In the Greater Hamilton Area, there are approximately twelve live theatre productions either currently running or about to open this weekend, and several scheduled to open within a week or two. My dear readers, your Live Theatre Dollars (LTD) must be anxiously restless in your wallets.
So allow me to commend to you Hammer Entertainment’s Nine, the Musical, running at The Citadel Theatre (Rebecca and Hughson Streets). “Nine what?” you may well ask. So. A brief digression: Of the new adjectives our culture has devised arising from literary creators, “Felliniesque” has yet to be comfortable in spellcheck and retains its upper case F to boot. Nine, which may blow your socks off in this production (I saw it in its impressive “ready–for–prime–time” dress rehearsal last week), owes its title to the giant of Italian films since the 1950s, director Federico Fellini.
Reaching his 40s with a body of work (think La Dolce Vita and Satyricon) of six features, two shorts, and one co–directed, he was facing a mid–life crisis. He explored this life crisis in the film 8 1/2. Maury Yeston so identified his own 1970s youth crisis with Fellini’s when he saw the Fellini film that he rested not until he achieved is own statement in his stage musical Nine, which brings us back to “Felliniesque”. Flamboyant comes to mind, the bizarre and the natural in luscious fantasy, imbued generously with doses of sentimentality, overlaid with sex and female pulchritude. Can Hammer Entertainment and the Citadel Theatre bring Felliniesque to reality?
Jason Dick and his Hammer Entertainment team nicely step around the flamboyant, cleverly playing down the extravagant and focus their craft and resources on story and character, and out of the well–spring of gifted actors, beautiful women, seasoned musicians and choreographers that our region has to offer, have assembled some of the best performers and performances to their Rebecca and Hughson showplace.
Guido Contini is the troubled 40–something film director in Yetson’s Nine, facing a mid–life adolescence not only in his creative life, but on his domestic front as well. Played with vulnerability and a quiet, humourous edge by Marcus Carreiro, he struggles to find the inspiration for his next film, battling not only his creative drought but also with failing personal life. Carreiro finds splendid acting and musical moments throughout. He’s in strong voice in his arias, and as the only adult male, sings and dances in the company of dozens of scantily clad Italiennes with enviable ease. In a movingly staged scene his neglected wife, Luisa, played with fine, bitter poignance by Jenn Magalas sings “My Husband Makes Movies”, while he struggles in the dim stage left with his demons. So effective.
It’s a simple setting, this production, focusing neatly on individual characters. Rebekah Houpt brings a vicious sexuality to Carla, full of the animal scent of lust, tearing away at Guido’s already weakened defenses. Stacey Milford’s “Claudia” sustains a knowing understanding of Guido, and she and Carreiro sing together, “A Man Like You” in a showpiece duet to remember. Shari Vandermolen as the take–no–prisoners Lillian La Fleur expertly leads a show stopping audience pleaser in “Folies Bergeres”, with a feather boa to end them all. A surprise find is Benjamin Kersey, the only other man in the company (albeit, the 9–year old Guido), whose easy young grace on stage is a real hit, especially in a bombshell number, “Ti Voglio Bene” with a knock ‘em dead hit performance as Sarraghina by Richelle Tavernier–Clements, all big voice and gorgeous in shape clinging costume. Lock up your sons, people!
Speaking of costumes, let’s. Fantastic creations, all! Pamela Blackwood–Marques (elegant herself as Guido’s mother) and Lori Dawson–Levy, high kudos! If the guys reading this want a show for their LTD, scanty panties and gossamer gowns rule.
Would space could allow more to tell. Pains have been taken from dialect coaching to Steve McRae’s tight musical discipline. To Sarah Bayzat, Tania Grahn, Nikki Horvath, Alyssa Howe, Annie Klezok, Tess McGurn, Patricia Power, Brittany Rose, and Alyssa Nedich for the dancing, and thank you all for those shapely legs and dancers’ bodies. Sensational!
Finally, I was seriously moved by the final moment of this production with Carreiro and young Kersey. Watch for it. V
Until May 3
@ Citadel Theatre,
28 Rebecca St.