The Hunchback of Notre Dame (musical)

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This article is about the Disney produced musical. For the French musical, see Notre-Dame de Paris (musical).
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Original cast recording, cover art
Music Alan Menken
Lyrics Stephen Schwartz
Book James Lapine
Basis 1996 Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame and elements of the book by Victor Hugo
Productions 1999 Berlin
2013 The King's Academy[1]
2014 Pre-Broadway tryout at La Jolla Playhouse[2]
2015 Pre-Broadway tryout transfer to Paper Mill Playhouse
2015 Broadway

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a musical based on the 1996 Disney film of the same name, which in turn was inspired by the 1831 Victor Hugo novel of the same name. It has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and book by James Lapine. The musical premiered in 1999 in Berlin, Germany as Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (literally translated in English, The Bellringer of Notre Dame). It was produced by Walt Disney Theatrical, the company's first musical to premiere outside the U.S. It ran for three years, becoming one of Berlin's longest-running musicals. It is a lot closer to the original source material than the film.

"These characters all come together, all with purpose, all trying to do the right thing facing extraordinary obstacles... We don't offer a solution, but we go to this place that you or others may call dark, that I would call life ".

Thomas Schumacher, interview with State of the Arts NJ for the 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse production of Hunchback.[3]

The Hunchback of Notre Dame has received acclaim from many critics due to its impeccable acting, dark mature tone, gothic set design, and sweeping score, among other things. The musical has been positively compared to the 1996 film by many, who refer to the false assumptions that Disney and animation = "for kids", and that entertainment for children has to be devoid of darkness. They argue it is now a show that treats its audience with respect rather than condescendingly pandering to youth with a shallow idealised narrative and tone (e.g. the gargoyles). A sole criticism with the production is the "heavy use of narration", which may come across as "shorthand storytelling".[4]

The first English version of the musical was performed by The King's Academy in 2013 (though other sanitised or abridged versions were also performed earlier). Thomas Schumacher, President of the Disney Theatrical Group noted in 2015 that the English adaption of the musical will embrace the darker elements of the original source material, including its tragic yet beautiful ending. He described it as more akin to the musical Les Miserables (whose book was also written by Victor Hugo), rather than a piece of family entertainment (due to being adapted from an animated film, which is incorrectly thought of as being "for kids").[5] The ending (based on a direct quote from Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame) was proposed by Paper Mill's Hunchback director Scott Schwartz, who turned to the originally source material for inspiration and had a view that nothing should be compromised or censored in the telling of this grand story.


Wie aus stein:
This is Quasimodo's big number which takes place towards the end of Der Glockner, exemplifying the darker more Gothic tone of the musical as opposed to the often light-hearted and goofy film. Called Wie aus stein (Made of Stone in English), the song pits him against the three gargoyles (which are figments of his imagination created due to loneliness rather than real characters). As they try to encourage him to stay strong despite Esmeralda loving Phoebus instead of him, Quasimodo fights back arguing that they don't understand what he is going through because they are merely made of stone. He concludes wishing that he, too, were made of stone so he wouldn't be able to feel the pain anymore.

Originally rehearsed in English, then retaught in German, he musical opened on June 5, 1999, for the opening of the Musical theater Berlin (now Theater am Potsdamer Platz).[6] After a successful run, it closed in June 2002.[7] Directed by Lapine, the German translation was by Michael Kunze, choreography by Lar Lubovitch, set design by Heidi Ettinger, costume design by Sue Blane, lighting by Rick Fisher, sound by Tony Meola and projections by Jerome Sirlin.[8][9][10]

This was Disney's first musical to premiere outside the US,[7] and it became one of Berlin's longest-running musicals to date. As with Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame opened three years after the release of the movie on what it is based.

The musical is a darker, more gothic adaptation of the film. According to translator Michael Kunze, he was " 'campaigning to allow Esmeralda to die at the end, as she does in the book. There was a feeling that the audience would be depressed if Esmeralda dies. I feel that a European audience would see this as a very romantic ending ... two lost souls finally find each other. People will cry, but they'll be moved. And it is a very romantic ending.' "[11] The producers wanted to see how "preview audiences react before making the final decision."[11]

An original cast recording was recorded in German.[12]

English adaptations[edit]

The film has been adapted into various musicals. Before 2013, these were always based on the film rather than the German stage musical. Some examples are the 1996 - 2002 The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical Adventure, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Disney-MGM Studios.

