It depends how you see these things, but for me, Nine -the revival of the Italianate musical starring Antonio Banderas-is a big laugh. It was kitsch with bad Italian accents in 1982, and it’s kitsch with bad Italian accents in-what year is it?
Mi stai acoltando ? Are you with me? Antonio Banderas, he very, very, sexy. He some hunka meat. Si, e vero ! He so sexy, he make-a every girl swoon on the floor with what the show calls “boompa-boompa.” Men, too! But he so short ! No problem-o. He have very big heart. Meesta Banderas, he play heartthrob Guido Contini.
Guido, he very, very sexy movie director who make-a the boompa-boompa on the floor, in the lobby, on the staircase, in the sauna. Che uomo ! What a guy. He like Fellini. But so short! All the women are his amore just the same. Like a beeg pizza pie! They cannot-‘ow you say?-reezeest. Very beeg problemo for Guido. He sick of all this amore . He can take eet or leave eet! But Guido cannot reezeest either!
As the beeg theme-a song of the show goes:
Be Italian, be Italian,
Take a chance and try to steal a fiery kiss.
Be Italian, you rapscallion.
When you hold me, don’t just hold me,
But hold this!
It very catchy.
There eez also a Little Guido. He eez short! Perche ? He little rapscallion. He 9-year-old version of Big Guido. Little Guido cloying Child Within. He look nothing like Big Guido. He onstage too much.
Va bene , even so. Carla, she sexy, sexy blond mistress of Guido. Carla is- come si dice? -a stereotypical slut with a heart of gold. Carla wear bodystocking and go boompa-boompa all day long. So what’s it to you? She Jane Krakowski from Ally McBeal . She descend from heaven like the moon hit the sky! Fantastico .
Cootchie, cootchie, cootchie coo. I’ve got
A plan for what I’m gonna do to you, so hot
You’re gonna steam, and scream,
And vibrate like a string I’m plucking-
That’s our Carla! Not subtle, but a cootchie coo. Lady named Luisa, she very, very, troubled by cootchie coo. Well, can you blame her? Luisa eez the loyal, dignified wife to Guido. She bella madonna . Where have all her dreams gone? Now she suffer big time:
My husband spins fantasies.
He lives them, then gives them to you all.
While he was working on the film on ancient
He made the slave girls take the gladiators
Lucky old gladiators. But Guido he suffer, too. He suffer for love. Guido big baby. He- come si dice ?-narcissist. But Guido eez blocked. Guido eez a genius . But Guido in despair! The press hounds him. Guido cannot create! What to do? Guido decides to go to spa in Venice! Where maestro David Leveaux will now create a flood.
Stage full of water, please advise.
Why is this flood different from any other flood? Because tonight, it’s on Broadway! Director Leveaux’s bold, cascading, Venetian water-rama has the cast merrily sloshing about the stage ankle-deep in water, or balancing somewhat gingerly above the fray on plastic chairs, trying not to get their tootsies wet like guests at a flooded Gritti Palace Hotel. I seem to have lost my Italian accent. But so did everyone else. Guido’s certainly looking chirpier. He’s gone for a paddle with his trousers rolled up to his knees, singing with some Germans:
This is the Grand Canal. (La la la la la la)
Its resemblance to life is not obscure
It is filled with the milk of human kindness
In spite of the fact that it’s really a sewer.
It’s an obscuer sewer. Guido is inspired at last! I don’t know about Little Guido. Maybe he drowned. I blame it on the plot. The plot gets confused. It always has. Guido now seems to be making a film in water of a rococo opera about Casanova that strangely mirrors his own irrepressibly fiery plight. The big question is, of course, is this real or is he dreaming? Is it all going on inside Guido’s head? Am I? Are you? Are we? Who knows!
Meanwhile, a French woman named Liliane La Fleur, played by Chita Rivera, is the ex-Folies Bergères star and despairing producer of Guido’s movies. She seems to have hired a sexually ambiguous associate named Necrophorus, of all things, who serves as some kind of sour commentator. But let’s not go into that now. ” Pourquoi faut-il que je m’associe toujours avec les idiots ?” Madame La Fleur eventually protests to the idiots surrounding her, and thus she proceeds to relive her glory days in the Folies Bergères in a big production number involving audience participation.
” Bon soir . Hello zere? Deed you do eet? Deed you send me zer flowers …. ”
What a showing of color, costume, and
Not a moment in life could be more
Than an evening you spend aux Folies
That’s not always the case, actually. But let’s get back to Guido, who’s in the spa catacombs with a cardinal. “My son,” His Eminence tells him, “if you can believe in a world in which you can see the Devil, surely you must also believe in a world in which you can see an angel.”
Whereupon Guido’s mum enters to sing lovingly to Little Guido:
Don’t conceal what you feel, Let it shine:
That you’d like to be always nine.
Let it shine ? That he always wants to be nine ? Anyway, the temptress Carla dresses up as a nun; Guido reminisces about Saraghina, the old buxom tart who initiated him into the joys of sex on a beach when he was but a little rapscallion; Guido’s screen muse, Claudia, grows disillusioned; Guido strongly identifies with St. Sebastian; Venice floods; Claudia says ciao ; Luisa says ciao ; and I don’t think I’ll be sticking round much longer myself. As Little Guido sings so sweetly at the close in his farewell number entitled, “Getting Tall,” when the depressed Guido decides not to shoot himself:
Guido, you’re not crazy, you’re all right.
Everyone wants everyone in sight …
But knowing you have no one if you try to
Have them all
Is part of tying shoes,
Part of starting school,
Part of scraping knees if we should fall-
Part of getting tall.
Little Guido, tall at last. I don’t know about Antonio Banderas. Now, that was totally uncalled for. Antonio Banderas, he very, very sexy. He sing, he tango, he send whole world wild with the boompa-boompa, O.K.?
The set design of Mr. Leveaux’s new production is by Scott Pask, with a nod to Renzo Piano’s cool plastic modernism; the costumes are by Vicki Mortimer with an eye on 1960’s Vogue . The book is by Arthur Kopit, and the music and lyrics are by Maury Yeston, who received the 1982 Tony Award for Best Score. The original production was the Tony Award winner for Best Musical