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June 6, 2015:

The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical reviewed by Rob Stevens

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Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Tale of Two Cities, The Three Musketeers, Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, classic novels of a certain age, have all been musicalized in the past few decades. It’s surprising no one else has approached this material before now. Playwright/lyricist Kelly D’Angelo has spent ten years turning Alexander Dumas’ (pere) novel of revenge into The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical. There is still much work to be done but D’Angelo has smartly chosen to produce the show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival to see what she has. With 20 songs and many reprises (music by Matt Dahan), this is one musical that sings too much. Cramming a 1000 page novel into a two hour musical with that many songs, many of which neither provide character details or advance the plot, leaves the audience befuddled as to who is what and why are they doing that? It doesn’t help that many of the actors are called upon to play more than one role and with virtually no changes in costume or characterization it is difficult to follow who they are portraying scene to scene. This is an epic tale with a large cast of characters who have a lot of intertwined relationships. It requires a stronger and perhaps longer plot to make things clearer.

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The cast gamely tries their best but many just don’t have the vocal chops to pull off a musical. Singing to tracks instead of live accompaniment makes a lot of the songs sound the same. The women fare best—Laurine Price’s Mercedes, Mary Nepi’s Valentine and Teresa Tracy’s Heloise. David Meinke as the wronged prisoner turned Count does a fair job but he is defeated by the bare bones script as his quest and his resultant actions are not fleshed out sufficiently. Bryan Vickery as the imprisoned Abbe displays a strong voice.

2stars

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. June 9, 13, 18, 21, 26 & 27. www.hollywoodfringe.org

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