Category Archive for: ‘Kedar K. Adour’

Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame a solid ‘bell ringer.’

Michael Arden (center) and the cast of La Jolla Playhouse’s U.S. premiere production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Musical. Book by Peter Parnell. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Directed by Scott Schwartz. Choreographed by Chase Brock. Based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo. La Jolla Playhouse, Mandell Weiss Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA (UC San Diego Campus) 858-550-1010 or 

October 28 – December 14, 2014

Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame a solid ‘bell ringer.’  Rating: ★★★★★

There always has been a theatrical fascination for Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” American film versions began in 1923 in the silent era starring Lon Chaney and in the 1939 talkie with Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and Maureen O’Hara as Esmeralda. In 1956 the French film “Notre-Dame de Paris” was the first to appear in color. The 1996 animated musical film version was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The stage musical with Menken and Schwartz still in control of the music was produced in Germany in 2002 where it played for 3 years.

I predict that the present musical version having its world premiere at the La Jolla Theater in conjunction with New Jersey’s famous Paper Mill Playhouse (March 4 – 29, 2015) before heading to Broadway will have  a similar run. It is a re-working of both the animated film and the stage production under the auspices of Disney Theatrical. They have brought aboard Peter Parnell to revise the book, Scott Schwartz (son to Stephen) to direct and rounded up a superb production crew.

The evening starts with the spectacular opening number “The Bells of Notre Dame” led by Clopin (Erik Liberman) as a narrator and later as King of the Gypsies, to tell parts of the story. The on-stage choral ensemble is the famed local Sacra/Profana.  Parnell has written a brief prolog and we learn that the deformed baby Quasimodo has been sired by the wastrel the brother of Dom Claude Frollo (Patrick Page).When the storyline continues it is years later and Frollo is inculcating the adult Quasimodo (Michel Arden) that his time in the bell tower has been his “Sanctuary.”

When Quasimodo does leave the tower to attend the Feast of Fools (beautifully staged)he is initially allowed to perform before the crowd begins to beat and badger him and Gypsy  Esmeralda (Ciara Renee) intervenes. A deep affection develops between the two. When Phoebus (Andrew Samonsky) arrives to arrest Esmeralda he like Frollo is infatuated with her. Frollo’s infatuation turns to sexual obsession and in a fit of rage he orders the destruction of the Gypsies and the Court of Miracles.

Each major character has a leitmotif that is carried throughout the show in either words or music. Quasimodo’s is the plaintive “Out There” (a re-wording of the original “Up There”) expressing his desire to see life outside the tower even though he is on “Top of the World.” For Frollo the theme is expressed in “Hellfire” and for Esmeralda it is emphasized with “God Help the Outcasts” and “Someday.” For Phoebus it is “Rest and Recreation” and for the fictitious patron Saint Aphordisius ( Neil Mayer) it is “Flight into Egypt.”

Michael Arden turns in a heart touching performance as Quasimodo using his marvelous tenor voice to accentuate the torment built into his twisted body. Ciara Renee’s beauty and stage presence creates an Esmeralda that believably would torment Frollo turning him into a monster. Patrick Page is able to modulate his powerful baritone voice displaying menace with a touch of vulnerability giving a stunning fully rounded performance.

Ciara Renée (center) and the cast of La Jolla Playhouse’s U.S. premiere production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

The total production is mesmerizing, adroitly directed by Scott Schwartz with exciting choreography (Chase Brock), superb choral arrangements and just the right amount of humor to take the edge off a dark story.  Running time 2 hours an 20 minute with an intermission.

FEATURING: Michael Arden as Quasimodo; Patrick Page as Dom Claude Frollo; Ciara Renee as Esmeralda;  Andrew Samonsky as Captain Phoebus de Martin; Erik Liberman as Clopin Trouillefou; Neal Mayer as Saint Aphrodisius; Ian Patrick as Lieutenant Frederic Charles. Sacra/Profana choral ensemble.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Scott Schwartz, director; Chase Brock, choreographer; Michael Kosarin, music supervisor and arranger; Brent-Alan Huffman, music director; Michael Starobin, orchestrator;  Alexander Dodge, scenic designer; Alejo Vietti, costume designer; Howell Binkley, lighting designer; Gareth Owen, sound designer and M. William Shiner, production stage manager.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of

Photos by Kevin Berne


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