Albums

Nine – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1982

Nine – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1982

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Synopsis

Just a little over twenty years ago, Nine – The Musical opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theater performed by an extraordinary group of people. What made that cast so remarkable was not simply the stellar talent of its individual members, or even its unique composition of one man and twenty-one women (and four boys). What most happily took New York by surprise on opening night, and charged the event with electricity, was the sheer number of cast members who had not been well known but who gained overnight public recognition as a result of their superb performances. Karen Akers, Liliane Montevecchi, Shelly Burch, Kathi Moss, Taina Elg, Camille Saviola – each of them sailed instantly into orbit as (respectively) Luisa, LaFleur, Claudia, Saraghina, Mama (Guido’s Mother), and Mama Maddelena. And, clearly, if the wonderful Raul Julia and Anita Morris (Guido and Carla) had not yet sufficiently been nationally known and adored, Nine and their subsequent movie careers changed all that forever. Thanks to Sony Recordings and Didier Deutsch, the release of the now two-CD set of the original Broadway cast album is a cause for celebration in that it gives us additional time to spend with these marvelous performers and the other members of the original ensemble. This is particularly exciting because the circumstances of the recording of Nine were unique. First, our record producer Mike Berniker (who had already created a number of legendary albums for Broadway and for Barbra Streisand) was working with an equally adept recording engineer, Mike Moran, who had done hundreds of recordings in the RCA studio where our cast and orchestra had assembled. Second, Jonathan Tunick, the orchestrator, had personally cast the members of the virtuoso band, keeping in mind such demands as the E-flat clarinet obbligato in The Script or the alto flute solo in Waltz di Guido. The show had just opened. Spirits were at fever pitch. All was ready to capture the moment. But then, third, a budgetary crisis developed, and it became clear that scheduling individual sessions for specific numbers, setting down accompaniments and recording vocals separately, fixing vocal glitches – all of these things would be economically impossible under the allotted time schedule. What to do? The solution was wonderfully simple. The running time of Nine was such that the cast could perform the entire show before the microphones – dialogue, underscoring and all – three times if necessary. No interruptions. No breaks except for the intermission. No cases of jittery nerves. In fact, the cast and orchestra could be oblivious to the recording process and present the show in the studio in real time, as they did on stage every night. Berniker and Moran recorded it all superbly, and the entire session has been sitting in the archives ever since. Thus, the original Nine cast recording was not a re-assembly of a show, put together from individually-recorded moments. It was, uniquely, a reflection of the dramatic wholeness of the piece, edited down to fit the seventy-two minute limit of a long-playing record. And, since tape format did not have the same time limitation, this explains Sony’s unprecedented release of the cassette version of the album with an extra fifteen minutes of music. Now, obviously, the addition of a second CD makes it possible for today’s listeners to be there in the studio with us on that day and truly experience the flow and the excitement of that ensemble, playing off each other’s lines and launching into numbers out of whole scenes. So much more of it is here now (including the lead-in to My Husband Makes Movies, the introduction to Folies, and, yes, John Moses playing that E-flat clarinet solo) that I feel I have time-traveled as I listen to it. Even more, I relive those moments of bringing it into existence, the intervening twenty years no longer exist, and those dear cast members who have since passed away are vividly back onstage. Perhaps most miraculous, for me, are those things that I least expected would ever exist – the women’s overture and Folies Bergères – both having been created very late in the process of developing the final workshop and production of the show and both inspired, almost completely, by casting. I had first conceived Nine and begun writing its central music and lyrics in 1973, and yet there we were in the fall of 1981 radically transforming the opening and the center of the first act. How did this happen? The show was really created in four separate stages. First, my own obsession with Fellini’s 8 ½ and the subsequent composition of The Germans At The Spa, Guido’s Song, My Husband Makes Movies, Nine, The Grand Canal, Unusual Way and other central pieces of the adaptation. Second, my conversations and work with Mario Fratti and the continued development of the Casanova “movie within a movie” that Guido is supposedly filming. Third, the 1979 reading at the O’Neill Center, directed by Howard Ashman (where I first let the audience know at the beginning that this was the greatest all-around film director since Chaplin, and where Saraghina first instructed the boys to Be Italian, and where I wrote Getting Tall and discovered the ending). And finally the Tommy Tune/Arthur Kopit collaboration, beginning in Fall 1981. Going into that final stage, Nine was a show for equal numbers of men and women, in which a German businessman (Herr Weissnicht) is producing Guido’s movie. He comes to Venice with an entourage of Germans and his daughter who, in a sub-plot, falls in love with the Italian son of the head chambermaid. The German realized then there would have to be an orchestra of women in Guido’s mind – every woman in his life and in his past. Fellini’s dream in making 8 ½ – to portray simultaneously the past, the present, and the world of fantasy – could be rendered onstage with this chorus of women. Hence, the show needed an opening that demonstrated this: a choral composition in which the women are conducted as strings, brass, woodwinds, singing only the syllable “la,” and which continues in Guido’s mind as he simultaneously converses with his wife. Before