This is about the musical. For the film, see Nine (2009 film).



Nine is a stage musical loosely based on the Federico Fellini film 8 and a Half.



Guido Contini, famous Italian film director, has turned forty and faces double crises: he has to shoot a film for which he can't write the script, and his wife of twenty years, the film star Luisa del Forno, may be about to leave him if he can't pay more attention to the marriage. As it turns out, it is the same crisis. Luisa's efforts to talk to him seem to be drowned out by voices in his head: voices of women in his life, speaking through the walls of his memory, insistent, flirtatious, irresistible, potent. Women speaking beyond words. And these are the women Guido has loved, and from whom he has derived the entire vitality of a creative life, now as stalled as his marriage.

In an attempt to find some peace and save the marriage, they go to a spa near Venice, where they are immediately hunted down by the press with intrusive questions about the marriage and—something Guido had not told Luisa about—his imminent film project.

As Guido struggles to find a story for his film, he becomes increasingly preoccupied—his interior world sometimes becoming indistinguishable from the objective world. His mistress Carla arrives in Venice, calling him from her lonely hotel room, his producer Liliane La Fleur, former vedette of the Folies Bergeres, insists he make a musical, an idea which itself veers off into a feminine fantasy of extraordinary vividness. And all the while, Luisa watches, the resilience of her love being consumed by anxiety for him and a gathering dismay for their lives together.

Guido's fugitive imagination, clutching at women like straws, eventually plunges through the floor of the present and into his own past where he encounters his mother, bathing a nine-year-old boy—the young Guido himself. The vision leads him to re-encounter a glorious moment on a beach with Saraghina, the prostitute and outcast to whom he went as a curious child, creeping out of his Catholic boarding school St. Sebastian, to ask her to tell him about love. Her answer, be yourself, and the dance she taught him on the sand echoes down to the forty-year-old Guido as a talisman and a terrible reminder of the consequences of that night—punishment by the nuns and rejection by his appalled mother. Unable to bear the incomprehensible dread of the adults, the little boy runs back to the beach to find nothing but the sand and the wind—an image of the vanishing nature of love, and the cause of Guido Contini's artistry and unanchored peril: a fugitive heart.

Back into the present, Guido is on a beach once more. With him, Claudia Nardi, a film star, muse of his greatest successes, who has flown from Paris because he needs her, but this time she does not want the role. He cannot fathom the rejection. He is enraged. He fails to understand that Claudia loves him, too, but wants him to love her as a woman 'not a spirit'—and he realizes too late that this was the real reason that she came—in order to know, and now she does. He cannot love her that way. She is in some way released to love him for what he is, and never to hope for him again. Wryly she calls him "My charming Casanova!" thereby involuntarily giving Guido the very inspiration he needs and for which has always looked to her. As Claudia lets him go, Guido grasps the last straw of all—a desperate, inspired movie—a 'spectacular in the vernacular'—set on "The Grand Canal" and cast with every woman in his life.

The improvised movie is a spectacular collision between his real life and his creative one—a film that is as self-lacerating as it is cruel, during which Carla races onto the set to announce her divorce and her delight that they can be married only to be brutally rejected by Guido in his desperate fixation with the next set-up, and which climaxes with Luisa, appalled and moved by his use of their intimacy—and even her words—as a source for the film, finally detonating with sadness and rage. Guido keeps the cameras rolling, capturing a scene of utter desolation—the women he loves, and Luisa whom he loves above all, littered like smashed porcelain across the frame of his hopelessly beautiful failure of a film. "Cut. Print!"

The film is dead. The cast leaves. They all leave. Carla, with simple words from the articulate broken heart, Claudia with a letter from Paris to say that she has married, and Luisa in a shattering exit from a marriage that has, as she says, been 'all of me'. Guido is alone. His cries of "I Can't Make This Movie" ascends into the scream of "Guido out in space with no direction,' and he contemplates suicide. But, as the gun is at his head, there is a final life-saving interruption—from his nine-year-old self, in which the young Guido points out it is time to move on. To grow up. And Guido surrenders the gun. As the women return, but this time to let him go, only one is absent: Luisa. Guido feels the aching void left by the only woman he will ever love. In some productions the boy leads the women off into his own future to the strains of "Be Italian", Luisa steps into the room on the final note, and Guido turned toward her—this time ready to listen.

Musical numbers

Act I
  • "Overture Delle Donne" - Company
  • "Not Since Chaplin" - Company
  • "Guido's Song" - Guido
  • "Coda di Guido" - Company
  • "The Germans at the Spa" - Maddelena, Italians, Germans
  • "My Husband Makes Movies" - Luisa
  • "A Call from the Vatican" - Carla
  • "Only with You" - Guido
  • "The Script/Folies Bergeres" - Guido, Lilli, Stephanie, Company
  • "Nine" - Guido's Mother, Company
  • "Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian" - Saraghina, Boys, Company
  • "The Bells of St. Sebastian" - Guido, Young Guido and Company
Act II
  • "A Man Like You/Unusual Way/Duet" - Claudia, Guido
  • "The Grand Canal" (Every Girl in Venice/Amor/Only You/Finale) - Guido, Company
  • "Simple" - Carla
  • "Be On Your Own" - Luisa
  • "I Can't Make This Movie" - Guido
  • "Getting Tall" - Young Guido
  • "Nine/Long Ago/Nine" (Reprise) - Guido, Young Guido