As difficult as it must be to live with a genius (You might ask Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, for instance.) it must be even more difficult to be the genius. That’s the case made by Arthur Kopit, and Maury Yeston in NINE. Their ethereal, dream catching musical is firmly based on Fellini’s strangely brilliant 8 ½ (adapted from the Italian by Mario Fratti).
NINE was never one of my favorite musicals – until I saw SpeakEasy’s high voltage take on the ordinal number. Director Paul Daigneault’s juggernaut (playing through Feb. 20th) speeds from one production number to the next, ratcheting up the electricity. Timothy John Smith is perfection as the arrogant, irresistible filmmaker who surrounds himself with a legion of adoring women. He’s only happy when he can control their every move and he does just that in the overture, waving his baton, conducting them as if they were instruments in his orchestra.
What gorgeous instruments they are: From an elegant Aimee Doherty as his long suffering wife, to the sexy Kerry A. Dowling as the slightly dangerous whore with the best song in the show, to the sensational McCaela Donovan as his spitfire mistress. (David Connolly’s erotic choreography ramps up the sexual energy, especially between the director and his mistress).
There’s no shortage of comic performances, either: From Shana Dirik’s overeager proprietess, to Maureen Keiller’s insistent producer, to Amy Jackson’s persistent critic. Kudos, too, to Eric Levenson for his silhouetted arches which frame Seaghan McKay’s stylish projections, and to music director Nicholas James Connell for the luscious harmonies. I’d see it again in a trice!