In 2008, lyricist Stephen Schwartz said, "I think we're starting up Hunchback of Notre Dame, hopefully, next year [2009]."[13] In a November 2010 interview, composer Alan Menken confirmed that he was working on an American production: "We're bringing that one back, too! ... we are still using James Lapine's book."[14]

On January 9, 2013, it was announced that the musical will finally be produced for a Broadway performance with a new book by Peter Parnell and new songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who did the songs for the movie and the original musical.[15] Many news sources have noted that they hope the production retains the dark and Gothic qualities of the German stage version, which they feel was censored by Disney studios for the film.[16]

In April 2013, an English adaptation of Der Glöckner von Notre Dame by The King's Academy Fine Arts Department was staged in The King's Academy Sports & Fine Arts Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.[17] According to TKA, "Walt Disney Productions...selected The King’s Academy Theatre to adapt and premier their [1996 film]".[18] The company collaborated with Disney Executive Studios.[19] They explained via YouTube that "We received a license from Disney Productions to premiere the English version of Hunchback. Disney is now workshopping this musical for a possible run on Broadway. Our director, Mr. David Snyder, recently returned from NYC where he helped to cast talent for the new show!"[20] This version does not include all the songs from Der Glöckner von Notre Dame, and excludes the deaths of Esmerelda and Frollo. Nevertheless, it is essentially a translation of that musical as opposed to a new adaption of the film. The entire musical is up on YouTube.

The musical began its North American premiere at La Jolla Playhouse on October 28, 2014 and is scheduled to run through December 7, 2014. The production is directed by Scott Schwartz and the creative team includes Chase Brock as the choreographer, Michael Kosarin as the music supervisor and arranger, Michael Starobin as the orchestrator, Alexander Dodge as the scenic designer, Alejo Vietti as the costume designer, Howell Binkley as the lighting designer, and Gareth Owen as the sound design. The Hunchback of Notre Dame had a workshop in February 2014.[21][22] The La Jolla Playhouse production will then transfer to the Paper Mill Playhouse from March 4 through April 5, 2015.[23][24] Dizney Coast to Coast describes it as a "Victor Hugo adaption with the score of Disney's Hunchback", and "truly a work of art".[25]

Synopsis: Original Berlin production[edit]

Act One[edit]

In 1482 Paris, Clopin, an elderly gypsy beggar narrates the origin of the titular hunchback ("Die Glocken Notre Dames" - "The Bells of Notre Dame"). A group of gypsies sneak illegally into Paris, but are ambushed by the Minister of Justice, Claude Frollo, and his guards. One of the gypsy women attempts to flee with her baby, but Frollo catches her and kills her outside of Notre Dame. He also tries to kill the baby, saying that it is a "child of Satan," but is confronted by the Archdeacon who accuses him of murdering the gypsy woman. Frollo accepts the Archdeacon's offer to raise the child in the cathedral's bell tower, naming him Quasimodo.

Twenty years later, Quasimodo develops into a kind yet isolated young man who dreams of seeing life outside the bell tower, but is told by Frollo that he is a monster and would be rejected by the outside world. A trio of living stone gargoyles: Loni, Antoine, and Charles serve as Quasimodo's only company and friends. The gargoyles encourage Quasimodo to attend the annually-held Festival of Fools. He goes but is stopped by Frollo. The gargoyles urge him to disobey and venture out ("Zuflucht" - "Sanctuary"). After Frollo leaves, Quasimodo decides to go out for just one day ("Draußen" - "Out There").

While the Parisians continue their preparations for the festival, Clopin, King of the Gypsies, prepares his gypsies for the festival at their underground hide-out, the Court of Miracles ("Tanz auf dem Seil" - "Balancing Act"). Their attention is taken by a newcomer, a young gypsy dancer named Esmeralda. Meanwhile, Captain Phoebus arrives in Paris excited about his new promotion as Captain of the Guard ("Ein bisschen Freude" - "Rest and Recreation"). He flirts with a young girl but is suddenly interrupted by a fleeing gypsy accused of theft. The gypsy pleads innocence but Frollo arrives and orders his soldiers to arrest the gypsy. Frollo tells Phoebus that the city has become overrun by gypsies and that he plans to find the Court of Miracles and eliminate them all.

