Nine the Musical marked the directorial debut for Michael Ralph.
“I never imagined my first directorial project would be something like Nine – it is quite a musical theatre masterpiece. I know a lot of people who are fans of musical theatre hold it in very high regard, so I did not expect it would be this kind of show, but I’m really glad that it is, because it has really pushed me to step into the director reigns and really be bold and fearless and hopefully that really shines through in my first time directing and choreographing together,” said Michael Ralph.
After starting out as a performer, Michael Ralph moved into choreography. Although he didn’t set out to become a director, it seemed like the logical next step.
“I think everyone has their own journey, and my journey, thus far, has been through those things to get to this point. I definitely don’t consider myself to be a performer any more. I’ve focused the last few years just on choreographing, and directing sort of seems like the next step up from that. I’ve done quite a lot of different kinds of projects to this point, and various sizes of productions, so I’ve achieved a lot of the goals I set out for myself to do in becoming a creative choreographer.”
As a choreographer, Michael Ralph has worked with and learnt from some inspiring directors – Gale Edwards, Jason Langley and Chris Parker – and feels he has learnt a lot from each of them. However, it was sitting down for the first read-through with the cast of Nine that the enormity of the task of being both director and choreographer really dawned on Michael Ralph.
“I have a very vivid memory of the first rehearsal … I had this moment when it hit me, where I sort of turned to my right and my left and thought, ‘Okay, so … this is it. Everyone’s looking to me and it’s all gotta come from me!‘” exclaimed Ralph.
“It’s a little daunting, because essentially I’m doing two jobs instead of one, but having said that, I hope that because it’s one person’s vision, I think director-choreographers can achieve a certain flow to a production – a seamless flow – that isn’t always present in productions with different creatives. It’s been a good challenge for me to come up with good conceptual ideas and good follow through of the show.”
Nine the Musical is based on the Federico Fellini’s Academy Award winning semi-autobiographical film 8½. The musical opened on Broadway in 1989, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. A film version of the musical was released in 2009, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Fergie and Marion Cotillard.
“The plot basically revolves around an Italian movie director who is in the midst of putting together his next film and he’s suffering a creative block and at the same time, having a midlife crisis … So we meet a lot of women from his past and present life and the show is quite abstract. It’s not like your conventional musical. There’s quite a lot of flashbacks and fantasy sequences that all stem from Guido’s mind … And the script is quite filmic, so there’s a lot of moments where many things are happening at once in his head and so bringing that to life on stage is quite challenging to do.”
Michael Ralph describes it as a heavily layered show with a wonderful score.
“The songs are some of the finest musical theatre songs I’ve ever heard. They’re really beautiful, and even if you don’t know them, I feel like you will know them before the end of the show.”
Nine the Musical also includes choreography by Michael Ralph.
“There’s some beautiful moments of choreography. There’s a lot of different styles. It’s quite an eclectic mix, but the score is really beautiful and the chorey really complements that. At least I tried to do that!” laughed Ralph.
With Nine the Musical now underway and receiving rave reviews, Michael Ralph is hoping to have more opportunities to both direct and choreograph.
“I’m always looking for something to challenge me. This has been a really good stepping stone up and I really hope people look at me in that light now and see the possibility of me doing further projects in this way in the future … I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity to give it a go with StageArt.”
StageArt’s Nine the Musical is now playing at Chapel Off Chapel.
For tickets: www.stageart.com.au