MANSFIELD - The final show of the MMAS season is the entertaining musical "Nine," based on the Italian director Frederico Fellini's semi-autobiographical film "8 1/2." With music by Maury Yeston and book by Arthur Kopit, "Nine" closely follows the film and has elements of the Greek tragicomedy with an all-women chorus.
Much of Fellini's work is inspired by the surrealist movement and the dream work of Carl Jung, and MMAS director Meg Quin Dussault creates a dreamscape onstage where conscious and subconscious meet. There are black-and-white costumes (designed by Sok Song), white draped around the stage, and a lovely reproduction of Michaelangelo's "Creation of Adam" painted by Glen Fournier, Spencer Seligman and Nancy Wall.
The musical follows the life of world famous film director Guido Contini as he confronts a major mid-life crisis and a creative block in the midst of preparing for his latest film. Approaching 40, Contini is faced with both personal and professional upheaval while struggling to find harmony with the women in his life - his wife, his mistress, his film star muse, his agent and his mother.
The story unfolds at a spa in Venice in the 1960s where Contini has brought his wife, Luisa Del Forno, to save his marriage and hide from his agent, who is awaiting the script for the new film. During the "Overture Dell Donne," followed by "Not Since Charlie Chaplin," we meet the company of women. And under the musical direction of Shannon Manley, they shine in this production.
Jennifer Mischley stands out as the long-suffering wife, demonstrating strength in her dramatic and musical abilities as well as her comedic talent, particularly with the song "My Husband Makes Movies." In the second act, her stylings are much more poignant as Luisa leaves Contini with the song, "Be on Your Own."
Irina Gott is the funniest of the actresses in her role as Liliane La Fleur, Contini's agent and former cabaret performer with the Folies Bergere. Gott is multi-talented as demonstrated in her performance of "The Script"/Folies Bergere." In this scene, she performs with Jay Silvi as Contini and Laura Gustaafsson as Stephanie Necrophorus, a critic tasked with keeping Contini on task.
Also arriving on the scene to complicate matters is Contini's mistress, Carla Albanese. Cat Umano is sensual and sleek as she performs "A Call From the Vatican." Silvi's reaction to her sensual promises over the phone are very appropo and could be rated R. In Act II, when Carla is jilted by Guido and her affections are played out in his film, Umano gives a vulnerable and sweetly sung goodbye in "Simple."
Other fine performances from the women include Katherine Joy as Guido's mother, whose soprano voice lends itself well to the song "Nine" as she addresses Guido as a young boy (Jack Price). Joy is appropriately disappointed when she learns her 9-year-old has visited the prositute Sarraghina (Leslie DiOrio). DiOrio and the company give a rousing performance of "Be Italian."
And as the film star muse Claudia Nardi, Manley gives a beautiful vocal performance of "A Man Like You/Unusual Way."
Jay Silvi delivers as the driven, sometimes manic and egocentric Contini. As Contini tries to take control of his love life, Silvi sings "Guido's Song" and "Only With You." However, his vocal talents cannot compare with the women. In the second act, as Corsini's personal and professional life unravels and reality and fantasy collide, Silvi's vocal talents are at their strongest as he sings "I Can't Make This Movie." Price joins him on stage to bring this entertaining production to its dramatic conclusion with a poignant performance of "Getting Tall" and "Nine/Long Ago/Nine."
"Nine" continues at the MMAS Black Box Theatre, 377 North Main St., Mansfield, weekends through Sunday, June 22. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. (The June 14 show is sold out.) For tickets go to mmas.org or call 508-339-2822.