The BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts and the interdisciplinary Music Dance Theatre program will present the U.S. premiere of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” This new musical by Tony Award-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn and Tony Award-nominated lyricist and book writer Jack Murphy. The musical has previously been previewed in Switzerland and Korea.
“This is an exciting moment for the university,” said Jeff Martin, senior arts manager and “Monte Cristo” creative producer. “The MDT program has been growing in stature and relevance, and this is the culmination of hard work over many years. We leaped at the opportunity to work with Widhorn when he asked BYU to premiere the musical in the U.S.”
Martin also explained that this is the first time Wildhorn and Jack Murphy (famous Broadway composers) have worked at a university to premiere one of their new works. These composers have interacted with the students involved in the production.
The musical is based off of the classic novel “The Count of Monte Cristo,” by Alexandre Dumas. The musical tells the story of a man who was betrayed by those who are closest to him and highlights his journey of revenge and redemption.
Wildhorn is also the author of “Jekyll and Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Bonnie and Clyde.” In a press release interview Wildhorn showed optimism for the play. “The show has enjoyed incredible success in Europe and Asia, and I wanted to establish the piece there before bringing it to American audiences,” Wildhorn said. “Now that we have done that, I felt the time was right. I thought it would be a fun way to get it started here in the United States with my great relationship with BYU, and I’m excited to see what will happen now.”
The opportunity for BYU to stage “The Count of Monte Cristo” came after Wildhorn visited BYU to perform and teach master classes to some of the students. After Wildhorn spent some quality time coaching students on their vocals, Wildhorn was so impressed with their level of talent that he approached Jeff Martin. It was then that he asked if BYU would like to present the U.S. premiere of his musical.
“Before school started I had the opportunity to fly out to New York City and work one-on-one with Frank Wildhon,” said Shae Robbins, who will play the role of Mercedes. “I have so much gratitude for that experience because he really is a musical genius. To be there with him, singing his music, was just incredible. He has really helped me pay attention to details and match the emotion that your character is feeling in each moment.”
The cast is composed of BYU students, including Preston Yates as the Count of Monte Cristo, Shae Robbins as Mercedes, Taylor Morris as Fernand Mondego, Cameron Smith as Baron Danglars, Matt Krantz as Gerard de’ Villefort, James Bounous as Jacopo, Brian Clark as Abbe Faria, Barry Bounous as Louis Dantes, Cayel Tregeagle as Albert, Cassie Austin as Valentine Villefort, Laren Hughes as Louisa Vampa and Caroline Lambert as Gabriella.
Tim Threllfall, “Count of Monte Cristo” director, noted how performing for Wildhorn made students feel. “The initial auditions were a very intimidating experience for our students because they auditioned in front of Frank Wildhorn. It was a terrific opportunity for the students to audition for him. The biggest thing about this show is that it is a blank slate for us. We are creating this world for ourselves for the first time and challenges the students to rely on themselves as performers.”
The musical will take place in the de Jong Concert Hall of the Harris Fine Arts Center and will run from Thursday, Jan. 22, to Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.
Tickets for the performances are $21–$28 each. A discount of $5–$6 off per ticket is available with a BYU or student ID. Senior citizens and BYU alumni save $2 per ticket. There will be no Sunday or Monday performances. Tickets go on sale to the public Monday, Nov. 24, at 9 a.m. For tickets visit the BYU Ticket Office in the Harris Fine Arts Center or the Marriott Center, order by phone at 801.422.2981 or visit byuarts.com.