"Nine" - by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit - Worcester County Light Opera Company (Worcester, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of the musical "NINE" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through May 5, 2024. Photo Courtesy WCLOC)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

“Father, I have been seeing things of late – people, visions. Sometimes they remind me of my early days in school, and I think what I’m seeing must be the work of the Devil.”

                - ("Guido") / Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit   

Worcester Count Light Opera Company

Presents the Musical


Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston

Book by Arthur Kopit (adapted from the Italian by Mario Fratti) 

Director Chuck Grigaitis

Music Director Lenny McGuire

Choreographer Kaitlyn Ekstrom-Doig 

Cast Includes: Todd Vickstrom as "Guido Contini," Asher Lewis as "Little Guido," Linnea Lyerly as "Luisa Contini," Heather Hannon Rufo as "Carla Albanese," Kait Ekstrom-Doig as "Claudia Nardi," Heidi White as "Guido’s Mother," Christina Pierro-Biggins as "Liliane LeFleur," Stephanie Sarkisian as "Lina Darling," Liz Couture as "Stephanie Necrophorus,"  Andrea Moore as "Our Lady of the Spa," Kate Hultgren as "Saraghina," Jennifer Shotkin as "Sofia," Meg Culkeen as "Maria/Mama Madelena," Angela Foley as "Annabella," Robyn Scott as "Olga," Erin Miller as "Renata," Milon Sneed as "Diana" 

Additional Creative Team:

Set Design - Michael Nosel; Scenic Artist - Sally Bowditch; Lighting Design - Nora Sheehan; Costume Design - Kurt Hultgren; Sound Design - Vic Kruczynski; Stage Manager - Adrian Gage; Dialect Coach - Martha Hultgren; Set Construction - John Stoffel, Jessie Anderson, Maggie Lyerly, Alicia Simonti, Kimberly LaPuma; Props - Kimberly LaPuma; Costume Assistants - Andrea Davulis, Kate Hultgren, Martha Hultgren; Producers - Eric Butler, Robin Shropshire, Arjun Yadav; Dance Captain - Angela Foley; Couples Dancing Consultant - Nick Doig; Wig Styling - Kate Hultgren.


April 26, 2024 through May 5, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)  

WORCESTER COUNTY LIGHT OPERA COMPANY (WCLOC), Grandview Ave. Playhouse, 21 Grandview Avenue, Worcester, MA. 


508-753-4383 or visit admin@wcloc.org



Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Concluding a fabulously successful season, Worcester County Light Opera Company (WCLOChas staged "NINE" an imaginative musical with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Arthur Kopit

The musical is based on the acclaimed 1963 motion picture “8½” by Federico Fellini co-written by Ennio Flaiano and, while the story and some of its content may feel “dated” by contemporary standards (if not downright insulting), the film is still lauded by many as one of the greatest and most influential films of all time. 

Conceived and written and composed by Yeston as a class project in 1973, it was later adapted with a book first by Mario Fratti and then, later, with the book by Kopit.

Okay, so let's get this out of the way from the start: Why is the musical called "NINE" and not “8½ THE MUSICAL?"

Legend has it that Yeston suggested that if you "add music to '8½' it's like half a number more."

...Yeah. I thought so, too.

The original Broadway production of "NINE" opened in 1982 and ran for 729 performances

The musical would go on to win seven Drama Desk Awards and five Tony Awards, including one from each for Best Musical, and has since enjoyed a number of revivals. 

A film adaptation of "NINE" was released in 2009 starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Dame Judi Dench, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and legendary movie icon Sophia Loren

Now the stage musical of "NINE" is in the creative hands of WCLOC and, thanks to the steadfast guidance by director Chuck Grigaitis, music director Lenny McGuire and choreographer Kaitlyn Ekstrom-Doig they have presented a handsome production featuring a talented cast. 

While there is not a lot of actual "dance" choreography, there is certainly a lot of choreographed movement by Ekstrom-Doig and Grigaitis which proves to be quite impressive.

(Photo: Linnea Lyerly as Guido's long-suffering wife, "Luisa" (right) speaks with members of the press in a scene from the musical "NINE" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through May 5, 2024. Photo Courtesy WCLOC)

In "NINE" we witness famed film director Guido Contini (Todd Vickstrom) at a major impasse in his life as he nears his 40th birthday in 1960s Venice, Italy

Vickstrom is Guido, a narcissistic womanizer facing adversity but, in actuality, it is an adversity entirely of his own making.

As Guido, Vickstrom's musical highlights include the songs "Only With You," "The Script," the Act One closer, "The Belles of St. Sebastian," and, in the show's second act, "I Can't Make this Movie,which he executes with a fine and appropriate intensity. 

