Watching The Count of Monte Cristo unfold at Tuacahn this season, one word comes to mind: Epic.
The word not only a gives an accurate depiction of the size of scope of the storyline; it perfectly embodies the set design as well.
“This story is really new and fresh with beautiful music.”
Remarkably, considering the larger-than-life feel these set pieces bring to the stage, the entire process started the way it often does for Set Designer Brad Shelton — with a sketchpad and a pencil in hand.
“We knew it was going to be large,” Shelton said, thinking back on his early meetings with Artistic Director Scott Anderson and scriptwriter Jack Murphy.
Not only would the set pieces need to depict roughly 20 locations, the creative team wanted to find a way to indicate the passage of time for this story that covers roughly 30 years. Add to that the team’s desire to match the dark themes of the musical with the hues of the backdrop and they had their work cut out for them.
Here are a few fun facts about how it all came together to be the masterpiece it is.
- The stage features a 20-foot wide turntable to move the story to different locations right before the audience’s eyes.
- The grand pirate ship was built in three pieces — each 20 feet long — for a total of 60-feet to nearly fill the 80-foot stage.
- The entire set was built in a matter of about 5 months — spread over two years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic — with a crew of 8 talented carpenters and welders.
- Throughout the 100-page script, the story features around 20 different locations.
- You won’t want to miss the Count’s amazing entrance in a hot air balloon constructed by Shelton and his team.
“This set looks very different from the other shows this year,” Shelton said. “We wanted to match the darker feel, the contrast of incredible themes like hope and imprisonment, love and death.”
“It’s just incredible to work at this level,” Shelton said. “This story is really new and fresh with beautiful music.”