Rivalry, jealousy, betrayal, suspense and great music are at the heart of "Amadeus" by Peter Shaffer. The Tony and Academy Award winning show comes to the Columbus State University Riverside Theatre stage beginning Friday.
Based on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life, the production begins at the court of Austrian Emperor Josef, where Antonio Salieri is the most influential composer until Mozart arrives. When Salieri is quickly surpassed by Mozart, Salieri becomes consumed with plotting Mozart's downfall.
Director Larry Dooley, Columbus State University's department of theatre chair, said audiences should expect a few twists from the film version of the story.
Mickey Cole, Jr., a 19-year-old freshman from Atlanta, plays musical genius Mozart in his first CSU production.
The importance of playing such a real and crucial figure isn't lost on Cole.
"Everyone knows Mozart. It's scary," he said. "There's an air to Mozart that's smooth, charming... I think I can bring the humor and the sadness to the character," Cole said.
He's excited about the range of emotions Mozart expresses during the show.
"The whole range of going from child to sad to feeling weak to feeling fragile, innocent to feeling conceited and rage... and at some points they all collide in fear," he said.
Guest actor Jason Marr plays the role of Salieri. He and Dooley studied at Indiana University together. Marr jumped at the chance to play the part that he once saw his actor idol Brian Bedford perform.
"Even as a kid I loved those movies that said 'based on a true story.' It somehow connects you. It makes it very real. You realize these were real people," Marr said.
The story is told through Salieri's thoughts.
"He conjures the audience so they understand why he did what he did... This is a virtuous man. He wrote music to serve God," Marr said.
Just as Mozart feels betrayed by Salieri, Salieri feels betrayed by God.
"He knows that although his work is being celebrated..., that his work is not as good as Mozart's," Marr said.
"He wants to be the name that is remembered for centuries," Marr said. "As an actor it's a dream part because it has size. It's about the conflict between this guy and God which is the biggest conflict you can have."
Be careful about calling Salieri the villain of the show, though.
"Salieri is charming and funny and just deeply human," Marr said.
Elise Miller, a CSU junior from Australia, plays Mozart's wife Constanze.
The 20-year-old's character is a realist to Mozart's dreamer.
"She loves him to death. She loves how silly he is.. but she's also aware that Salieri and the court are not exactly on Mozart's team. She got into this marriage expecting the life of Salieri's wife."
She's disappointed that her life isn't turning out the way she thought it would, Miller said.
"She isn't of the high class. She thought that by marrying Mozart she'd be climbing the ladder," she said. "It's a really great role. There are a lot of different challenges emotionally."
Miller thinks women in the audience will connect to Constanze's journey.
"She's impulsive... She does and says things that aren't necessarily things women would have done at the time. She's bold and brash and knows what kind of life she wants. She's willing to go to any measure to get it," Miller said. "It connects to a lot of modern women because she's so impulsive. She's much more open emotionally... She's willing to be who she is and not what society thinks she should be."
Marr agrees that the audience will relate to the play and specifically to Salieri's struggle.
"What about the rest of us who aren't geniuses? It's something I think we can all relate to. How do the rest of us live in a world where we have to face our own mediocrity?" Marr asked.