If you follow my movie reviews you know I’m not the biggest fan of Disney’s 34th Animated Classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I appreciate the risks it took but struggle with the execution especially for a film for children. (Some say it is not made for kids but those gargoyles say otherwise). The animation and music is well done but I just don’t love it the way others do.
All that said, I have been curious to check out the stage adaptation to see how they changed things and hopefully made it better than the movie. There are actually 2 productions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame currently playing in this area- at Hale Center Theatre Orem and at The Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville. I opted for the latter but I am sure both are great. Hopebox is a really neat theater where the proceeds go to support a community member with cancer. I love the combination of theater used for a good cause!
I actually got to see the opening night premiere of the TEAL cast of Hunchback. It’s basically the T/Th/S cast and it has Jayson LeBaron playing Quasimodo and Jordan LeBaron as Frollo (I assume they are brothers but they didn’t have any bios in the playbill). Esmeralda is played by Summer Alvey. The whole cast is tremendous and I love the intimate theater in the round setting.
If you are unfamiliar with Hunchback. It is based on the classic Victor Hugo novel and has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Scwartz with a book by Peter Parnell. They definitely have made a lot of changes from the animated film. First of all, Frollo is a much more layered, interesting character. In the film they have him kill Quasi’s mother in the first scene and then he’s going to dump Quasi down a well. Starting him off with such evil there’s nowhere else to go for his character but outright evil. Here his evil gathers slowly as he lets lust overtake his better qualities. They also don’t make him a judge which actually made the church look worse in the movie as they were enabling this crazy person to raise a child in their sanctuary.
The gypsies I still have issues with. They are so mean to Quasi that it makes them hard to root for like I should being a persecuted minority in the story. It makes for scenes like the Festival of Fools less fun when they are mocking our hero. On the other hand, they make Phoebus a way better character who struggles whether to follow duty or his love for Esmeralda (who is also a much more nuanced and fleshed out character).
They still have the gargoyles, which surprised me a little bit but thankfully they got rid of their “A Guy Like You” song. In the movie their advice comes across as mean and they ruin the darker tone so carefully constructed. In here they feel more like part of Quasi’s mania and loneliness, which works much better.
My only critique of the Hopebox’s production of Hunchback is they had some microphone issues they will want to work on. Aside from that, they did a great job and I enjoyed it much more than the animated film. They also have a large energetic cast with wonderful choreography and costumes. There’s a real community spirit to the shows at Hopebox that make it well worth the 40 minute drive up to Kaysville to help support. The show is playing until Oct 23rd so don’t miss it!
7 out of 10
Have you seen the stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? How do you think it compares to the film? Let me know in the comments section.