Bringing a thoughtful, sensitive approach to Guido’s strife, through Vickstrom’s insightful rendering, not only do you witness Guido as he faces the onslaught of his logistical (and emotional) obstacles, you also begin to understand what brought him to this impasse he now faces. 

Guido's memories come alive on stage as embodied by a terrific supporting cast of actresses. 

Through endless quick changes, and dealing with a multitude of accents, the ensemble is deserving of high praise, indeed, especially during the first act's sexy, outlandish "Folies Bergèresand in the even more bizarre second act's "Grand Canal."

This is a closely knit ensemble, on occasion getting even closer as they might not have expected as the smaller stage demands.

The set (designed by Michael Nosel) has been designed to accommodate piano/conductor McGuire and his entire fabulous eight piece band on stage, thus reducing the space for the cast to be able to do just the bare minimum of movement. 

Or so it would seem.

In actuality, the cast actually performs a LOT of staged movement over the course of the show's run time of nearly two and a half hours. 

The set is beautifully detailed (scenic artist Sally Bowditch) with an array of windows and doors - green and gold on the side with the band and an off white on stage left, nicely augmented by some specialized illumination.

As the world anxiously awaits his next masterpiece film, Guido can’t think of a thing, not a damn thing, of what to put on film. 

With all he seems to have going for him – money, fame, power, women (ah, yes - the women) Guido is experiencing a severe midlife crisis. 

After a succession of flops, Guido must now shoot a film for which he has not been able to write a script. He is quite simply, out of ideas.

Amid Guido’s ongoing sexual affairs, marriage tensions, business aggravations and overall mental anguish, he finds himself creatively and mentally (if not sexually) “impotent.” 

Film star Luisa del Forno (Linnea Lyerly), Guido’s wife, is threatening to leave him, tired of his irremediable marital and emotional infidelities. 

Lyerly is a formidable force as Louisa as she sings "My Husband Makes Movies" then later she throws down at her cheating louse of a spouse (in spades) during her song, "Be On Your Own." 

Guido's existential crisis sparks memories whereby Guido recalls milestones in his life. 

These aren't really "flashbacks" as the show does not follow a strict, linear pattern.

Guido's sultry, seductive and seemingly insatiable mistress, Carla (Heather Hannon Rufo), enters the scene and further complicates matters for Guido.

While not fooling Luisa in her disguised call to coordinate a liaison with Guido in "A Call from the Vatican," Carla later shows a softer, more vulnerable side as Rufo renders perfectly the gut-wrenching "Simplein Act Two. 

(Photo: Kait Ekstrom-Doig as "Claudia" and Todd Vickstrom as "Guido" in a moment from the musical "NINE" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through May 5, 2024. Photo Courtesy WCLOC)

Guido’s producer, Liliane (Christina Pierro-Biggins) applies pressure on Guido to make a musical. 

Pierro-Biggins shines as Lili, especially as she sings "Folies Bergères," a bizarre but fun number in which the entire ensemble gets to shine.

Lili is joined in the number by film critic Stephanie (Liz Couture) who ruthlessly disparages Guido, both his work and him. 

In other words, she cannot stand the man.

Couture absolutely nails an intricate "patter" segment of the "Folies Bergèresnumber which (musically speaking) may remind a few in the audience of Sondheim's classic "Not Getting Married Today."

A movie star and Guido's former lover, Claudia (portrayed by the show's choreographer, Kait Ekstrom-Doig), was lead actress in his early films, yet also functions as Guido's “muse.” 

Guido is hoping his muse will inspire him yet again.

At a beach, Guido and Claudia sing the duet "A Man Like You/Unusual Way." which starts off as a contentious duet but then moves into a solo melancholy moment sung exceptionally well by Ekstrom-Doig.

Occasionally sharing the stage with Guido is “Young Guido” (Asher Lewis), who serves to show us Guido's “inner child” but just may ultimately prove to be his salvation. 

As Young Guido, Lewis adeptly sings the emotionally charged "Getting Tallto a devastated Guido and, as they share in this pivotal moment, the affection these two share comes across as quite genuine.  

Also appearing from his past is Guido's mother (Heidi White) - the only woman Guido loves unconditionally and without deception.

Unfortunately, Guido's mother has no idea what her son does nor any clue why he does what he does when he does it.

There is a complete disconnect but, as White artfully sings the title song from the show, "NINE," it is here that Guido's mother proves she is the one women to which all the other women in his life will never measure up.

