“Nine” offers unique spin on creative process

Geneseo’s department of music presented an impressive performance of the musical “Nine” on Friday Jan. 22 in Wadsworth Auditorium. Director and choreographer professor of English and music Melanie Blood opened the performance with a few words in remembrance of seniors Kelsey Annese and Matthew Hutchinson. Blood stated that those involved with this musical were asked if they still wanted to continue with their performance of “Nine” and the group decided that it would be best if the show went on. “We hope our art can be healing for our Geneseo community,” Blood said.

Maury Yeston originally wrote “Nine” in 1973 and Arthur Kopit later adapted it into a book. The story is based on Federico Fellini’s Academy Award winning film 8 1/2. The original Broadway production opened in 1982 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

“Nine” follows the creative imagination of the filmmaker Guido Contini—played by junior Jordan Bachmann—as he struggles with writer’s block while trying to write a new film at a Venetian spa in the early 1960s.

Besides facing the pressure of this deadline, Contini struggles to maintain a good relationship with his wife Luisa Contini—played by senior Alexandra Salerno—and to let go of other women with whom he has had affairs, including Carla Albanese—played by junior Beth Ohman—and Claudia Nardi—played by senior Samantha Clowes.

According to Fellini, people live on three levels: “the past, the present and the conditional—the realm of fantasy.” This musical clearly exemplified these three levels. At first, it was with ease that these three were separate, but as the musical progresses—along with the pressure on Guido Contini to create and finish his new film—the three levels become more intertwined.

Geneseo’s department of music included the inventive and creative use of video projected onto the back of the stage in order to enhance the distinctions existing between these three levels and to better portray Guido Contini’s world of fantasy.

Another goal of this musical was to create deep and compelling female characters; characters that don’t rely on their relationships with Guido Contini to define who they are. One striking example of this is when Luisa Contini recognizes that her husband is suffering from creative block, which she feels she is unable to help him with. Luisa Contini knows of her husband’s affairs and calls Nardi, thinking that since she can’t seem to inspire Guido Contini that maybe one of his mistresses can. This shows the great extent to which Luisa loved and cared for Guido Contini because she was able to, in a sense, “let him go,” since that was what would benefit him the most.

As Nardi then visits Guido Contini, he tells her, “You were my inspiration.” She replies, “I wasn’t your inspiration. That was always you.” This scene instills a renewed sense of confidence in Guido Contini.

At the end of the musical, Fellini’s three levels grow even more intertwined. When Guido Contini sings “Nine/Long Ago” with his younger, 9-year-old self, the tension that has been rising throughout the play due to Guido Contini’s struggles against the pressures of time as he nears the deadline for his film seem to dissipate. He appears to accept the passage of time and allows his younger self to conduct the final song.

This musical offered a very interesting take on the creative mind and how that mind never stops working and creating—sometimes even distracting one from reality. Those involved with “Nine” offered the Geneseo community a wonderful, thought-provoking performance which examined things that we all face: the tyranny of time and how to discover the line between reality and fantasy.