A musical adaptation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is currently playing at the Pioneer Theatre in Castle Hill, produced by Blackout Theatre Co. The musical draws inspiration from the Victor Hugo novel and incorporates songs from the Disney film adaptation released in 1996. The set design includes a balcony and door to represent multiple entryways, with railings and a bell hanging above the center of the stage, depicting different locations in the story. A large screen behind the set indicates the characters’ whereabouts, such as showing stained glass to represent Notre Dame Cathedral at one point.
The production features a diverse cast, with many performers playing multiple characters. There are five lead characters in total, twelve members of the Church congregation, eight Gypsies excluding those in lead roles, and sixteen choir members who remain on stage throughout the show. While these individuals are visible on stage, there are numerous people working behind the scenes, including the direction team, costume team, music team, and others who deserve credit for the show’s success.
The musical’s plot deviates slightly from the original hunchback character, Quasimodo, as portrayed in the Disney film adaptation. Notably, his origin story changes, with his birth being the result of Frollo’s (the antagonist) brother having an extramarital affair with a woman of ill-repute. In the Disney film, Frollo has the mother killed and raises the hunchback out of fear for his own soul.
The plot focuses on the hunchback’s isolation due to his deformity, his fear of Frollo preventing him from leaving the Cathedral, and his desire for friendship and acceptance in the outside world, which he ultimately finds in Esmeralda, a Gypsy girl. However, the musical also cleverly highlights the perceived unfairness in society, as Esmeralda falls for the charismatic and handsome soldier, Phoebus De Martin, despite the hunchback’s unwavering love for her. Meanwhile, the three main characters continually strive to evade Frollo’s cruelty.
At the end of the performance, the cast received a thunderous standing ovation that lasted for two minutes. Afterwards, in the foyer, the cast members mingled with the audience, discussing their performances. Those interviewed shared insights into the months-long process of perfecting the show and their dedication to understanding their characters. Actor Matthew Herne, who plays Quasimodo, explained the physical and mental demands of portraying the character, including understanding his place in the world and undergoing physical training, even walking hunched over in his apartment. Cast members also shared various ways they relax after a performance, such as late-night drives to McDonald’s or enjoying a glass of Scotch while watching an episode of Seinfeld.
The show will conclude on Sunday, May 28th.