'Nine' from SU Drama sizzles with action

Review: Lights, cameras, action - and plenty of it! Musical "Nine" has glamour, gams and Guido Contini, the Casanova of the cinema Italiano golden age.

After originally opening on Broadway in 1982 and revamped as a movie starring Daniel Day Lewis in 2009, the Tony Award-winning musical Nine explores the lengths a man will go to hang onto his youth and find enough love to satisfy his insatiable need for affection.

Upon entering the Archbold Theatre at Syracuse Stage, the audience crosses the canals to a Venetian film set, spotted with gilded gold framework and marble statues. A company of women busy the stage, clouding main character Guido Contini’s vision and distracting him from creating a masterpiece to save his failing career. As his mind blurs the lines of reality and film, Guido spirals through a series of heartbreaks in search for a muse.

Photo: Mike Davis/Deptartment of Drama
Ezekiel Edmonds (Guido) and ensemble perform in the Department of Drama's production of "Nine."

Guido, exquisitely portrayed by Ezekiel Edmonds, is a bombastic whirlwind of unquenchable desire and fanciful determination to a fault. Edmonds walks the line of egotistical Lothario and wistful dreamer who simply wants the entire universe to operate around his every whim. Is that too much to ask? If you heard his velveteen voice, you’d want to give it to him, too.

Eternally a boy among women, the nearly 40-year-old director reaches out to the ladies who affected his life, desperately seeking inspiration. This becomes complicated, considering his extensive history with nearly every young woman in Europe. When he’s not with the girl he loves, he loves the girl he’s with: his wife Luisa; mistress Carla; screen siren Claudia; or a slew of others from each corner of his past.

Emma Roos bares the soul of Luisa Contini, drawing the audience in with her glistening blue eyes and capable storytelling. Every wave of vibrato resonates throughout the theater, trembling with the despair of a wife who longs for the man she knew long ago. Roos is a mature anomaly, seeming closer in talent to an experienced professional than a college student.

Other standouts include Celia Madeoy as Guido’s nurturing mother and the fiery prostitute, Sarraghina, banished to the beach of Guido’s childhood school. Jenna Najjar rules the scene, embodying lust and intrigue while belting out to the beat of gypsy tambourines. Kelsey Roberts stuns as the sinewy star in Guido’s greatest hits, and perhaps the greatest love of his life.

Maury Yeston’s remarkable score is only enhanced by the exceptional female ensemble, bursting with soaring sopranos and enough body to account for the lack of bass in the cast. Music Director Brian Cimmet had his work cut out for him, but manages to transform a cast of theater students into a chorus of harmonic prima donnas. Teeming with risqué dance numbers and saucy attitudes, the show prohibits any viewer from daring to call these tigresses the gentler sex.

If their performances—brilliantly directed and choreographed by Anthony Salatino—weren’t fierce enough, Kathryn Bailey’s costuming celebrates the female form in its full glory a ‘la agent provocateur. Her designs dazzle, illuminated by Alexander Koziara’s dramatic lighting design.

The copious talent, along with the cohesively professional look of the production, secures the drama department’s title as one of the most prestigious programs in the country. Upon leaving the theatre, no lesson will stick with you longer than the key to success in love and life: be Italian.

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