Ira Brind School of Theater Arts Presents 'Nine'

Fellini's classic film '8 ½' is the basis of this adventurous modern musical

November 15, 2010

The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts will present the musical "Nine," which features music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Arthur Kopit, at the Philadelphia Arts Bank Theater (601 S. Broad St.), November 12-14 and November 18-20, 2010.  

"Nine" is based on Fellini's iconic film "8 ½," widely regarded as a masterpiece of the modern cinema, and on a play by Mario Fratti entitled "Six Passionate Women" about the life of a fictional film director modeled on Fellini and his relationships with the women in his life. It tells the story of Guido Contini, a charismatic but self-absorbed Italian film director struggling to make a new movie that will live up to his reputation. As he chases his elusive muse, Guido must learn from the women in his life – his wife, his mistress, his mother, his producer, his leading lady and the whore who initiated him into the mysteries of sex.

The musical "Nine" was recently adapted for the screen as a film directed by Rob Marshall starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and a star-studded female cast.

This is the second time that the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts has produced the musical "Nine," having mounted a production at the Merriam Theater in the spring of 1995, and according to Brind School Director Charles Gilbert, the story is one that remains resonant for a community of artists like the University of the Arts. "'Nine' is the story of an artist under pressure, a situation that many of us have firsthand knowledge of. Like Guido, we've faced looming creative deadlines even as our personal lives are in turmoil. We hold ourselves to a high standard and we know that others' expectations are high as well. A community of artists is likely to recognize and perhaps identify with the kinds of extreme, self-destructive behavior that someone like Guido is likely to resort to in the high-stakes gamble of making art."

Members of the student cast of "Nine" had a unique opportunity to delve deeply into the source material for the work when playwright Mario Fratti visited the Brind School earlier this fall. Fratti gave the cast a vivid first-hand account of the development of the musical as well as insights into the Italian temperament and the cultural issues at the heart of this unique modern work.

Dr. Patricia Raine, associate professor of Theater Arts and Head of Musical Theater in the Brind School, will direct "Nine." Raine recently directed productions of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" for the Media Theater, earning a Barrymore nomination for her directorial work on the latter. Raine also directed the Brind School's recent production of Rodgers and Hart's "On Your Toes," an ambitious joint venture with the University's School of Dance that was presented in the Merriam Theater last March. 

Choreography for "Nine" is by Karen Cleighton, an adjunct assistant professor in the Brind School and a fellow Barrymore nominee, having worked with Dr. Raine on her two productions at Media Theater. Music Director Owen Robbins is an assistant professor on the Brind School faculty and has music-directed for 1812 Productions and the Arden Theater in addition to numerous credits at the University of the Arts.
The scenic design for "Nine" is by Michael Leon, a senior in the Brind School's Theater Design and Technology program. The costumes, which represent a dazzling array of international couture, were designed by Maggie Baker, assistant professor in the Brind School, and the lighting design is by guest artist Jim Leitner. The production stage manager is Danielle Brescia, a senior in the Brind School's Directing, Playwriting and Production program.

Musical Theater senior Rory Donovan plays the role of Guido Contini, the self-absorbed film director modeled on Federico Fellini. MT Senior Michele Vezilj plays his long-suffering wife, Luisa; MT Senior Carly Pearlstein plays his mistress, Carla; and MT Senior Samantha Taglienti plays Claudia, the actress whose career Contini helped to launch. Many other students from the Musical Theater program are featured in the cast and a number of students from the School of Music are members of the 10-piece orchestra.

"Nine" will be performed Friday, November 12 through Saturday, November 20, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Philadelphia Arts Bank is located at 601 S. Broad St. (Broad and South Sts.) on the Avenue of the Arts. General admission tickets are $20 for the general public, $10.00 for senior citizens and non-UArts students, and free to members of the University of the Arts community. 

More information about the Brind School and its 2010-2011 season of productions can be found on the Now On Stage! page or on the Brind School Buzz blog.

Above: The cast of "Nine" includes Musical Theater students Rory Donovan '11 (center) as Guido Contini, Carly Pearlstein '11 as his mistess Carla (left), Samantha Taglienti '11 as his leading lady Claudia (center) and Michele Vezilj '11 as his wife Luisa (right).

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