Twenty-one years after its original run on Broadway, Maury Yeston's musical Nine (based on the Federico Fellini film 8½) was revived in essentially similar form, albeit, of course, with an entirely different cast. The story remained that of Italian film director Guido Contini (Antonio Banderas, "Guido's Song"), struggling to make a new film for which he has yet to write the script and at the same time hold together his marriage to his wife (Mary Stuart Masterson, "My Husband Makes Movies") as he is surrounded -- in the present or in his memory -- by a succession of women including his mistress (Jane Krakowski, "A Call from the Vatican"); his producer, accompanied by a film critic (Chita Rivera and Saundra Santiago, "Folies Bergères"); his mother (Mary Beth Peil, "Nine"); his first prostitute (Myra Lucretia Taylor, "Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian"); and his favorite actress (Laura Benanti, "Unusual Way"). Thus, the score is, to a large extent, a succession of showcases for female singers, and on the cast album they prove to be a capable, if largely unspectacular bunch. Typical is stage veteran Rivera, who convincingly transforms herself into a French woman for "Folies Bergères," without making anyone forget Liliane Montevecchi's Tony-winning performance in the original production. Banderas, who demonstrated his musical chops in the movie version of Evita, brings out some of the appealing humor of Guido that Raul Julia first demonstrated when he created the role, but that Banderas' Evita co-star Jonathan Pryce missed in the 1992 London concert cast recording of Nine. That isn't to say that Banderas is the equal of Julia, however, even if he may have been the best choice available in 2003. (His heavy Spanish accent sometimes makes comprehension difficult, for one thing.) The score, once again sporting Jonathan Tunick's sympathetic orchestrations, has been cut down slightly, with the minor tracks "The Germans at the Spa" and "Waltz from ‘Nine'" eliminated. The result is a respectable effort that is better than the London concert cast album, but not a patch on the Original Broadway Cast recording.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann