Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nine (Atlantis Theatrical)


Based on and adding music to Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, Nine tells the story of a director experiencing some serious mental block, further complicated by the women from different spheres of his life all vying for his attention in more ways than one. Guido Contini (Jet Pangan) is under pressure from demanding French movie producer Liliane La Fleur (Cherie Gil) to come up with a musical, only that the time has come to shoot and he still has no script at hand. To add to this, his marriage with wife Luisa del Forno (Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo) is falling apart, thanks to but not only because of his mistress Carla Albanese (Carla Guevara-Laforteza). He turns to his ever dependable muse Claudia Nardi (Eula Valdez) for much needed inspiration, but it seems that she is expecting something more than a different movie role in return. Flashbacks and musical numbers aplenty, Nine guides you through what is happening inside a man's head: frustrations, brain drain, women, and the respective roles that they play not just in a movie's creative process, but also in his life, in general.

The set. You might want to get a more elevated seat for this one. Opting for three levels for the production design is just logical, as cramming all those women on one stage is a blocking crisis waiting to happen. It might cause some difficulty if you are too near the stage due to constant neck adjustment following all of them from one platform to another. Other than that, the set design is genius, as it provides not just plenty of space for everyone to walk around, but also assures that every single woman is visible to all, regardless if she is just singing her part in the chorus or doing her much awaited solo.

Guido. Kudos to Jet Pangan for holding everything together, him being the central character and all. It is hard to contend with all those women, but he serves as a good cohesive (f)actor for everything to make sense. He is funny when needed be; emotionally affective when necessary. Just some inconsistencies in the accent, but then again he is playing the role of a troubled man whose speech pattern should be the last of his worries. Maybe it comes with the territory.

Liliane. What Cherie Gil does here is scary, in a non-Halloween kind of way. It has been publicized more than once that she has a throat problem that needs operation to be fixed. Such is evident through her singing, and you could not help but fear that it might cause her voice some irreparable damage that could lead to her no longer gracing the stage, which would be a pity because she is damn good. That aside, the raspy voice actually lends more flair to her showstopping rendition of Folies Bergeres, not that it is necessary though, as her revealing outfit is already more than enough to warrant attention. I would also like to thank her for giving me what has got to be my greatest "breaking the fourth wall" experience so far. She was standing right in front of me when she descended the stage and stopped for a while. It was a truly mesmerizing moment and I was so starstruck. Fanboy.

Claudia. To say that Eula Valdes is a revelation would be an insult because this woman is no stranger to the stage, and she even has an Aliw Award to prove that she is no amateur. She opens the second half with what is supposed to be one of the more difficult songs in this musical: Unusual Way. You know what is awesome about it? She hits her high notes without making it seem so hard, with an Italian accent, and brilliant acting through her facial expressions. While many a theater actress has already done a musical performance more deserving to be tagged as bravura, it would be a sin not to praise the acting and singing to be witnessed here. She might not have necessarily raised the bar for musical theater in general, but had she been an athlete, she could very well consider this as topping her personal best.

Much focus has been given on these two actresses for this particular staging, probably owing to the fact that they are more popularly known as TV actors. Thus, the media hype. But again, these two are no newbies to the stage, and even if the media overhyped their involvement here, it is just fine because both of them definitely lived up to that hype, if ever there really was one.

Carla. As the daring mistress, she is the prohibitive scene stealer here, and there would have been no other actress worthy to play such a juicy role than Carla Guevara-Laforteza. Giving a similar aplomb present in her other onstage outings (Maureen in Rent and Lucy in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, to name a few), her version of Carla is not simply fun and sexy, but also very human. Needy. Clingy. Psychotic, maybe. Her rendition of A Call from the Vatican surely raised some eyebrows, but still, you just could not hate the character despite her being the home-wrecker. It takes a good actress to make such a role that endearing. Just one question though, where did the gravity defying scene go? I believe that there is supposed to be one and that it is one of the highlights of the show?

Luisa. Boring, sorry. The character, I mean. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo will always be terrific, and very memorable in Next to Normal and God of Carnage. Perhaps, that is the very problem. The character has a great disadvantage from the very start, what with all the other women having one flashy song and dance number or two (and the glammed up apparel, in Claudia's case), even Saraghina. It is good that Luisa at least gets some sort of a power ballad towards the end, and Madame Menchu gets to show us why she is there in the first place. Besides, why are wives always depicted as tepid and with patience everlasting? Surely, they could be fun too. Nevertheless, you can feel her pain. A musical catfight would have brought the house down, or maybe I am just too influenced by mainstream cinema. This is theater, lest I forget. Oops, digression. 

Anyway, Nine is cathartic, and fun to analyze on different levels. The material itself is the result of the lack of an inspired story, which in itself develops into a movie that is within a play, but all those barriers are taken down, and Guido's life dilemma effortlessly transcends the lines between real and reel, all the way to the viewing public.

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

Hello Ihcahieh, this is Eula Valdes. I just want to thank you for the kind words you wrote about my performance in Nine. Thank you!!!!!!

ihcahieh said...

@Eula Valdes - Thanks for dropping by. I'm a fan! Hehe. I even have a copy of your Schizo album! Haha. :)

Anyway, I hope you do more theater projects, and maybe a rerun of Zsa Zsa if Tanghalang Pilipino decides to do it again. A friend is dying to see it! Anyway, I know we'll see more of you on TV naman, so there. Salamat din! :)

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