March 14, 2024

MSM Spotlight: Musical Theatre student Xavier Cornell is the lead in MSM’s production of Nine, on stage March 22 to 24

This story was published prior to the recent run of MSM Musical Theatre’s production of Nine.

Meet Xavier Cornell (BM ’25). He performs the role of Guido Contini in MSM Musical Theatre’s  production of Nine, taking place March 22 to 24 in Neidorff-Karpati Hall.

Xavier speaks to us about Nine‘s rehearsal process, his preparation for playing the lead role of Guido Contini, and his first musical theatre experience.


Hailing from the San Fernando Valley area of California, Xavier Cornell is in his junior year as a Musical Theatre major at MSM and studies with Samuel McKelton. Performance credits at MSM include Forget Me Not (Pete Medina), She Loves Me (Zoltan Maraczek), Paperboy (Constantine Spiro), One Way (Dennis), and Secret Life of the American Musical (Ensemble). Xavier also appeared on season 21 of NBC’s The Voice and was a member of Kelly Clarkson’s team.


MAR 22–24
Neidorff-Karpati Hall

Book by Arthur Kopit 
Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston 

Eugenio Contenti, Director
David Loud, Music Director
Lorna Ventura, Choreographer

This production is presented in honor of
Liz and Walt Sayre (BM ’74, MM ’79). 

What is this musical about?

Xavier: Nine is the story of Guido Contini who is desperately trying to write his latest movie hit. He’s coming off of three back-to-back-to-back box office flops, and his producer has threatened he may never work again if his latest film isn’t a success.

We follow Guido and his wife, Luisa, on an escape to a spa in Venice where he hopes to find some clarity and inspiration for his film. With the arrival of his producer at the spa, the getaway quickly becomes a frantic push to put the film together.

Throughout the musical we meet some of the women who have had the biggest impact on his life, including his muse, an actress and film star Claudia; his mistress Carla; his mother; and the partner of his sexual awakening, Serraghina. We also see glimpses of his younger self, a major source of his artistry. We watch as Guido copes with his inner child as well as his overwhelming love for the women that surround him — which may ultimately be his undoing.

What can you tell us about your role?

Xavier: Guido is a world-renowned film director whom many consider to be a genius. He is very much in control of all his projects — along with directing, he writes the scripts, composes the scores, sketches the costumes, and stars in his films. He is charismatic, funny, and intelligent, while also sometimes a bit discombobulated and unorganized.

As an artist, Guido feels very deeply, and seeks inspiration from many different places — particularly from the women in his life. From his wife to his mistress, his muse, or his mother, Guido depends on each of these women — often without realizing it — as well as his own inner child to help him through his artistic processes and his life.

Above all, Guido is a lover. However, while the love he has for women is sometimes his greatest asset, it is also one of his greatest downfalls.

Photo: Xavier at the Nine sitzprobe

How did you prepare for this role?

Xavier: A big thing I did to prepare was to really dive into the script before rehearsals began. I read the script nearly every day of winter break and combed through it to see what different things I could find each time.

I created what I call my “Nine Bible”, a notebook full of words, references, and translations I didn’t understand from the text. I would also listen and sing the different songs from the score during my morning run to really help get the material into my body. I also watched the Federico Fellini movie 8 1/2 which the musical was based on!

NINE is a truly impactful story about making art.

How has the rehearsal process been?

Xavier:  The rehearsal process has been amazing. I’ve absolutely loved getting to work with this team. The creative vision was in line with how I initially viewed the character, so it has been fun expanding upon those ideas throughout the process.

Also, our Nine cast and creative team have been incredibly organized and prepared — we went from a table read to having everything blocked in what felt like the blink of an eye.

Why should people come see this show?

Xavier: Nine has an absolutely beautiful score that’s being sung by an incredible cast. The cast, creative, and production team have worked so hard to put this production together. It is a truly impactful story about making art and the sacrifices that come with the things that make artists brilliant. You don’t want to miss it.

Xavier as Pete Medina in MSM's production of FORGET ME NOT, Fall 2023

What was your first experience with Musical Theatre? How do you think it impacted you?

The first musical I ever did was The Sound of Music. I was 8 years old, and I played a dancing marionette. The combination of being able to sing, dance, and play pretend was everything I wanted to do for the rest of my life!


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