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Musical Thrills, Looks at Life’s Complexities

Italian filmmaker, Guido Contini, deals with the many women in his life in Nine, the musical adaptation of the famed Fellini film 8 1/2.

Italian filmmaker, Guido Contini, deals with the many women in his life in Nine, the musical adaptation of a Fellini film.

Love, music, and passion take over the Greenberg Theatre for two weekends, October 21-23 and October 29-30, as Professor Carl Menninger directs the musical Nine.

Based on Italian director Federico Fellini’s film 8 ½, the musical Nine explores the intricacies of making choices and facing the reality that life isn’t about having everything as an Italian film director, Guido Contini, played by junior Sam Edgerly, deals with a midlife crisis. Contini’s life comes unglued as he tries to invent an idea for a film, deal with a troubled marriage and placate a headstrong producer.

“I like the way the play explores the fact that life is not so black and white, we are not meant see things one way or the other,” says Menninger. “It’s a play about passion. Passion for our work, passion for our relationships, and passion for life.”

Recently made into a movie in 2009, Nine has been reworked many times since its Broadway debut in 1982. “I thought the musical numbers in the film were pretty phenomenal,” says Menninger. “It was beautiful to look at; it was really cool but the film didn’t tell much of a story.”

Menninger plans to add his own touch to the musical by taking out most of the stage directions from the original script. “I tried to really focus on the story,” he says. The play occurs in Contini’s present life, in his past, as well as in his head.“I want to try to make it clear to the audience when we’re in the present, the past, and the imagination because the play has the potential to be confusing.”

This is Menninger’s first time directing Nine, and so far he’s been pleased by the play’s many layers. “The more I realize how complex it is, the more I have to challenge the actors to step up in ways I didn’t know they’d have to,” he says. “When I challenge them, they roll their sleeves up and go at it with both barrels blazing.”

With what he considers an amazing cast, Menninger believes that the most creative ideas are born when the process is enjoyable. “I feel that [joy] from [this cast]. It’s a play about passion, and they are very passionate group in the way they approach this play.”

With humor, music, and excitement, Menninger is certain that the play offers something for everyone. “I hope we challenge the audience about the complexities of making choices. Not everything is so cut and dried.”