Monday, July 18, 2016

Nine—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

“Thanks for the Memories”

This adult musical is written by Arthur Kopit (from the Italian, by Mario Fratti) with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston.  It is directed by Ron Daum, musical direction by Beth Noelle and choreography by Laura Hiszczynskyj.  It is based on Fellini’s film, 8 ½.  It is playing the Lakewood Theatre, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego, through August 14th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

Memories are tricky things.  Whole portions of time are wiped out and only “relevant” and/or traumatic  incidents can come to mind and usually only in snippets, like taking a photo.  Some people remember back to being an infant.  Others (like myself) only have memories starting in the “tween” years.  And, add to that, dreams or fantasies, and you have a cornucopia of possibilities of the life that you’re leading (and have lead).

Lillian Hellman, I believe, wanted to write a story on some early memories of her and then discovered that some of them were false, either mis-remembered or concocted by her.  She wrote the story anyway, including that extra element to it.  Also, one’s own perspective adds a personal and somewhat egotistical faction to the mix (as in the case of this story).

Fellini, or in the case his stage alter-ego, Guido (Matthew Hayward), creates for us his world on a stage.  In his case, it is made up of all women, except his excursions into childhood, himself as a boy of nine (Karsten George), or as a young man (Matthew Sepeda).  The two closest women to him are, of course, his tolerant mother (Debbie Hunter) and his wife, the ever-patient, Luisa (Chrissy Kelly-Pettit).  But he has orchestrated for himself (and us) a world of glamorous, adoring women, all clamoring for his attentions.

There is the exotic dancer, the insatiable, Carla (Ecaterina Lynn); his Producer, Liliane (Terra Lynn Hill) and her two trusting and unforgiving aides, the staunch, Stephanie (Megan Misslin) and her “hatchetman,” Lina (Josie Seid); the sultry, movie star, Claudia (Sarah Maines); the flamboyant procurer of the Spa (Libby Clow); the resourceful, Mama Maddelena (Lisamarie Harrison); an early teacher in the “art” of love, Sarraghina (Rachelle Riehl); and a bevy of other models, starlets, and assorted flings.  Not unlike the musical bio of Fosse, All That Jazz.

But he always feels incomplete because he is a creator without any real ideas of what to create.  Fellini himself did tend to wander at times in his films, like 8 ½, but others, like La Strada and Juliet of the Spirits (both with his wife), did have stories and were quite good.  But in this incarnation, the songs seem to express the inner demons, hopes, dreams and fears of some very creative souls.  To discover them, you’ll have to experience it for yourselves.

Daum has done a first-rate job of assembling this very talented cast and kept the complicated plot on track so that we understand the story.  It’s a memory play and, like memories, wanders and changes directions, but he has managed the unenviable task of keeping it understandable.  And the set by Charles Ketter is terrific, both for expressing the moods of the show and for the actors to play on.  The costumes by Jessica Carr, likewise are very exotic and expressive of Italy during the 60’s.  And I loved the aerial arts number of Carla’s by Hiszczynskyj.  But I was blown away by Noelle and her musicians and especially her on piano.  It is a difficult score but they managed to connect with the performers (and audience) without drowning them out.  And Noelle was a powerhouse on piano as she burned up the stage on the finales.

Many of the singers were of operatic quality and I applaud the fact that not only can they have the singing power to raise the roof but have wonderful acting chops as well.  And Hayward, as the lead player, is amazing.  Not only does he have some resemblance to the lead romantic Italian stars of his day but also the bravado that was needed.  His voice is extraordinary.  He enacts one those romantic cavaliers that, although unsavory in their morals, you just can’t help but like anyway.

I recommend this show but know that it is adult in nature.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.