"Be Italian!" Antonio Banderas Stars in Nine as Yeston-Kopit Musical Opens, April 10

News   "Be Italian!" Antonio Banderas Stars in Nine as Yeston-Kopit Musical Opens, April 10 Broadway will "Be Italian!" as the Maury Yeston-Arthur Kopit musical Nine, opens April 10 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Antonio Banderas leads a cast of more than a dozen women in the new David Leveaux staging for the Roundabout Theatre Company.
Antoino Banderas
Antoino Banderas

The production, which began performances March 21, resets the musical in the early 1960's Venice, around the time that the musical's source material — the Federico Fellini film "8 1/2" — was released. The revival is scheduled for a limited run through June 29.

Dressed in a monochromatic '60s mod style (as in a black-and-white film), the women in Italian director Guido Contini's life include his wife, mistress, leading lady, mother, first sexual encounter and producer. They swarm around the once-lauded director as he attempts to revive his career and arouse inspiration by escaping to a Venetian spa.

Nine features Antonio Banderas as the musical's focal point, filmmaker Guido Contini. The lovers and collaborators in his life are played by a cast that includes Chita Rivera as producer Liliane La Fleur, Laura Benanti as actress Claudia, Jane Krakowski as mistress Carla and Mary Stuart Masterson as wife Luisa.

Also in the ensemble are Nell Campbell as Lina Darling, Saundra Santiago as Stephanie Necrophorus, Deidre Goodwin as The Lady of the Spa, Mary Beth Peil as Guido's Mother, Mary Lucretia Taylor as Saraghina, Rachel deBenedet, Rona Figueroa, Sara Gettelfinger, Kristin Marks, Linda Mugleston, Elena Shaddow and Kathy Voytko.

The David Leveaux (The Real Thing) restaging features choreography by Jonathan Butterell and musical direction by Kevin Stites. Creating a spectacle that includes a spiral staircase that reaches into the fly space, a Botticelli backdrop, a suspended bedsheet entrance and lots and lots of running water, are a design team including Scott Pask (sets), Victoria Mortimer (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Jon Weston (sound). Nine marks the Broadway musical debut for Antonio Banderas, who is remembered for his moviemusical turn as Che in Evita opposite Madonna. Banderas is in experienced company, however, as Rivera returns to Broadway after last appearing in her Tony-winning turn in Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993. Benanti recently earned praise for her Cinderella in Into the Woods. Krakowski was last seen on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress in 1996.

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The original Broadway production of Nine opened at the 46th Street Theatre May 9, 1982. Tommy Tune directed and choreographed the work featuring music and lyrics by Maury Yeston with a book by Arthur Kopit. Raul Julia starred as Guido opposite Karen Akers, Anita Morris and Liliane Montevecchi. The show garnered a dozen Tony nominations, winning awards for William Ivey Long's costumes, Yeston's score, Tune's direction, Montevecchi's performance and as Best Musical. (For a look back at the original Playbill, visit the "Playbill Archives" feature on Nine.)

Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Yeston spoke with Playbill On-Line (Oct. 2002) about Leveaux's restaging. "David Leveaux has completely reinterpreted it and redefined this piece. First of all, he's made it smaller by using 16 women instead of 21, and one boy instead of four boys. Being an Englishman with a great deal of experience in Europe, he has made it European in a way that the [original] American production was very American and highly stylized. He's made it a domestic drama about a marriage; I think [original director] Tommy [Tune] left him room to do that."

Yeston concluded, "I had my shot with Nine in 1982, and I could not have been happier at the time. Now it's David Leveaux's turn. This is his Nine."

The complete songlist for Nine includes "Overture Delle Donne,," "Spa Music," "Not Since Chaplin," "Guido’s Song," "Coda di Guido," "My Husband Makes Movies," "A Call From the Vatican," "Only With You," "The Script," "Folies Bergeres," "Nine," "Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian," "The Bells of St. Sebastian," "A Man Like You/ Unusual Way" Duet, "The Grand Canal (Contini Submits/ The Grand Canal/ Every Girl in Venice/ Recitativo/ Amor/ Recitativo/ Only You/ Finale)," "Simple," "Be On Your Own," "Waltz di Guido," "I Can’t Make This Movie," "Getting Tall," "Reprise: My Husband Makes Movies/ Nine." The cast album will be recorded March 31, for a tentative June 3 release on the PS Classics label.

For tickets to Nine at the O'Neill, 230 West 49 St., call (212) 239-6200 or click here.

Antonio Banderas and Jane Krakowski perform "A Call from the Vatican" in <i>Nine</i>.
Antonio Banderas and Jane Krakowski perform "A Call from the Vatican" in Nine. (Photo by Joan Marcus)