“What’s it’s all about, Federico?”
That could very well be the title of the Tony Award-winning play “Nine,” which is a semi-autobiographical takeoff on Italian master director Federico Fellini and his classic film “8½.” The musical play later became a movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Nicole Kidman, among other stars.
And now Atlantis Production is staging the play by Maury Yeston with “a once-in-a-lifetime cast of movie stars, musical theater icons, recording artists and rock stars.”
Direction is by Bobby Garcia; musical direction by Ceejay Javier; and vocal direction by ManMan Angsico.
This was announced in a recent press conference at Boy Abunda’s Food Republique in Quezon City.
Jett Pangan plays the filmmaker Guido Contini. The women in his life are Eula Valdez, Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Cherie Gil, Yanah Laurel, Ima Castro and Sitti Navarro.
Jay Glorioso is Guido’s mother, who visits him from the grave. Appearing as the film director’s many admirers are Mikkie Bradshaw, Reg Clavaral, Princess Virtudao and Japs Treoplado. Warren Davis Saga and Ethan Paras alternate as Little Guido.
Dramatic actress Valdez, known for her antiheroine roles on TV, plays a film star and muse to Contini, Claudia Nardi, and sings a big aria.
“It was hard,” she notes. “I was both singing and crying. The role called for it, medyo. Malakas ang loob ko [I was game]. I just imagined that I was a singer.”
Asked about a critic who claimed her acting on TV was “over-the-top,” she shrugged philosophically: “Well, you can’t please everybody. That was just one show; the director wanted it that way. At least, I was noticed, thank you.”
Recalling her stage triumph as Blanche Dubois in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Flores para los Muertos” (Tagalog version of Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”), Valdez said: “I had a hard time. Blanche is ultra-feminine, ultra-girl, she has to be taken care of. And I am a strong personality.”
Asked if she would play against type, and perform as Maria in “The Sound of Music” or as Juliet in the Shakespeare tragedy, she said: “I think so. Makapal naman ako [I’m daring]. It’s in the training.”
Valdez admitted she was not happy with her TV roles and wanted something more substantial and challenging.
The male thorn in a hotbed of feminine roses is Pangan, rock-star-turned-serious-actor. “In one sense R&B and musical theater are related, because both are about music,” he says. “But in theater I play some other person. I can’t get that in a rock band.”
As the mistress of Contini, Laforteza is “very aggressive in Act I and then I calm down in Act 2. Kawawa [Pathetic]. I realize that although I gave up everything for him, he will not leave his wife [played by Yulo].”
As the Lady of the Spa, boss-nova star Navarro has a solo number in Act 2 and gets to narrate part of what happens. But her role is “more of nostalgia.” Regarding the film “8½,” she quipped: “We added the music, so it became ‘Nine.’”
“Nine” runs until Oct. 7 (Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 p.m.), at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati.