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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

a Musical
by Peter Parnell (book), Stephen Schwartz (lyrics) & Alan Menken (music)

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5121

SHOWING : July 20, 2017 - August 27, 2017



Based on the Victor Hugo novel, this epic musical traces the journey of Quasimodo, a deformed bell ringer in a cold, cathedral tower as he discovers his inner strength. His guardian, Archdeacon Frollo, seethes as all of Paris readies for the annual Feast of Fools. Frollo becomes obsessed with scouring the Gypsies from the city, even as he lusts after the beautiful dancer Esmeralda. This beloved medieval love story examines, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” and features a lush score by Alan Menken (Disney’s "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast") and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked", "Pippin").

Director Justin Anderson
Captain Phoebus de Martin Lowrey Brown
Ensemble T’Arica Crawford
Ensemble Chase Davidson
Dom Claude Frollo David DeVries
Clopin Trouillefou Kevin Harry
Ensemble Steven L. Hudson
Ensemble Matt McCubbin
Ensemble Matthew Sidney Morris
Ensemble Joseph Jong Pendergrast
Quasimodo Haden Rider
Esmeralda Julissa Sabino
Ensemble Benjamin Sims
Ensemble Kari Twyman
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Less Miserables
by playgoer
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame," like "Les Misérables," is one of Victor Hugo’s hit novels of the nineteenth century, set in the historical past. It has been brought to the stage via a detour through a Disney animated movie with a score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. The stage production, though, has more of the sober tone of "Les Misérables" than the cheeriness of an animated feature. Librettist Peter Parnell has devised a storyline that hews closely to the book, with the score of the film broadened and darkened to create an atmospheric musical world.

Shannon Robert’s set design uses a unit set as its basis, with gothic cathedral windows, stonework, and statues populating the fringes of the stage. Ladders and two moving staircases allow access to a second story. Occasional set pieces are brought onstage for certain scenes, and massive bells and doors sometimes appear upstage. Maria Cristina Fusté’s lighting design keeps the fringes of the set murky most of the time, with a delightful array of effects lighting the action on the stage. While the set is impressive, it’s the lighting that truly makes the show a visual spectacle.

Alan Yeong’s costumes give the show some visual pop, although they appear to be costume designs rather than clothing anyone in any historical period might have worn, let alone the "Dark" end of the Middle Ages. In such a dark show, the vibrant colors of the costumes stand out. It’s the lighting, though, that adds the most visual excitement. Even Ricardo Aponte’s active dance choreography and Drew Reeves’ exciting fight choreography can’t outshine it.

One of the aspects of the story is that the Hunchback, isolated in the bell tower of Notre Dame de Paris, converses with the statues and gargoyles that surround him. Ryan Bradburn’s props include a collection of these gargoyles, although a few of them appear to be more appropriate to "The Lion King" than to a medieval church. Most of them have points of articulation, which Reay Kaplan’s puppet choreography makes use of, but a few of them stand out (in a bad way) by being static sculptural figures. Having cast members in their costumes operate these puppets isn’t terribly effective at bringing the audience into the Hunchback’s world. The statue of Saint Aphrodesius (Steve Hudson), however, provides one of the highlights of the show.

Acting is good across the board, but vocals are stunning. Haden Rider has a beautiful singing voice as Quasimodo, even if the comic edge of his acting never blends into a heartbreaking one. Kevin Harry is ideally suited to the role of Clopin, with his powerful voice and stage presence obviating the need for any subtlety. Lowrey Brown’s sweet voice as Phoebus soars purely, while Julissa Sabino’s blasts with power as Esmeralda. Choral work, which predominates in the score, is magnificent. Ann-Carol Pence’s musical direction and band are superb.

Kudos in acting go to David DeVries as Dom Claude Frollo. His singing may not be the equal of others in the cast, but he holds his own in choral numbers. He brings the audience in with his quiet power and conflicted morality, and drives the story along. Ms. Sabino doesn’t fully embody the object of desire Esmeralda needs to be, but Mr. DeVries makes us believe she is to him.

Director Justin Anderson has created a production that has the technical trappings of a Broadway show, even though "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" has not played on that famous thoroughfare in New York City. Some of the cream of Atlanta’s talent is onstage, and the production serves the story and score with power and precision. While the ensemble may be a trifle young on the whole and more adept at dancing than moving as if the clothes they wear belong to them, the impression the show leaves is that of a dark, entrancing tale as old as time. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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