As the Festival begins ("Drunter drüber" - "Topsy Turvy"), Quasimodo, despite Frollo's advisories, attends the festival and he is celebrated for his bizarre appearance, only to be humiliated by the crowd after Frollo's men start a riot. Frollo refuses to help Quasimodo, but Esmerelda, a gypsy, intervenes,frees the hunchback, and uses a magic trick to disappear. Frollo confronts Quasimodo and sends him back to the cathedral.

Phoebus is dissatisfied with Frollo's methods and refuses to arrest her for alleged witchcraft inside Notre Dame and has her confined to the cathedral. Esmeralda, encouraged by the Archdeacon, offers a prayer to God to help her and the outcast ("Hilf den Verstoß'nen" - "God Help the Outcasts"). Meanwhile, Frollo orders Phoebus to post a guard at every door to ensure that Esmeralda does not escape.

Esmeralda befriends and follows Quasimodo to the bell tower and is captivated by the view of the city ("Hoch über der Welt" - "On Top of the World"). Quasimodo helps her escape Notre Dame out of gratitude for defending him. Esmeralda entrusts Quasimodo with a pendant containing a map to the gypsies' hideout, the Court of Miracles. Quasimodo expresses his feelings, as he has been touched by Esmeralda's kindness ("Das Licht des Himmels" - "Heaven’s Light"). Meanwhile, Frollo soon develops lustful feelings for Esmeralda and upon realizing them, he begs the Virgin Mary (referring to her as Maria) to save him from her "spell" to avoid eternal damnation ("Das Feuer der Hölle" - "Hellfire").

After discovering that Esmeralda escaped, Frollo conducts a city-wide manhunt to find Esmeralda. Phoebus, now realizing Frollo's evil reputation, defies him after being ordered to burn down the home of an innocent family and is ordered to be executed, but flees. Frollo and his men begin to search the city ("Esmeralda"). Phoebus is briefly injured and falls into a river, but Esmeralda rescues him.

Act Two[edit]

The soldiers continue searching the city ("Trommeln in der Stadt" - "City Under Siege"). Having rescued Phoebus, Esmeralda tells him to seek refuge at Notre Dame while she returns to the Court of Miracles. Meanwhile, the gargoyles convince Quasimodo that Esmeralda finds him romantically intriguing, and they reassure him about her safety ("Ein Mann wie du" - "A Guy Like You"). The Archdeacon brings Phoebus to the bell tower and Phoebus, knowing Quasimodo to be a friend of Esmeralda's, asks Quasimodo to hide him.

Frollo returns to Notre Dame later that night and realizing that Quasimodo helped Esmeralda escape, bluffs that he knows about the Court of Miracles and that he intends to attack at dawn. After Frollo leaves, Phoebus comes out of hiding and asks Quasimodo to help him find the Court of Miracles and warn Esmeralda. Quasimodo refuses to leave the cathedral again but Phoebus and the gargoyles teach Quasimodo the value of devotion and selflessness ("Weil du liebst" - "Out of Love").

Using Esmeralda's amulet as their guide, Quasimodo and Phoebus find the Court of Miracles to warn the gypsies. Esmeralda and Phoebus decide to leave the city together while Quasimodo, heartbroken, watches Esmeralda leave with the man she truly loves ("Weil du liebst" - "Out of Love" (Reprise)). However, Frollo follows and captures the gypsies present.

Esmeralda refuses Frollo's advances exchange for becoming his mistress. Quasimodo, tied up in the bell tower, refuses to help and tells the gargoyles to leave him ("Wie aus Stein" - "Made of Stone"). As dawn approaches, Esmeralda awaits her execution in the dungeon with Phoebus hoping that one day the world will be a better place ("Einmal" - "Someday").

Frollo prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake, but Quasimodo, chained up inside the Bell Tower, manages to break free and unties her body from the stake, bringing her to the cathedral. Phoebus then frees himself and the gypsies and rallies the citizens of Paris against Frollo and his men, who attempt to break into the cathedral. Quasimodo calls upon the saints and the gargoyles before pouring molten copper onto the streets to ensure no one enters but Frollo successfully breaks in himself.In the cathedral, Esmeralda thanks Quasimodo for being a good friend and dies from smoke inhalation. Frollo finds Quasimodo and pursues him to the balcony where Quasimodo pushes Frollo over the balcony's edge. Encouraged by Antoine, Quasimodo throws Frollo to his death in the molten copper. The gargoyles comfort Quasimodo and tell him the world is full of good as well as evil. The Parisians watch as Quasimodo carries Esmeralda's body through the square with Phoebus by his side. Clopin appears again and asks what makes a monster and what makes a man ("Finale Ultimo" - "Grand Finale").


