Entertainment » Theatre

Nine

by Drew Jackson
Wednesday Nov 13, 2013
Janelle Lutz (left), Catherine Carpenter Cox (foreground), Steve Barcus and Danielle Estes star in Lyric Stage’s ’Nine’
Janelle Lutz (left), Catherine Carpenter Cox (foreground), Steve Barcus and Danielle Estes star in Lyric Stage’s ’Nine’  (Source:Steven Jones)

Lyric Stage's new production of the musical "Nine" and the Dallas City Performance Hall adds up to a perfect 10. No matter how you do the math this 'blink, and you've missed it' three-performance run is the must see musical event of the fall.

Everything works in the little seen (in Dallas) musical "Nine." This sumptuous feast succeeds from the inspired directing of Len Pfluger to Maury Yeston's gorgeous score conducted by Jay Dias. "Nine" is a no frills, all thrills event. There are no set or props. The stage is simply filled with risers populated by a 30+ piece all-woman orchestra and a dozen+ all female chorus.

The stylish costumes (by Ryan Matthieu Smith) are decked out in a stunning black and white palette which showcases Julie N. Simmons's lighting design creating stark images for featured performers and more than fifty shades of grey nuanced shadows.

The plot revolves around the mid-life crisis of stylish well-known filmmaker Guido Contini. While his early films were highly influential and commercial successes, his last three films have flopped. Creatively blocked, Guido has no script for his next epic film that is due to start filming in five days. As Guido's creative life is unspooling, his personal life also starts unraveling.

Guido is also a narcissistic womanizer, a character who should not invoke sympathy for theater patrons. Indeed, in the underrated 2009 film adaptation of "Nine," Daniel Day Lewis' interpretation of Guido was so self-centered and unsympathetic that his performance kept all but hard core theater fans away.

In this terribly tricky role dreamy Steve Barcus is stellar in a tour de force memorable believable performance that both humanizes Guido and charmingly and boyishly shows, as one chorus girl states, that he can make any woman feel like she is the only woman in the world.

Dreamy Steve Barcus is stellar in a tour de force memorable believable performance that both humanizes Guido and charmingly and boyishly shows, as one chorus girl states, that he can make any woman feel like she is the only woman in the world.

And boy is Guido surrounded by women. In a nonlinear, non-chronological manner we witness Guido's self-complicated relationships with the women currently in his life as well as the women from his past that have influenced him.

"Nine" features one knockout vocally dramatic performance after another that leaves you yearning for more from each character. In the showcase role, which earned Jane Krakowski ("Ally McBeal," "30 Rock") a Tony and Penelope Cruz an Oscar nomination, Guido's mistress Carla sings the shows most recognized tune, "A Call From the Vatican." Danielle Estes is the smoking hot embodiment of sex strutting and shimmying around Guido in a black-laced cat suit. Purrfection.

Linda Leonard is having an amazing year. After a winning star performance earlier this year in Uptown Players "Kiss of the Spider Woman," she and her gams dazzle as Guido's producer in the showgirl number "Folies Bergere." Sarah Shelby-Martin is lustfully luscious as Sarraghina, Guido's first sexual temptress. Janelle Lutz is haunting as Guido's muse Claudia.

Catherine Carpenter Cox shines in her two numbers as Guido's long-suffering wife Luisa. She is sadly lonely in the first act number "My Husband Makes Movies." And she is nearly bold and operatically tragic as "Carmen" (simultaneously playing across the street at the Winspear Opera House) as she tells Guido "Be On Your Own."

The number nine is significant as the number of women that have truly inspired Guido as well as the age that the young Guido discovers the many mysteries of the female sex. Its also the loosely adaptation of Fellini's surreal film "8½."

However you count it, this production of "Nine" is a revelation. The only disappointment is it's too brief run and the inability to experience it again.

"Nine" ran through Nov. 9 at the Dallas City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora Street in Dallas. For information or tickets for future shows, call 972-252-2787 or visit www.lyricstage.org

Drew Jackson was born in Brooklyn and has been writing ever since he graduated from NYC. He now lives in Dallas happily married to his husband Hugh. Jackson is currently working on his next play.


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