Friday, June 01, 2007

Nine (The SOB Review)

Nine (The SOB Review) - CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

***1/2 (out of ****)

How appropriate is this?

If this gorgeous Dry Cold Productions revival of Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston's wonderful Nine were up for an Olympic score, it would easily score nine out of ten points.

Dry Cold Productions describes itself as a company "born out of a desire to present modern musical theatre classics to Winnipeg audiences featuring exclusively Manitoba theatre artists both on and off the stage." Who knew so much amazing talent could be found in this city of under 700,000? It was certainly abundant on this stage.

While the recent 2003 Broadway revival of what was arguably Yeston's best work was dressed to the nines, this stark, yet beautiful production serves as more of an astonishing, albeit frugal, showcase for its fine, amassed troupe. Helming this feat was Donna Fletcher, who wisely opted to slightly darken the mood with Scott Henderson's haunting lighting design and Brian Perchaluk's spare set design, thus allowing the Olympian cast to really sparkle.

Reading an audacious program claim emphatically asking, "Who needs Broadway when we've got Dry Cold Productions?!" I began watching the show practically loaded for bear. However, it didn't take but a few notes into the opening number "Overture Delle Donne" when I realized I was going to witness something rather exquisite. And surprising, given that this production was readied for a mere three weekend performances!

What I've always enjoyed about Nine is its ability to illuminate a man, Guido Contini, who's precariously on the precipice of middle age, afraid to relinquish his youth. This Guido was forcefully played with vigor by Kevin Aichele. Though his vocals were a bit strained during the arduous "Bells Of Saint Sebastian" number, his ability to perfectly capture Guido's playboy rapscallion -- as well as his aching epiphany that's he's no longer the boy he once was -- was nothing short of captivating. He even managed to leave me choked up.

The role of temptress Carla Albanese was portrayed by a dazzling Samantha Hill, who conveyed all of the requisite pert sex kitten, augmented with terrific vocals. My favorite tune from the show was mightily delivered by the brilliant Marian Bernstein as producer Liliane La Fleur in "Folies Bergeres," who nearly made me forget that I once saw the incredible Chita Rivera stop the show with the same tune.

Dry Cold Productions' little musical may have been short-lived, but its Nine will loom large with me for a long time.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 01 June, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She nearly made you forget Chita Rivera? Wow, it must have been an amazing performance! And isn't it great when you discover something so wonderful in an unexpected place!

At 01 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Notice I didn't say "completely." How could I ever forget seeing the incomparable Chita Rivera. I love her!

But you're right - I was quite blown away by this innovative, talented troupe north of the border! Who'd have thunk?!

At 17 January, 2008, Blogger Dorian said...

Sorry I didn't notice this earlier, but I've only recently discovered your blog, and have been digging through the archives.

I was very excited to see the review of this production, as I myself live in Winnipeg, and your kind words for our theatre community made me v. happy.

Unfortunately, I myself did not see this production, due to a total lack of time that weekend, but I saw the posters for it in my school (from which I graduated this past year), and I recall being very frustrated that I missed my chance.

Moreso now that it's been so highly acclaimed, actually, but c'est la vie.

At 17 January, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Dorian, Glad you found me.

You can be proud of the theatrical community you have in Winnipeg. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that your arts community is not only thriving, but that you have a wellspring of local talent worth seeing.

I certainly won't rule out a return visit to your wonderful city.


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