While the purist in me has some obvious quibbles with the chopping away at the score, I am still intrigued and very much looking forward to the film adaptation of Maury Yeston’s Nine. The movie musical, directed by Rob Marshall, is slated for release on Christmas Day. The soundtrack will be coming out a couple weeks earlier on December 15. From video clips and stills, the film – for whatever it’s worth – is bound to have some striking visuals, so I have to express my disappointment at the album cover, which I assume will also be representative of the film’s poster art. The image looks cheap, like something you would expect on the “You sing” karaoke edition of the score. It doesn’t live up to the expectations of class and beauty that are stock in trade with Nine on both stage and screen.
"Nine" – The Rehearsal Montage
I guess you could call this video a trailer of sorts. Still not sure what to make of the film, except that I’m fascinated to see how such a cerebral musical comes to life on film. I’m also not sold on the loss of so many great songs from the original stage score, but we’ll see if I’m forgiving once the film comes out. In the very least it will be visually stunning. And in a musical where every turn is a diva turn, it will be interesting to see so many Oscar winners throwing themselves into the production numbers. I’m also really curious to hear what Daniel Day Lewis’ singing voice sounds like…
The film comes out on Christmas Day.
Broadway Commercials, Part 1
Would you have paid to see the shows based on these commercials? I think the audience testimonial about Cyd Charisse in Grand Hotel is my favorite. More to come!
Grand Hotel & The Will Rogers Follies:
The King and I:
Fiddler on the Roof:
Nick & Nora:
Karen Akers is Luisa Contini…
Back in spring 2004, I received an invitation from Peter Filichia to attend that year’s Theatre World Awards at Studio 54. I graciously accepted and gladly attended – and I have been there every year since. I’ve noted before that it’s one of my favorite events of the entire theatre season, filled with warmth and community, welcoming new talents. One of the fun things about the awards ceremony is that they invite past winners to present and occasionally perform.
Karen Akers was the performer that first year. She won the award back in 1982 for playing Luisa Contini in the original production of Nine, singing “My Husband Makes Movies” and “Be On Your Own,” her characters two songs. I wish this video didn’t cut Akers’ comments between them as she talked about what it was like to work with director-choreographer Tommy Tune. She offered insight, especially regarding the latter song and her difficulty in getting what Tune wanted. His insightful direction, having her stand firm, with legs apart was something she wasn’t comfortable. He realized that she was fearing that the the audience would hate her because of the song. Tapping into this fear, he helped her to give a masterful, masterful performance that garnered the singing actress a Tony nomination, as well as this award. For the ten minutes or so she was onstage, all I could think was “I am seeing Karen Akers…live…performing the songs she originated in Nine opposite Raul Julia…”
By the way, in the upcoming film version of Nine, “My Husband Makes Movies” has made the cut. However, for some reason (and I hope it’s a good artistic one and not Oscar pandering), “Be On Your Own” has been scuttled in favor of a new solo for Marion Cotillard called “Take It All.” Now I know not to judge something that I haven’t had the opportunity of hearing, but all I will say is that it better be one hell of a good song to erase memories of the stage original. Enjoy…
Variety take a glimpse at "Nine"
There was an interesting article on the upcoming film adaptation of Maury Yeston & Arthur Kopit’s Nine in this week’s Variety. The 1982 musical, which won several Tony Awards including Best Musical, was itself a loose adaptation of Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Included in the article were some tidbits about casting, Daniel Day-Lewis’ singing and his on-set Method existence, director Rob Marshall’s concept (which isn’t far removed from what he did in Chicago) and the new songs Yeston wrote for the film. Here is the information on the three new songs as reported by the trade (with my thoughts in post-script).
“Guarda la Luna” (Look at the Moon), sung by [Sophia] Loren. “We were lucky enough to have someone who was part of that great period of Italian cinema, who knew Fellini, who knew Marcello Mastroianni (Guido in the Fellini film),” Yeston says. So he tailored a lullaby specifically for Loren’s voice (but based the melody on the song “Nine” from the Broadway score).
— Having seen Man of La Mancha, I am aware of Loren’s vocal limitations. The title song of Nine is sung by Guido’s mother, and is a showcase for a mature soprano. Taina Elg introduced the song in the original cast, and it was sung by Mary Beth Peil and Marni Nixon in the Broadway revival with Antonio Banderas. I’m curious to see how this new song works within the context of the musical, and am glad to see at least some element of the original song will remain.
“Cinema Italiano,” for Hudson as a Vogue writer in Rome to interview the director. “Italian movies also communicated lifestyle and fashion for the world,” Yeston says, so [Kate] Hudson sings and dances to a number with “a retro feel, elements of ’60s pop” that is designed to illustrate to younger audiences how important Italian cinema was in that era.
— Nothing like trying to pander to that coveted youth bracket, which seems to be the only reason this song exists. Stephanie Necrophorus is a rather small part in the stage show, so this would seem like an opportunity to give Hudson more to do, especially since Liliane La Fleur (played by Judi Dench) is no longer a producer, but Contini’s costume designer. However, if the message boards on IMDb are to be trusted, most people who have been to screenings feel this song is out of place. My curiosity is piqued. (Speaking of Nine screenings, Roxie and I were approached prior to Mary Stuart to see if we’d like to go to one, but unfortunately we both had prior engagements).
“Take It All,” originally written as a trio for [Nicole] Kidman, [Penelope] Cruz and [Marion] Cotillard but, just before shooting, rearranged as a solo for Cotillard, according to music supervisor Matt Sullivan. “Heart-wrenching” is how Yeston describes the performance by Cotillard (who won an Oscar playing Edith Piaf).
— This one better be good. “Simple” and “Be On Your Own” were cut to make way for this new song, probably a ploy to garner some Oscar attention in the Best Song category. As much as I enjoy Maury Yeston and Marion Cotillard, I cannot imagine Luisa having a more effective song than “Be On Your Own.”
I’ve also been told that “The Bells of St. Sebastian” and the entire “Grand Canal” sequence have been cut, so it should be interesting to see what director Rob Marshall has come up with. Word is that Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson delivers a dynamite performance of “Be Italian.” Regardless, I love Nine and I look forward to seeing it (all those Oscar winners!). My real curiosity is seeing if the stage show translates well to the screen.
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…