[REVIEW] Musical ‘Monte Cristo’ returns with riveting tale of vengeance, love

Bomi Yoon

A scene from the musical

A scene from the musical “Monte Cristo” / Courtesy of EMK Musical Company

By Pyo Kyung-min

The musical “Monte Cristo” marked the commencement of its sixth season, welcoming audiences with its talented cast and emotionally charged narrative.

Originating in Switzerland in 2009 and premiering in Korea in 2010, the production weaves a heart-aching narrative of love and revenge, themes that consistently grip Korean theatergoers.

Adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ eponymous novel, the musical boasts a score composed by Frank Wildhorn, known for his musical works, “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Dracula,” with a script by Jack Murphy, director of the musicals “The Man Who Laughs” and “The Last Kiss.”

The narrative begins with Edmond Dantes, an ambitious young sailor, returning to his beloved, Mercedes, in the French port city of Marseille after a long sea voyage. However, his homecoming takes a dark turn as he becomes entangled in a web of betrayal, resulting in his imprisonment at the notorious Chateau d’If for 14 years.

Motivated by revenge against those who conspired against him, Dantes reemerges as the enigmatic Count Monte Cristo, determined to settle scores with villains and his unfaithful lover.

A scene from the musical

A scene from the musical “Monte Cristo” / Courtesy of EMK Musical Company

On Wednesday’s Monte Cristo performance attended by this reporter, renowned musical actor Ko Eun-sung delivered a standout portrayal of Dantes and Count Monte Cristo. His performance showcased a seamless transition of the innocent young sailor to a cold, revenge-driven Count, demonstrating a type of versatility that made it feel as though two different actors inhabited the stage.

Notably, Ko’s rendition of Dantes’ powerful number “Hell to Your Doorstep,” expressing the character’s vow for bloody revenge, left a lasting impact, captivating the audience with the actor’s charismatic vocal performance.

Despite the seemingly dark premise, the musical, Monte Cristo, also incorporates humor throughout, eliciting laughter from the audience. In particular, the playful exchanges between Dantes and Abbe Faria, the fellow prisoner who becomes his mentor, provide a touch of lightness to the intense plot.

The musical’s appeal is further heightened by the talented ensemble, which delivers a rich chorus of melodies. Notable numbers, such as “Pen, Ink and Paper” performed by the villain trio and Mercedes’ poignant serenade “Everyday a Little Death,” evoke a spectrum of emotions.

A scene from the musical

A scene from the musical “Monte Cristo” / Courtesy of EMK Musical Company

The production’s visual allure is enhanced by dynamic stage elements, including a massive ship prop for Dantes’ return and the vivid depiction of Chateau d’If with stone walls and stage lights simulating ocean waves.

The rotating stage, featuring multiple layers and adjustable height, adds a dynamic dimension, particularly during Dantes’ climactic revenge scenes.

However, in Wednesday’s performance, an overreliance on the rotating stage in the show’s second half, coupled with audible mechanical noises, slightly disrupted the experience for some audience members.

“Monte Cristo” is scheduled to run at the Chungmu Art Center in Jung District, central Seoul until Feb. 25 next year.

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