Today we are continuing our 30-day Tony Awards countdown - ending, of course, on the 2012 Tony Awards, June 10 - with a salute to a Tony-winning Best Musical directed and choreographed by the one and only Tommy Tune and composed by Maury Yeston - NINE. Based on Federico Fellini's 8 ½, NINE is a surrealistic concept musical that concerns itself with the mid-life crisis of a glamorous Italian film director and the many, many women in his life - his wife, his mother, his mistress, his muse, his agent and many, many more.
Few Broadway musicals of the 1980s provided opportunities as rich and varied for a gaggle of actresses and chorus girls than NINE did, particularly in Tommy Tune's original 1982 production which starred Raul Julia and a boy (portraying his younger self) with the rest of the cast entirely female. And what jaw-dropping stunners they all undoubtedly were! From heartbreaking Karen Akers as Luisa to angelic Shelly Burch as Claudia to earthy Kathi Moss as Saraghina to sexy Anita Morris as Carla to ritzy Lilianne Montevecchi as Liliane La Fleur to touching Taina Elg as Guido's Mother, the original Broadway cast of NINE was a solid 10 - and that's without even mentioning the tremendous lead performance by the energetic and emotive Raul Julia. While the rich and complex score gave each of those woman a solo song to show off their considerable skills with, the three most memorable musical moments in the evening were undoubtedly the titillating "A Call From The Vatican", the haunting "Unusual Way" and the toe-tapping "Be Italian" (with special mention going to the elegiac "My Husband Makes Movies" and harrowing "Be On You Own", both my Ms. Akers). While the producers of NINE lobbied to have Anita Morris perform the audience favorite, "Vatican", on that year's Tony telecast, their request was denied due to the scandalous body stocking costuming of Ms. Morris, as well as the song's unavoidable orgasmic climax. So, instead, Kathi Moss offered forth a committed and spirited "Be Italian" in its place and the rest is Tony Awards history.
See Kathi Moss perform "Be Italian" with the original Broadway cast of NINE at the 1982 Tony Awards in the clip below.
For comparison's sake, here we have Anita Morris introducing Kathi Moss and cast-members from the original cast of NINE on that year's MDA Telethon, concluding with "Be Italian".
Also, check out this clip from a pre-Tony Awards Show TV special feature on WCBS from June, 1982, with commentator Dennis Cunningham stacking up that year's competition.
Anita Morris made a very strong impression in her "A Call From The Vatican" - see why below.
Lastly, here is the commercial for NINE, flaunting the fact it won Best Musical (among other awe-inspiring assets).
As a special bonus, take a peek at David Leveaux's 2003 Broadway revival of NINE starring Antonio Banderas, Mary Stuart Masterson, Chita Rivera and that year's Tony-winner, the resplendent Jane Krakowski.
And, if that just isn't enough NINE to satisfy you - and, let's be honest, when is there ever enough of NINE - here we have a performance capture of Jane Krakowski making musical theatre history with her absolutely unforgettable "A Call From The Vatican" from the revival of NINE. Who knew you could get that kind of rise out of an audience with just a telephone and a well-placed sheet draped on one of Broadway's best? Leave it Jane to show us all how it's done! Yowza!
So, what is your favorite NINE song of all - and who sang it best? There are so many unforgettable and towering achievements in that incredibly diverse score - the chilling and thrilling double-dose of songs for both Luisa and Carla (each with a show-stopper and a beautiful ballad) may win by a mere boa feather or two, though; yet, Liliane Montevecchi ultimately took home the sole Tony Award of the original ladies for her rousing Paris homage, "Folies Bergere". Maury Yeston's score has such a fine assortment of performance pieces that the various cast albums of NINE are a treasure trove of great leading lady performances for all the diva aficionados among us to revisit time and time again - the Original Broadway Cast Recording to the Broadway Revival Recording and the West End concert, in particular. Any way you take it, NINE is an essential Best Musical winner.