Broadway composer brings his musical to BYU

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Frank Wildhorn, multi-Grammy and Tony Award-nominated composer and producer, visited BYU March 25 and 26 to help select cast members at callbacks for his musical that will premiere on campus in January.

“The program provides excellent educational experiences for our students and generates praise and comment from our industrial and university colleagues from around the nation,” said Engineering and Technology Dean Lan Parkinson.
Tony and Grammy award winner Frank Wildhorn, left, and BYU Arts manager Jeffery Martin, center, evaluate BYU student auditions in the Richards Building March 26 for an upcoming show on campus. Student
Crysta May Powell (right) assists with lines.

Wildhorn is a composer of Broadway musicals, including “Bonnie & Clyde,” as well as songs for pop artists such as Whitney Houston. His most recent visit to BYU was to help choose the cast for his musical “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which will be the university’s next super production.

The panel of judges for “The Count of Monte Cristo” callbacks, including Wildhorn, selected 40 students to perform in the U.S. premiere of the musical.

Jeffrey Martin, BYU arts manager, brought Wildhorn to campus last October to perform some of his greatest works, and according to him, Wildhorn came up with the idea of having one of his musicals performed by BYU students.

“You must have an amazing program here,” said Wildhorn, after having met BYU music, dance and theater graduates working on Broadway.

Cassie Austin, a freshman in the music dance theatre program, said she cried watching “Jekyll & Hyde,” another Wildhorn musical.

“It is great that BYU has the opportunity to premiere this show in the United States,” Austin said, referring to “The Count of Monte Cristo.” “Not many Americans have seen it yet. I have only listened to some of the songs on a concept album.”

Gabriel Spencer, a sophomore studying acting, was impressed Wildhorn was on campus.

“It was an honor to have him here,” Spencer said. “An opportunity like this does not come often.”

Wildhorn has composed more than 20 first-class works featured worldwide. From “Civil War,” a musical portraying the Union and Confederate States, to “Wonderland,” a contemporary version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll, Wildhorn defines his works as eclectic.

In 1999, Wildhorn was the first American composer in 22 years to have three shows running simultaneously on Broadway. He also composed “Gold,” used in the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

During the recent callbacks, he was looking for students who were not only talented but who had great energy.

“Only half of what it takes is talent,” Wildhorn said. “The rest is good energy, and I also have to trust them to take good care of my ‘baby.'”

“The Count of Monte Cristo” musical is an adaptation from the book, written by Jack Murphy and with music by Wildhorn. It premiered at Switzerland’s Theater St. Gallen in 2009. The U.S. premiere will be at BYU from Jan. 22 to Jan. 31 of 2015. Aside from the cast of 40 students, 100 other people will work behind the scenes with costumes, orchestra, makeup and other technical details to make the show a success.

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