Opening night of Nine ended with a full house standing ovation and cheers from the crowd as the actors gave thanks on stage at the end of the play. Usually, you would expect that the main characters get the cheer and the loudest applause from the audience, but this was not the case in Nine. It is not that the main actors weren’t convincing or good, but that the entire cast had such a strong performance that the audience had no choice but to keep a steady volume of cheer and clapping throughout the entire curtain call. The enthusiasm, collaboration, and talent of the supporting actors were crucial in Nine. If you want proof of the importance of extras and supporting actors in a play, you need to go see Nine; the play would have not been possible without them.
But what stood out to me the most were the powerful songs, as I was told by Erika Noot (Carla Albanese) I would. At moments I could truly identify with the character or feel what they were feeling. All songs were performed with passion and every actor and actress had impressive and clear voices, even when they all performed with accents. The accents were for the most part credible, and did not make it difficult to understand the dialogue.
Nine also did a wonderful job representing the complex mind of a genius. From scene one, you can begin to understand the chaotic aspect of the mind of Guido, as the entire cast talks at the same time about him: who he is, what he does, and what he’ll do next. This kind of chaos is not limited to geniuses’ minds, as I am sure many of us go through life with a 100+ things in our heads, which are always demanding out attention and interest, resolution or dismissal. What a true genius does is turn that chaos and background noise into art, into a wonderful creation, and in Nine, this was represented on scene one as the noise and talking turns into a wonderful musical number.
In fact, there are very few spoken lines or scenes that do not turn into a musical. So keep that in mind and if you are not a big musical lover, prepare yourself mentally for 2 hours of music and dancing. But it’s worth it.
And although the play is long, every scene in it is necessary for the story. The first half of the play is all about setting up the stage and there is little story development. This part is more about getting to know Guido, the women and men around him, and what his life has been like. Guido is a man going through a rough time. He is in his 40’s, but he hasn’t stopped feeling like he is nine years old, the same age he was when he met a prostitute that told him about women and how to ‘love them’. From this important moment on, Guido was led to believe women wanted sex rather than love; and in his mind, these words may even be synonyms.
So don’t be discouraged if the first half seems a bit slow or even pointless, since every piece of information is important for the development of the second half. We see that Guido has a very selfish view of women, and for him one woman would never ever be enough—for in his mind, he needs and craves perfection. Guido does not treat women (or people in general) as people but instead as instruments, and he saw each and every woman not as who they were but as what they provided him, how they aided him, and how they fed his ego and his imagination. But he also fails to see the importance these people have in his life—something he comes to realize at the end of the play where he must face the consequences of such a selfish view.
I was impressed by the number of languages that were included in the script: German, French, and Italian. Although familiarity with these languages does give an extra edge to the audience, as most of these phrases are meant to be dramatically intense, or incredibly funny, you don’t miss much if you can’t understand them. The only scene that is relevant or in which one could regret not speaking Italian happens when Guido is speaking to his wife after she sees the new movie being filmed. Luckily, my minimum understanding of all three languages allowed me to understand all these extra puns, although one thing that was really bothering me was that in the song “Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian” (I want you), Sarraghina (Kate Wylie) claimed the Dutch say “Ich Liebe” to say I love you, which is German not Dutch…but that’s just me concentrating on irrelevant details.
Turning to more important aspects of the play, as I mentioned in the preview, I was very interested to see what the director and the cast would do to make a clear distinction between the imagined character and the real one. Besides a few, irrelevant, moments in the play in which I was confused as to which was real and which imagination, it was very clear throughout the play when the character was inside Guido’s head (usually due to a dim light signaling imagination, and full light signalling reality) and when it wasn’t. Memories were also different, as they seemed to simply evolve in Guido’s eyes rather than follow his instructions (and you’ll see what I mean with “following instructions” when you see the play).
This play allows you to connect with the characters at many different levels, in different circumstances, and touch you and make you reflect about life in the way plays should. I think you will enjoy the live music as well. The Walterdale, the cast, and director Kristen M. Finlay should all be proud of their production, which is—as they promised—full of talent, fun, and powerful, insightful, songs.