HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAMEMusic by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by Peter Parnell
Based on the book by Victor Hugo and the songs from the Disney Film
Music Theatre of Denton
Produced by - Jen Peace & Micha Marie Stevens
Directed by - Eric B. Ryan
Music Direction by - John Norine Jr.
Choreography by - Emily Leekha
Stage Management by - Elizabeth Cantrell
Fight Choreography by - Pat Costa
Lighting Design by - Les C. Deal
Sound Design by - Pat Schaider
Costume Design by - Jonathan Daniel Martin & Nathan Scott
Hair Design by - Lona Wolfe
Scenic Design by - Paul Key & Eric B. Ryan
Properties Design by - Sarah Key
Poster Artwork by - Allison Ivey
Dom Claude Frollo - Scott Deck
Quasimodo - Jarrod Monk
Clopin Trouillefou - Joshua Hawkins
Phoebus De Martin - Cameron Roy Hall
Esmeralda - Mira Agustin
Florika - Gabie Hocson
Madame - Sarah Andrews
King Louis XI - Joseph Kaminski
Frederic Charlus - Andy Searcy
St. Aphordisius - Camden Riefler
Father Dupin - Spencer Carrol
Jehan Frollo - Christopher Ryal
Gypsies, Statues, Gargoyles, Topsy Turvy Revelers
HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME CHOIR
Reviewed Performance: 10/20/2018
Reviewed by Eli Berke, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The first thing you’ll notice entering the space is the enormity of this show. Directed by Eric B. Ryan, this show sports an enormous cast of 57, including the choir, as well as a two-story set, intricately designed to be transfigured to serve multiple locations. Behind it hangs a stain glass window with two massive bells, equipped with the ability to swing when “rung”. All in all, the design and capabilities of this set are very impressive for a community theatre, and the show provides multiple moments of “theatre magic” thanks to clever use of props. The lighting design is very appropriate and never a distraction, except for certain moments in which characters are supposedly escaping in a burst of smoke and light. This “witch craft” is a little cheesy as nothing lighting wise changes, and the audience can very clearly see where the fleeing characters are going, however later in the play, strobing effects are used for a different escape. The effect works tremendously in that moment, as the partial black out and overstimulation of lights going in and out pulls the audience’s attention and genuinely had no idea where our heroes had escaped to. Because of its effect, this reviewer would have appreciated strobing black outs for all escapes. Equipped with a full orchestra, the music comes alive, and the addition of a 29-person choir is a very welcomed addition that gave me chills in various moments throughout the show. Sadly, many ensemble mics were crackly or not turned on at all the night of my attendance. This degraded the quality of some of the ensemble numbers, however full cast songs, regardless of mic issues, sound harmonious and full.
The actors of this show are possibly the best thing about this production. “Topsy Turvy” showcases the variety and talent of the ensemble, but special mention is due to the those portraying Frollo, Esmerelda, and Quasimodo. Each brought heart to their performances. Scott Deck, who portrays villainous Frollo, brings a reservedly menacing presence to the stage and his vocals in “Hellfire” gave me chills. Esmerelda, as played by Ms. Mira Agustin, is the apple of many men’s eyes, but her compassionate relationship with Quasimodo is what brings warmth to the story. Ms. Agustin’s chemistry with her scene partner Jarrod Monk, who plays the titular character, shines on stage and her festive song “Rhythm of the Tambourine” tempts the audience to join the Festival of Fools. Lastly, what more can be said for Mr. Jarrod Monk other than this is an actor to watch. His performance as Quasimodo elicits constant empathy and love from the audience and his solo numbers are some of the best of the entire show. What these actors bring to their performance is what sets this show apart. However, this show does have its drawbacks.
First and foremost, actor safety was a very big concern of mine while watching the performance. I’m sure these were not intentional errors, but it’s important to note that stair cases are moved with actors on them despite have railing on only one side, Quasimodo walks a wooden railing that noticeably buckles under his weight and wobbled violently the night I attended. It got to the point where I felt the need to verify that nooses used in the show had enough emergency slack, should an actor misstep and potentially hang themselves (a safe amount of extra rope is saved with what I believe, and hope, is a quick release). I have never been so forward in a review, but absolutely no stunt is worth compromising an actor’s safety, and furthermore it’s distracting to the audience. With every instance that occurred, I was immediately taken out of the world of the show and concerned for actor safety. I respectfully implore Music Theatre of Denton review their safety guidelines less they risk an injury happening onstage.
And while on the topic of distractions, the show has many. Quasimodo’s rope, used to ring his church bells, descends from stage left well enough. But said rope is then painstakingly pulled back up by a techie who is visible to entire audience, which is where the audience was looking every time it happened. Scenes continue while this happens, oblivious to the rope moving back and forth in front of actor faces, which overall seems very disjointed. My ideology is this; if it happens on stage, it happens to the characters and therefore, cannot be ignored by them, otherwise it screams ‘THIS IS A PERFORMANCE’, thus breaking the illusion that is theatre. There are many more rookie mistakes; swords are treated like toys and not endowed with fear of pain and death, cups are discernably empty, and a prop baby is obviously very light, and not weighted or handled like a baby at all. Furthermore, there are several inconsistencies throughout the show, such as Captain Phoebus being injured on his left side, but interchangeably clutching his right or left sides throughout the following scenes. And significant moments, such as Quasimodo swinging in to save the day, are played up stage with full backs to the audience. For them being such important moments, I wanted to see faces, reactions, and the actual action happening on stage, rather than the back of heads. Granted, none of this is “unfixable”, but again with such a good cast on stage, anything that pulls the audience’s attention away from them is a shame.
For the sake of the actors and good design elements I’m giving this show a good standing. Some things are forgivable, and some things are not. But for the common theatre goer, most of these issues should be inconsequential, and it is this acting troupe that make the show worth seeing. The level of commitment and hard work happening on stage is always apparent, and these gems are worth protecting and not having the audience’s attention stolen from them. Those looking for a good family friendly show will surely enjoy Music Theatre of Denton’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so be sure to catch it before it closes October 28th.