spending a very long night writing the women’s overture, I interviewed each cast member at the piano, checking vocal quality and range, so that I could tailor the final product to their particular voices. When Montevecchi stepped up to the plate, singing a few bars of “La Vie En Rose,” I realized, in addition, she was extraordinary and would have to have a song, and that the producer could no longer be a non-singing role. The following night I began what I thought would be a small and touching moment – LaFleur nostalgically begging Guido for a little something in his movie recapturing the allure of the Folies Bergères. A little French tune. But the critic was onstage (played by the musically-gifted Stephanie Cotsirilos) and, since she was there to observe the moment, she would have to chime in with her own opinions (what critic doesn’t?) – hence the critic’s counter-melody. And then, where to go? Obviously into Guido’s fantasy. He gives LaFluer the stage and she does her nightclub act, waltzing herself into a thirty-five-foot feather boa, after which showgirls descend to bring the number to a rousing finale. Yet, there needed to be still more. LaFleur’s dramatic motivation had to be her impassioned reaction to Guido’s inane intellectual vamping, in his attempt to fabricate an idea for his movie (he hasn’t got one) under pressure from her. This became The Script, which begins the number, and by the end of the process there was a twenty minute musical sequence in the show, unimagined by anyone before first rehearsal, winning Montevecchi the Tony Award® for Best Featured Actress in a musical. It remains only to say a few words about the bonus tracks. Apparently it has become something of a tradition with reissues of cast albums to embarrass the authors by including their early demos or outtakes from the scores. I have furnished three selections to accomplish this objective. Here, direct from my 1970’s home four-track TEAC, (and then transferred onto a vinyl LP) is the demo explanation and recording of Germans At The Spa (performed by me singing all the parts, a sound described by my family as The Maury Tabernacle Choir). Back then, I thought this might be the opening of the show. This is followed by the earliest demo I ever did of Unusual Way, in which the first and third verses are very different. I had not yet realized that Claudia’s love for Guido was a past event, and that she could never leave him unless forced to do so. Finally, the Casanova sequence, which was extensively developed in older drafts, consisted of this included earliest version of The Grand Canal. – Maury Yeston August 2002 Usually, recording a Broadway cast album is a day-long affair that involves a lot of people – famous actors and actresses; a significant contingent of chorus boys and girls; a large phalanx of musicians; the show’s producer and music director; and, in the control room, the record producer and the engineers and technicians who will capture on tape the most memorable musical moments from the show. It is a harrowing process that taxes everyone’s ability to perform at their best. Oftentimes, the recording is done song by song, normally with the chorus and the orchestra on call as early as 9:00 a.m., and the stars arriving for their turn mid-day or in the afternoon. The recording sessions sometimes can last hours into the night, until the last note has been perfectly delivered. Departing from the norm, Nine was actually recorded in two complete run-throughs that barely took five hours to commit to tape. The album producer, Mike Berniker, explains how and why it happened that way: Essentially, a record producer’s job is to solve problems. It’s not enough to say that you have a particular way of making a record, and you use that method every time. Every record presents different problems and each one requires a different scenario. In this case, we had a real problem – we had five major stars, and my problem was to avoid the normal rivalries that existed between them. Doing the show song by song in the usual manner would only have made things worse, as each actress, becoming the center of attraction, might have tried to make too much of the situation. I told Maury that the only way to avoid this, in my opinion, was to go literally from the top, and in effect record the whole show live. This was a rather daring approach, but the gamble paid off. As a result, everyone got away from their individual personas, and functioned within the context of the show. And because of that, the recording acquired more of the life and spontaneity you get in a live performance. It really was terrific. At the end of the first run, we had 65-70% of the recording done. I made notes as we were going along about what needed to be corrected. But instead of doing retakes of the individual songs, I decided to do another run-through of the entire show. A lot of producers would have just corrected what was wrong, but trying to polish a wrong take by going over a performance until it sounds right tends to make things static after a while. Anyway, I don’t think that a record should be the perfect idealization of a song or of a performance. Music is never that way. If you capture in a cast album the truth of what makes a musical, then you’ve done your job as a producer. When we recorded Nine, we got on tape noises, things that were extraneous to the event, but I think the record has a pace and a life that you don’t usually find in cast albums. To me, it was an experience that I will never forget. – Mike Berniker February 2003

Credits

Guido Contini: Raul Julia Guido at an early age: Cameron Johann Luisa: Karen Akers Carla: Anita Morris Claudia: Shelly Burch Guido’s Mother: Taina Elg Liliane LaFleur: Liliane Montevecchi Lina Darling: Laura Kenyon Stephanie Necrophorus: Stephanie Cotsirilos Our Lady Of The Spa: Kate Dezina Mama Maddelena, Chief Of Chambermaids: Camille Saviola Saraghina: Kathi Moss The Italians: Maria: Jeanie Bowers Francesca: Kim Criswell Venetian Gondolier: Colleen Dodson Giulietta: Louise Edeiken Annabella: Nancy McCall Diana: Cynthia Meryl Renata: Rita Rehn The Germans: Gretchen von Krupt: Lulu Downs Heidi von Sturm: Linda Kerns Olga von Sturm: Dee Etta Rowe Ilsa von Hesse: Alaina Warren Zachary Young Guido’s Schoolmates: Christopher Evans Allen, Jadrien Steele, Patrick Wilcox