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Stage Reviews : ‘Nine’ Doesn’t Add Up to Much of a Musical

Of the many ingredients which make up a great musical, “Nine” has none.

The central character’s high-class problems--how to juggle the many women in his life and come up with an idea for his next movie (he’s an Italian director)--do not stir up vast reservoirs of sympathy. Arthur Kopit’s book gets off a few good wisecracks but generally takes poor Guido’s plight much too seriously.

Maury Yeston’s music is fairly routine, but his lyrics aren’t even that good. Would you believe a lusty Italian whore who repeatedly advises a group of boys to “Be Italian / You rapscallion”?And some of the musical numbers don’t fit well into their assigned spots. The worst case of this is “The Germans at the Spa"--trivial without being funny, and completely irrelevant to the rest of the show.

At the Gene Dynarski Theatre, director Patrick Garza’s austere white set--modeled after the Broadway original instead of the set for the touring company that played the Music Center in 1984--appears designed to frustrate every expectation of unbridled sensuality that naturally arises from the subject and the locale.

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The costumes, by Jennifer Muse and Anastacyia Tomashek, finally add some welcome dashes of color late into the show. But generally the look is cerebral; the show is not.

Furthermore, the small platforms that litter the stage in the first act, serving as seats for the women who aren’t busy at any given moment, impede Garza’s choreographic attempts. Garza’s cast is surprisingly successful at finding its way around the obstacles, but the effort shows.

This “Nine” is a production of At a Loss Enterprises, which staged another “Nine"--with many of the same actors--in Fullerton last year. I’m at a loss to explain why anyone would stage “Nine” twice.

At least the performances are not slipshod. Daniel Bolero’s Guido hasn’t much charisma, but he sings and moves with precision and strength. Marie Kelly successfully portrays Guido’s producer as a tough little customer.

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Gayle McIntyre doesn’t transcend the muffled, morose qualities of Guido’s wife, but Lynda Blais has fun depicting Guido’s spicy mistress and Talya Ferro throws herself into the cliched role of the “Be Italian” whore.

Scott Cokely’s musical accompaniment sometimes overwhelms the women’s voices, and Adrian Dickey’s lighting design occasionally misses the point, as in a conversation between Guido and his mother (Bonnie Onken) that lights their feet instead of their faces.

At 5600 Sunset Blvd., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m., through May 28. Tickets: $16.99-$19.99; (213) 225-1485.


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