A Review by Suzanne Birrell.
The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical previewed at the Lounge Theatre on June 5
th. The book and Lyrics by Kelly D'Angelo and Music by Matt Dahan were ten years in the making. A rightfully excited Kelly D'Anglelo welcomed us to the show.
It was a Shakespearian experience: The story's the thing. I am inspired to go back and read Dumas' story of jealousy, greed, betrayal and revenge. The sets and staging were simple, yet effective. Musicals are meant to have large stages and this was no exception, but the intimate nature of this production in the small Lounge Theatre was very nice. Though the recorded music was at times too loud to hear and some of the songs and story were lost, I very much enjoyed that the singers had no mics. The pre-recorded music displayed the colors of a large scale production though I think a smaller ensemble of musicians would have been the ticket in this intimate setting. (But then, I am a bass player so I will admit to my prejudice against canned music.)
The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical opened with a wonderful male chorus in the song "Break the Bread." Great harmonies and solo color accented with high tenor promised a great show. The movement between the prison cell and the scene of the betrayal on the ship was innovative. The fact that the character on the ship was younger and chubbier than the skinnier prisoner was effective in and of itself though it sort of lost the magic when the young Dantes came back as a different character. "The real treasure's been you" was a wonderful song that allowed our hero Edmond Dantes, played by Lyric Tenor David Meinke, to show what a nice guy he was before he came back as the vengeful and cold hearted Count. Meinke did such a great transformation it was hard to remember by the end of the production that he was originally a nice guy even though he did let the young lovers live.
The musical on whole had memorable melodies that were brought back in good fashion. The darker songs by the villains were all especially great arrangements and among those "The Judge"and "Expiation" both performed incomparably with vigor and verve by Anthony Gruppuso were my absolute favorite moments. The party songs performed by the cast such as "Carnival" were not balanced but rather buried by the loud orchestration and it was hard to get a good feel for them. As they were being sung I tried to imagine 45 people on stage--I think that's what they needed.
Of course the presentation has some problems. The performance space severely limited possibilities and there were times I was confused as to what was purposeful and what was simple adaption to the small space. There were scenes that should have been cut or at least staged differently. But overall, I enjoyed the production. As orchestrated The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical is meant to be played on a large stage. I hope it gets the chance. It has all the ingredients of a good solid story. Fine performances. Well sung. Entertaining. Check it out.
The Lounge Theatre: 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
Saturday, June 13, 3:30 PM
Thursday June 18, 7:30 PM
Sunday June 21 3:30 PM
Friday June 26, 7:30 PM
Photos: Cast of The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical
2. Richelle Meiss and Stephen Novick
3. Cast of The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical
4. Laurine Price and David Meinke
5. Anthony Gruppuso and Theresa Tracy
6. Mary Nepi and Bryan Vickery