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nine @ the reginald theatre seymour centre

Michele Lansdown. Pics by Blake Condon

Midlife crises faced by creatives are uncomfortably common. The tale of one faced by Italian film director Guido Contini is currently being performed at the Seymour Centre in Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s Tony Award®-winning musical NINE.

Set in 1960s Italy, the show is based on Federico Fellini’s ‘8 ½’. We witness the death throes of a marriage as Guido’s wife, his mistress and his leading lady turn away from him. He seeks refuge in fantasy and memories of himself at nine kept safe by his mother. Romantic and sexual episodes are juxtaposed with Guido’s Italian Catholic background giving the plot specific context. The cast were challenged to maintain their Italian accents.

Much of the action takes place in a spa as Guido desperately searches for an idea for a new film after several unsuccessful films. His female producer is insistent on the script deadline, even if it means a supposedly reduced box office.                    

There are however seventeen female cast as well as Guido and Little Guido. In turn, they serenade, seduce or scold Guido. All 17 brought strong individual talent to the stage – vocally, physically and dramatically in their own storylines.

Andy Leonard as Guido held his part well throughout the two acts, clearly showing Guido’s lack of creative inspiration and ease of getting side-tracked by women. Andy previously starred as Paul Keating in ’Keating’ and here on a rare occasion let his Italian accent slide. Oscar Langmar as Little Guido was convincing as a nine year old peasant boy soprano.

Tisha Teleman as Guido’s Mother, demonstrated a richness and warmth vocally as well as dramatically in her nurturing character. Sarah Murr as Saraghina charismatically held the stage as the whore who educates young Guido about love in ‘Be Italian’. She was supported by a melodic memorable chorus with tambourines that rounded out Act One.

Tayla Jarrett added edgy tang as the bitter wife Luisa. Petronella Van Tienen as Claudia clearly showed that behind a misunderstood gentle softness was a layer of increasing frustration. Caitlin Rose was strong as the overtly sexual seductress, Carla. Also showing strength and competence was the experienced Michele Lansdown as the heavily bejewelled producer, La Fleur.

The 15 piece band playing from the rear of the stage was well-balanced with the vocals. The Musical Director, Antonio Fernandez on keyboard ensured that the music complemented the dramatic performance. Romantic cello sounds rounded out by wind instruments and brass to heighten the emotional movement did justice to the score.

With pared back staging, extensive use was made of the exits and the upper levels. The filmic black and white colour of stage and evening dress costume was appropriate. The individual variety of costumes was interesting and intriguing. Staging with only stools and chairs, plus the occasional addition of suitcases, tambourines and feather fans as accessories, focused the audience on the performers and not the set.

An engaging tale, humour was cleverly injected musically in tone, character and choreographically. ‘The Germans at the Spa’ piece was an early highlight. Madison Lee, the choreographer ensured smooth transfers in a packed space.

Little Triangle, is to be congratulated in bringing this truly enjoyable production of NINE directed by Alexander Andrews to the Seymour Centre. Performance times Tue-Sat, 7.30pm & Sat 2pm 5 – 14 September 2019. Prices $30-$50.

Bookings – https://www.seymourcentre.com/

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