“Nine” won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1982 and Best Revival of a Musical in 2003. But even if you’re a a devoted fan of musical theater, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen it.
“It’s a very different musical,” said Cory Boyas. “It’s one of the most difficult scores out there. I think that’s why it’s not done more often, because of the vocal demands.”
It’s unusual for even professional companies to take on “Nine,” but Manatee Players, a community theater, is staging it for three weeks starting Thursday. Boyas is the director and choreographer.
The show’s score has been compared to some of Stephen Sondheim’s more complex work. Manatee Players has plenty of performers who are adept at that type of dense, sophisticated music. Boyas is confident his cast is up to the challenges.
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It’s one of the most difficult scores out there. I think that’s why it’s not done more often, because of the vocal demands.
The music comes from Maury Yeston. It was his first Broadway musical. His other big hit was “Titanic” 15 years later, which also won Tony Awards for best Musical and Best Score.
It’s based on Federico Fellini’s surrealistic semi-autobiographical film “8 1/2.” The story revolves around a successful film director, about 40 years old, who’s had a series of flops at the same time he’s facing a mid-life crisis and marital difficulties. It’s largely consists of the protagonist, Guido, reviewing his life, especially his relationships with women.
The film wouldn’t seem to be a natural fit or a stage adaptation. and the show went through several incarnations before reaching Broadway in a version that had a book by the great Arthur Kopit, who also wrote the 1960s farce “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad,” and the book for “Phantom,” which also had music by Yeston. (Manatee Players staged “Phantom” in 2016.)
“It’s Guido and a cast of mostly women,” said Omar Montes, who plays Guido in the Manatee Players production. “Other than me, a 9-year-old version of me, two other boys in the cast, it’s an all-female cast.”
Montes discovered the show through the 2003 Broadway revival, which starred Antonio Banderas. Montes is based in Orlando, but he wanted to do this show badly enough that he’s staying with family in Brandon for a while so he can do the rehearsals and perform here.
Montes said he was drawn to the music, but also to the show’s themes.
You find Guido in the situation where he’s had all this success, but then he’s had these three specific flops. He’s wondering whether he’s already had the last success of his life.
“You find Guido in the situation where he’s had all this success, but then he’s had these three specific flops,” Montes said. “He’s wondering whether he’s already had the last success of his life.”
It’s a challenging show for performers, but it also places some pleasant demands on the audience, Boyas said. The songs are lyrically dense, and few of them are familiar to general audiences. The narrative has three separate timelines occurring simultaneously. It’s not passive entertainment.
“It’s kind of a show that appeals to theater-lovers,” Boyas said. “It demands your attention.”
Details: Jan, 11-28, Stone Hall at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $22-$32 plus service charge. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.