Nine [London Concert Cast Recording]
Issued in the U.K. by TER/JAY as a two-CD "complete recording," this version of Maury Yeston's musical Nine is abbreviated into a one-disc "highlights" package for U.S. release. The show, successfully produced on Broadway in 1982, has yet to get a major West End production, but ten years on it was mounted as an AIDS benefit concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London on June 7, 1992. Three days later, the cast, with Elaine Paige stepping in for an ailing performer, assembled in a studio and, over the next month, made this recording. The inclusion of Paige is an upgrade, of course, since she is a major West End star, but the casting only accentuates the all-star character of the performing lineup here, with above-the-title-type figures including Jonathan Pryce, in the starring role of conflicted film director Guido Contini, Ann Crumb (Aspects of Love) as Luisa Contini, his wife, and Liliane Montevecchi reprising her Broadway performance as Liliane La Fleur, Guido's producer. A London producer probably couldn't have made a profit paying a cast like this in a regular run, nor could such a run have included the massive chorus. Nine particularly lends itself to this kind of production, not only because writing choral parts is a Yeston specialty, but also because his sturdy, if referential score (seemingly drawing equally from Richard Rodgers' musicals, Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and Nino Rota film scores) is in essence a series of showcase numbers for the various women -- wife, mistress, leading actress, producer, mother, etc. -- in Guido's life. The stars here make the most of their opportunities, notably Crumb in "My Husband Makes Movies" and "Be on Your Own," Paige in "Unusual Way," and, of course, Montevecchi in "Folies Bergere," along with Becky Norman as Guido's mistress lasciviously phoning him in what he says is "A Call from the Vatican," and Ellen O'Grady as the whore who initiated the young Guido in "Be Italian." Guido himself remains something of a bystander in his own musical, but Pryce gamely keeps time with all the women, after having made his mark with his big early number, "Guido's Song." This is not a better recording than the Original Broadway Cast album, but it is bigger, especially in the full-length version.