A Call From the Vatican

Okay, so I’m on a bit of a Nine kick this evening. I’ve got the 2003 revival cast album on because I haven’t listened to it in a couple years and have been talking up the show with a few friends. My google expertise brought me to this clip of the great Anita Morris performing ‘A Call from the Vatican,’ one of the sexier numbers to ever be featured in a Broadway musical. She is calling her lover Guido Contini, who is unfortunately seated next to his wife, and sexy hilarity ensues. Morris started out as a mime, but segued into a sturdy Broadway career that culminated in her appearance in Nine. She was featured in the original NY casts of Jesus Christ Superstar, Seesaw, and The Magic Show as Charmin. She also was a replacement in the burlesque Sugar Babies and took over the role of Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

With her red hair, voluptuous body and full, red lips, she became a Broadway sex symbol. CBS banned her showstopping number “A Call from the Vatican” from the Tony telecast as they felt her costume, a sheer but strategically designed lace body stocking, was too risque for television. (William Ivey Long designed the costumes and won his first Tony for them). Instead, they presented Kathi Moss and the (fully-clothed) ladies of the ensemble in “Be Italian.” In a brilliant marketing move, the producers of Nine made a TV ad with Morris (in her costume) seducing people to come see what CBS wouldn’t let them see on television.

Though it is easy to remember her performance merely for her sexualized, flirtatious turn in the first act, she also broke the audience’s heart in “Simple” in the second act after she faces a rather brutal rejection from Contini. (She was nominated for a featured actress Tony, but the award went to co-star Liliane Montevecchi). Morris’ departure from Broadway led to a few roles in film (Ruthless People) and on numerous television shows (I seem to recall her coyly flirting with Andy Griffith on Matlock). Sadly, she passed away in 1994, a few days shy of her 51st birthday from ovarian cancer, which she had fought privately off and on for almost fifteen years. She is survived by her widower, Broadway dancer/choreographer/director Grover Dale and their son, actor James Badge Dale.

Here is a performance of “A Call from the Vatican” taken from the 46th Street Theatre. Forgive the video/audio quality, but it’s a glimpse into one of the most unique performances of a Broadway song I’ve ever seen. Immediately following is the video of her commercial. Enjoy…