In Your BLOOD: Comparing “Be Italian” Across Genres

For those who are fans of the musical Nine, I would be willing to wager that your exposure to the work goes in reverse chronological order.  There’s the 2009 movie musical version by Rob Marshall featuring a glittering constellation of stars from Kate Hudson to Marion Cotillard to Sophia Loren all swirling around Daniel Day Lewis.  There’s the 2003 Broadway revival at Roundabout starring Antonio Banderas.  Then there’s the original musical by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit and stylishly directed by Tommy Tune.  It was a sleeper hit of 1982.  But they all derive from Federico Fellini’s 1963 film masterpiece 8 1/2.  

The scene we will focus on today is what musical theatre nerds will know as “Be Italian.”  Our hero, Guido, recalls a time when he and his friends run off to the beach and–for a few coins–persuade the sensuous, provocative Saraghina to dance for them.  In the original source material, Saraghina dances “La Rumba.”  The musical transforms this memory into a number wherein Saraghina gives them a lesson in manhood, telling them that what they really need to do to successfully woo a woman is to simply “Be Italian.”

Following is a sequence that shows three versions of this scene.  We start with the original Broadway production.  Notice Tommy Tune’s use of black and white to create a film noir aesthetic.  Then we look at the same opening moment in the 1963 source material with a strangely alluring Eddra Gale.  After Saraghina starts her dance, we hop over to Rob Marshall’s interpretation for the 2009 film.  It is a brilliant amalgamation of the two.  As the musical number progresses, enjoy the vocal stylings of both Kathi Moss (1982) and Fergie (2009); they are equally sexy in their own way.

To discuss imagery in brief, observe that our scene takes place on the beach.  The sands of time keep slipping through our fingers.  There are also the coins that the boys use to pay Saraghina.  Musically, they become the coins on the tambourines as the song turns to a tarantella.  All three versions involve a sexuality lesson for these young boys with Saraghina as teacher.  Furthermore, the 2009 pays particular homage to the source material with a flirtatious use of conceal and reveal.

What is your favorite scene from Nine?  Comment below.

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