The Doma Theatre Company has a penchant for producing large-scale Broadway shows in the The Met’s mid-sized black-box and does so relatively well. There is, typically, creative set design, lavish costume design, sophisticated music direction and undeniable singing talent among the entire, super-sized ensemble.
This production of Kopit and Yeston’s, “Nine,” however, is one of few exceptions. While the costumes are lush and the music direction glorious (Chris Raymond is arguably the brightest talent at Doma right now) the set, with its all-gray-save-for-a-few-crooked picture-frames minimalism is far too minimalist for this place -- in order to make a small black-box feel like a Broadway proscenium, much more ingenuity is required -- and this piece should arguably be steeped in Fellini-esque baroque tempered only by “8 ½” black and white. Furthermore, the lead actor is far too understated and lacking in celestial charm to be a Casanova around which multiple women orbit.
Nonetheless, following are a few reasons to see “Nine” at The Met...
Eight reasons to see "Nine":
One: The music, the music, the music. Cal Arts graduate and Broadway pit musician Chris Raymond, in all of his 20-something years, is a sparkling phenom. His talent is gargantuan. Seeing him now, before his star completely rises, is likely uber wise.
Two: The hospitality of the proprietors. Executive producer and director Marco Gomez and his brood are always gracious and generous with their time, enthusiasm and, well, money. They seem to take no shortcuts in their approach, from the size of their casts to the simple detail that they let you take your wine, which is often free and generously poured, into the theater. They also put on yearly galas with a gourmet buffet, open bar and live musical presentations. If only they would be a little less generous, actually (25+ in every ensemble?) and a bit more discerning with every aspect of their theatrical productions.
Three: The thrill of experiencing a Broadway musical with basically-high-caliber skill in your own walkable Hollywood neighborhood. Even if some of Doma’s shows are less-than-stellar, they are always bursting with energy.
Four: Fellini. "Nine" is, of course, based on Federico Fellini’s 1962 cinematic feat “8 ½,” and any Fellini fan would surely enjoy basking in the live sheen of deceased Fellini‘s story even if the lead isn't quite as vibrant as the man.
Five: The women. The women are all talented actors and singers (Toni Smith is especially fantastic), and they function well together and as individuals. Rather than passive participants in a narcissist’s fantasy, they come across as self-actualized women, and in some cases even shrewd puppeteers.
Six: The musicians working with Chris Raymond are all top-rung.
Seven: The great collaborative effort. Rarely is it easy for so many producers, designers, actors, singers, musicians and technical gurus to share an intelligent vision and to showcase, with such vibrancy, a clear love of live theater.
Eight: A night in the theater is far richer than a night in a bar (especially when the theater has a bar) or at home in front of “Honey Boo Boo Scratch ‘n Sniff” because it is vital and unfolding in front and reminds us that we are living beings and not merely particles in random, isolated corners collecting disparate dust.
One reason not to:
One: Not to prod a fallen Pegasus, but the lead just doesn't quite cut it. In order for a cantankerous and self-absorbed womanizer to be compelling -- in order for an audience to buy that he has cast such a spell over so many muses, he must be oozing with charisma, and his singing must catapult all to the moon. David Michael Trevino is just too bland and his singing too basic to make enough in his audience swoon.
"Nine" both waxes and wanes at The Met through August 18, 2013.