LEYLA HAMID and CHLOE COLEMAN are impressed by this sexy, lively and sharp musical.

ADC Lily Parham Maria Pawlikowska Musical Nine Robbie Aird

ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, Tuesday 14th – Saturday 18th May, Tue & Wed £10/£8, Thu-Sat £12/£10

In classic ADC style, Nine is a big production. There’s no doubt that it’s a challenge to stage a successful performance with so huge a cast and so much going on, but this musical is loud, ambitious and teeming with life.

Pretty well-known (you may have seen the film in the glory of its all-star cast), Nine tells the story of Guido Contini, a big shot film director on the verge of career suicide and a midlife crisis. With a long-suffering wife and various alternative suitors represented by a host of sassy Italian women, Guido is quite the womanizer. Endlessly hassled by his French producer, Guido is forced to get his life back on track – but it’s clear it’s not going to be an easy ride.

The ensemble pieces were key to the musical’s success – there was always a hell of a lot going on up on stage, but this was all sharply choreographed without the words of the songs being swallowed in the midst of such big numbers. Always in character, the cast moved as a kind of single organism, reassuring us that they knew exactly what they were doing.

Amongst this, the standout performance has to be that of leading man Robbie Aird as Guido Contini. Revelling in his delicious self-importance, Aird stole our sympathy throughout, and his Casanova-esque persona was worryingly convincing. His performance was spot on, and even the subtlest raise of an eyebrow could draw a laugh from the audience – we were clearly enthralled. It’s a pity that we can’t commend by name the absolute cutie who played Guido’s nine-year-old self, who faced his role with confidence well beyond his years – future ADC BNOC in the making right there.

Maria Pawlikowska as seductress Sarraghina was captivating, oozing sex appeal with a voice to match. The high-energy burlesque set piece that boasted tambourines, chairs and minimal clothing was definitely one of the highlights. Lily Parham as the intimidating yet provocative Liliane La Fleur led a comedic dance routine that involved a bit of flirtation with the audience (we’re sure ‘Steve’ will remember this moment forever…). The accents, be it French or Italian, were consistent and felt natural throughout – they seem to wash over you as you forget that they’re put on and feel yourself transported to the Venice the musical invokes.

Overall, the technicalities of the production were brilliantly executed, especially challenging lighting and sound changes, which were so crucial to the success of the piece as a whole. However, the fact that there was so much to see meant that the addition of an extra medium in the form of a projection screen was a bit too much. Depicting edgy black and white clips from what we are invited to see as nostalgic flashbacks, it jarred a little and seemed to get slightly claustrophobic. That said, the use of the screen to depict silhouettes was effective. Either way, perhaps it’s best to keep it simple.

Nine was a success. With its complex plot and structure, aided by a great cast and impeccable live music from the orchestra, this production lived up to expectations. Sexy, lively and sharp, the musical ricochets between funny and tragic, certainly making for an enjoyable evening.