If ever a musical show by the name of Nine warranted a perfect 10 it was the one put on by Ever After Productions at the Abbey Theatre last week. 

And it demonstrated that there is a gap in the St Albans cultural scene for the type of musical productions Ever After has pledged to put on. 

Nine is the company’s second production since its formation by Matthew and Charlotte Gregory and Elise Betts as a tribute to Stephen Sondheim who knew the musical and could see similarities between the characters in it and his own. 

Herts Advertiser: Nine at the Abbey Theatre in St AlbansNine at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans (Image: Martin Smith, Origin8 Photography)

With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and written by Arthur Kopit, it is based on the Italian film director Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film 8 1/2. 

It focuses on a crisis of confidence suffered by Guido Contini, an acclaimed Italian film director as his career and marriage hit the skids. 

He turns to the nine women who have had the greatest influence on his life to try and turn things around. 

Directed by Dom O’Hanlon, who has a 15-year pedigree directing musical theatre, Nine lent itself perfectly to the stage of the Abbey Theatre. 

It used few props, putting all the focus on the characters dressed largely in black as the story unfolded. 

At the back of the stage was the talented orchestra under musical director Emma Fraser and it was so refreshing to have live music that did not impinge on the show but     complemented it so superbly. 

Stewart Jordan took the demanding role of Guido and his excellent voice and acting skills were very much in evidence throughout the show. 

His key role perfectly illuminated the talent displayed by the nine women from Guido’s put-upon wife Luisa played by the ever-reliable Charlotte Gregory to his mistress Carla, performed with great stage presence by Joanne Goddard and his muse, Elise Betts, pulled in two directions by her feelings for Guido and reluctance to star in his new movie. 

The comic highlight of the production fell to Fenella Lee as Guido’s agent La Fleur who invoked the audience hilariously before performing the soaring number Folies Bergere with Caroline Fitch’s Necrophorus and the company. It was so good that it practically brought the house down. 

Kerry Lee as the whore Saraghina was a revelation as was Carole Anne Colford as Guido’s Mama. And while they had smaller roles, the women’s cast was completed in style by Julie Lilley and Sarah Dunning. 

One more mention has to be made. Milo Sydenham took the role of Little Guido with a confidence and ability that belied his tender years. We will assuredly hear plenty more from him in the future. 

Ever After Productions are a welcome addition to musical theatre in St Albans and long may they continue.