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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

The women who make the man: NINE the Musical

If the witty operetta banter of Gilbert and Sullivan met the dark honesty of Stephen Sondheim, the result would be something close to Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston's sexy NINE: The Musical. Theater RED brings this steamy heartache to life through a faultless ensemble of female voices, whose stories shine through the man to whom they bend.

Carrie Gray, Marcee Doherty-Elst, Samantha Sostarich, Hannah Esch, Timothy J Barnes, Rae Elizabeth Pare

Guido Contini is a filmmaker loved by all, but after a recent trend of theatrical flops, the pressure is unbearable that this next piece be a hit. Surrounded by women who flock to his side and vie for the chance to be his sole muse, Guido's search for a compelling plot quickly turns into a personal crisis.

Upon entering the intimate Studio Theater at Sunset Playhouse, patrons are greeted by the looming portraits of Guido and the nine women in his life. These haunting faces set the eerie tone that, even when finally alone, Contini is forever overshadowed by his past. Even as we see him push those he loves further and further away, it is clear that the icon has been made by the women who support him.

Rae Elizabeth Pare and Carrie Gray

In the role of Luisa Contini, Guido's patient yet fiesty wife, Rae Elizabeth Pare commands respect. Her rich alto vocals separate her from the soprano tessitura of Guido's extramarital interests. Time and time again, Luisa puts aside her own pride and reputation to give Guido the success he so desperately needs. Pare delivers a heartbreaking level of understanding and maturity in her performance, and through her audiences get a glimpse at the true destruction of fame and fortune, and what must be sacrificed in order to 'have it all'.

Filling the shoes of the other women in Guido's life are an impeccable group of actresses. Marcee Doherty-Elst's Saraghina delivers a seductive and memorable "Be Italian", in which Guido's youthful naïveté is traded for the much more alluring offer of prowess.

Timothy J Barnes and Samantha Sostarich

Samantha Sostarich plays Carla, Guido's mistress who pines for Contini's full devotion. Sostarich's transformation from the provocative woman upstairs into a forsaken lover is tragically honest.

(L to R background): Hannah Esch, Jennifer Larsen, Carrie Gray, Laura McDonald; (foreground) Timothy J Barnes

In each of the songs, one voice adds a certain delicacy to each chord. Hannah Esch's Lady of the Spa slips in and out of scenes almost unnoticeable, but then through moments of vulnerability, her pure descants add the perfect touch of theatricality.

Timothy J Barnes and Laura McDonald

Central to the many moving mistresses is Guido himself. Timothy Barnes tackles the role masterfully. He teeters precariously between the charming egotist and manic lunatic, always one more stellar solo from complete breakdown. Ignorant of his own dependance upon others, when the pillars that keep him heightened above reality finally crumble and leave him, Barnes returns Guido to the vulnerable state that was stolen from him in his boyhood.

Rae Elizabeth Pare and Timothy J Barnes

Theater RED has become a fierce name in the theatre community, with a reputation for creating professional grade provocative works. Eric Welch's direction on NINE continues the tradition of filling seats until there are none to give, and telling stories that are not soon forgotten.


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