Le Comte Noir, by the composing team Charles Vincent Burwell (music and lyrics) and James D. Sasser (book and lyrics), was commissioned by Manhattan School of Music (MSM)’s Musical Theatre program and follows famed real-life novelist Alexandre Dumas in his attempt to finish a novel while suffering crippling writer’s block. To complete his book, he must reconcile his father’s history as a hero of the French Revolution and rival to Napoleon.
Watch the trailer for Le Comte Noir
Performed by current MSM Musical Theatre students and produced by MSM and video production team Super Awesome Friends (Company, Girl From the North Country), this digital premiere presentation is directed by Catie Davis (Associate Director: Beetlejuice and Company; Director: MSM’s Where’s Charley?) with Music Direction by Andrew Gerle (MSM faculty; Kleban, Rodgers, and Larson award-winner) and choreography by André Zachery (Renegade Performance Group).
The musical fuses classical influences and Afro-Haitian music and dance, while exploring Dumas’ unresolved questions of identity. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, was the Haitian-born son of a French nobleman and an enslaved woman of African descent. The former’s heroism and forced imprisonment later inspired Alexandre’s The Count Of Monte Cristo and much of his other writing.
Photos from the filming of Le Comte Noir
“We are thrilled to be working with the Le Comte Noir creative team and Super Awesome Friends to bring this musical-in-development to life,” says Liza Gennaro, Associate Dean and Director of MSM’s Musical Theatre program. “During this difficult year, as the pandemic has forced us to find creative alternatives to presenting work on stage, this video production partnership with Super Awesome Friends has been an exceptional learning experience for our students, broadening their performance experiences to include on-camera performance. We are excited to share the students’ and the creative team’s remarkable work when we stream the production, starting on January 16 at 7:30 pm.”
In addition to Le Comte Noir, MSM’s Musical Theatre program will partner with Super Awesome Friends this year on video presentations of The Mystery of Edwin Drood (by MSM alumnus Rupert Holmes), Iron John: An American Ghost Story (by Jacinth Greywoode and Rebecca Hart), and The Drowsy Chaperone (by Greg Morrison, Lisa Lambert, Bob Martin, and Don McKellar).
The writing team of Charles Vincent Burwell and MSM alumnus James D. Sasser (BM '98) talk about their new production
The Le Comte Noir writing team, Burwell and Sasser, were 2019 finalists for the Jonathan Larson award and Uncharted Artists at Ars Nova. Their other musicals include CUBAMOR (Village Theatre, NAMT, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley New Works Festival) and Bottle Shock (based on the hit 2008 film). Their work is also featured on Broadway on Demand. Sasser is an alumnus of Manhattan School of Music, having earned his Bachelor of Music in Voice in 1998, and both he and Burwell are graduates of NYU-Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.
Le Comte Noir is being developed and produced with funding from MSM’s Cultural Inclusion Initiative.