p_2075_i_9937375 According to Wikipedia, there have been nine musical adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count Of Monte Cristo in the past fifteen years alone, leading one to wonder… Do we need a tenth?

The answer, at least for Hollywood Fringe-goers, is no, not if it’s Kelly D’Angelo and Matt Daman’s well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to transform the 1844 tale of revenge into a musical for 21st Century tastes.

Book writer/lyricist D’Angelo’s smartest move was to collaborate with composer Daman, whose melodies range from lovely to gorgeous, and as director, to cast an ensemble about whose voices the same can be said.

Unfortunately stilted dialog and lackluster lyrics stump the acting chops of all but a few cast members, and if there’s a way to make Dumas’ 500-plus page novel anywhere near easy to follow, D’Angelo’s humorless book has not found it. Having read a synopsis, this reviewer got about the first thirty minutes of the show’s intermissionless two-hour running time, after which it was anyone’s guess.

If there is any reason to recommend The Count Of Monte Cristo, it is its cast’s almost uniformly outstanding vocals, with special snaps to David Menke’s title character, young lovers Albert and Valentine (local favorite Bryan Vickery and Fringe find Mary Nepi), and Lurine Price, whose Mercedes also reveals the cast’s best acting. The villainous trio of Parnell Damone Marcano, Anthony Gruppuso, and David Zack and score high vocal marks as well.

Completing the hard-working ensemble are Todd Andrew Ball, Jillian Easton, Henry Kaiser, TR Krupa, Richelle Meiss, Stephen Novick, Anderson Piller, Teresa Tracy, and Amanda Walter.

Lighting designer Brandon Baruch adds a professional sheen to rudimentary Fringe-ready set pieces and to Amanda Walter’s quite elegant costumes. Nick Mizrahi has choreographed a nifty swordplay sequence.

Dahan scores high marks too as musical director. Erica Lawrence is stage manager.

Given that even Frank (Jekyll & Hyde) Wildhorn’s 2009 adaptation hasn’t been able to manage more in the U.S. than an NYC reading and a single college production to date, it’s unlikely we’ll be hearing much more from the version now playing at the Fringe.

–Steven Stanley
June 13, 2015