We also meet fierce prostitute Saraghina (Kate Hultgren), a lusty “Earth Mother” who appears as a strange "rival" to Guido's own mother who feels incredibly threatened by her. 

Saraghina teaches Young Guido less about love and more about animal attraction and sex in the scorcher, "Be Italian," much to the horror of his mother. 

That song is preceded by the more lighthearted "Ti Voglio Bene" in which Saraghina shares the song with both Guido and Young Guido.  

Lina Darling (Stephanie Sarkisian) is the sinister bodyguard to Lili and who holds Guido's ultimate fate in her hands. 

Sarkisian's portrayal yields many laughs because, while never speaking, Darling always makes her point QUITE succinctly... every.single.time. 

Also featured is the spiritual being, Our Lady of the Spa (Andrea Moore), Guido's guide (and ours) through the spa while Meg Culkeen plays “Mama Madelena,” manager of the spa.

In various ensemble roles, rounding out the cast are Jennifer Shotkin as "Sofia," Angela Foley as "Annabella," Robyn Scott as "Olga," Erin Miller as "Renata" and Milon Sneed as "Diana." 

As mentioned earlier, the above ensemble are cohesive, effective and are a key factor in the show's overall success.

Additional standout numbers include the show's opening numbers, in particular "Guido's Song" and "Coda di Guido."

(Photo: The CAST of the musical "NINE" presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company in Worcester, MA. through May 5, 2024. Photo Courtesy WCLOC)

Costumes are perfectly in tune to the time and place, but then become far more wildly flamboyant during the "Folies Bergèresand "Grand Canal" segments.

As a whole, various accents, if used at all, tended to fluctuate from successful to less so throughout the show.

The second act proves problematic as it, ironically, goes completely "off the rails" as a result of Guido's creative breakthrough. Where the story ultimately lands at the end, though, redeems this minor flaw in the libretto's structure.

We are all, each of us, a product of our life's influences, mostly from persons in our "orbit."

Yet, as one interprets the story of "NINE" being about one man and the many women who appear in the “orbit” of his life, the argument could be made that, instead, the story is truly about these fantastic women and how he "orbits" them

Even more, they also serve as manifestations symbolizing sex, love, hate, betrayal, sex, passion, faith, fate, sex and even sacrifice. 

...and then there's the sex.

Moving forward, no matter what direction his life may take, those manifestations will continue to haunt and accompany Guido in his ongoing journey. 

Ultimately, Guido must face his younger self to determine the direction of his future...or decide if he has either. 

"NINE" continues aWorcester County Light Opera Company until May 5th and audiences should catch it while still in the Worcester "orbit." 

Also announced at the opening night performance were three of the four WCLOC upcoming shows for 2024-2025 which include:


Book by Peter Duchan

Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul


October 18, 2024 through October 27, 2024


Written by David Lindsay-Abaire


February 7, 2025 through February 16, 2025


Book and Lyrics by Steve Sater 

Music by Duncan Sheik


April 25, 2025 through May 4, 2025

For more information or tickets, call # 508-753-4383 or visit admin@wcloc.org.


Approximately two hours, 20 minutes with intermission. 

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)




The spectacular musical adaptation of Fellini's "8½" features one man and the dozens of women in his life. 

"NINE" centers around Guido Contini, a famous Italian film director and ladies man. 

His last couple of movies have been panned by the critics, and Guido is under pressure to make a return to form with his latest film. 

However, there is one major problem: he hasn’t written a line of the script and has lost all inspiration. 

Guido’s professional and personal lives becomes intertwined as he attempts to save both his career and his marriage. 

His wife, Luisa, threatens to divorce Guido unless he can pay more attention to the marriage, but the director is constantly pulled in another direction by his saucy mistress, Carla, who shows up at the most inconvenient times.

In an attempt to find peace and inspiration, Guido suggests that he and Luisa go to a luxury spa near Venice. 

However, he does not expect his whole film crew and production team to follow him also. 

As Guido struggles to find a story line for his film, his mind becomes increasingly preoccupied, and fantasy and reality become inextricably intertwined. 

As he tries to create a new masterpiece, Guido must face the ultimate decision of life and death.


Founded in 1937, WCLOC is Worcester’s oldest active theater company. As a local, non-profit community theater, we depend on the generosity of our members, patrons, subscribers, and donors to help forward the mission of our organization to entertain, inform, and nurture local artists and audiences through the production of high quality, affordable musicals, plays, and children’s educational workshops. A donation to WCLOC allows us to continue to keep tickets affordable for local audiences, helps us maintain and make necessary improvements to our Clubhouse, and supports a full season of memorable theater and educational opportunities.

PO Box 51
Worcester, MA 01613