that includes Tyler Davis, John Gerdes, Lea Gerdes, Mallory Golden, Joseph Hendricks , and Clancy Newell. Matt Stuckel designed the lighting; Ryan Day, the sound.

    Nine continues at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through March 25 at The Marcelle, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Gerry Love
    The other women in his life look on as Guido Contine (Cole Gutmann) talks to his wife, Luisa (Lisa Karpowicz) in