The musical numbers of the original Berlin production are as follows:[26]

Original USA Production[edit]

Principal roles and original cast[edit]

Character Original Berlin Cast La Jolla Playhouse Cast Papermill Playhouse Cast
Quasimodo Drew Sarich[10] Michael Arden[10]
Esmeralda Judy Weiss[10] Ciara Renee
Phoebus Fredrik Lycke Andrew Samonsky
Clopin Jens Janke Erik Liberman
Frollo Norbert Lamla Patrick Page
Charles Valentin Zahn does not appear
Loni Yvonne Ritz Andersen does not appear
Antoine Tamàs Ferkay does not appear
The Archdeacon Carlo Lauber does not appear
Jehan Frollo does not appear Lucas Coleman Jeremy Stolle
St. Aphrodisius does not appear Neal Mayer
Choir n/a SACRA/PROFANA Continuo Arts

Changes from the 1996 film[edit]

In adapting the film to a stage musical, a number of changes have been made:

For the original Berlin production, the gargoyles' names have been changed from Victor, Hugo and Laverne to Charles, Antoine, and Loni, after actors who have played Quasimodo in the past. The gargoyles' comedy in the musical is greatly toned down; they sing in many more songs, and they are also firmly established as figments of Quasimodo's imagination. Frollo's past is expanded to include the fact that he was a priest, which was featured in the original novel. Esmeralda's death is also retained and Quasimodo kills Frollo by throwing him as opposed to the film version, which Frollo merely loses his balance and falls.

In the North American production, "The Bells of Notre Dame" is rewritten to include Frollo's past as a priest as well as his relationship with Jehan before becoming the cathedral's archdeacon. The gargoyles, Victor, Hugo and Laverne (Known as Charles, Antoine, and Loni in the Berlin production), who are the comic reliefs in the 1996 movie, are cut and replaced by a congregation and some of the original characters from the novel are added, as well as songs such as "The Tavern Song", "Rhythm of the Tambourine," "Flight into Egypt" and "In the Place of Miracles."

Quasimodo speaks with a "strangled slur", rather than his pure voice in the movie. He relies on a form of sign language that he has invented, and while he is unable to articulate, the statues of Notre Dame serve as figments of his imagination which provide insight into the purity of his thoughts and attitudes as a Greek Chorus.[28]

Design features[edit]


The set for the original production utilized many large hydraulically controlled boxes that can be placed at every conceivable height and level, and used highly detailed photographic images. The finale of act one shows Phoebus' plummet from a bridge over the Seine after being shot by an arrow.[26]


The bell effect is produced live in the orchestra pit with both chimes and at times synthesizers and routed through the console, a Cadac J-Type with motorized faders.[29] Tony Meola noted that the Berlin theatre was "really quite good acoustically for a large musical. It's not too reverberant, yet reverberant enough to make the orchestra sound good and you can hear the words of the songs."[29]


The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set in medieval Paris with the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris as a central location. "I try to draw from elements of the period," says Jerome Sirlin, who spent a few days in Paris taking photographs of the Seine and of Notre Dame and the views from the cathedral. "The pictures served as source material," he explains, noting that he used versions of the cathedral's gargoyles and other architectural elements to capture the essence of Notre Dame. "You can create a lot of movement with the projections. The audience believes what you tell them if you do it right."[29]

There are projections used in every scene of the show. "Sometimes they are more for scenery or an effect, a texture or an image," continues Sirlin. "There are a variety of ways of working with the large-format projectors and defining your gobos a little differently." An incredibly beautiful use of the projections is a scene that takes place on a bridge above, and then in, the Seine."[29]


Notably, the piece has a complex melodic structure, relying on a series of musical leitmotifs which are reprised either instrumentally or vocally. Each of the main character has a theme (Out There for Quasimodo, God Help the Outcasts for Esmeralda, Hellfire for Frollo, A Guy Like You for the Gargoyles, and Rest and Recreation for Phoebus). Clopin's The Bells of Notre Dame acts as a narrative devise to tell parts of the story. "Top Of The World" and "Heaven's Light" serve as themes for Quasimodo and Esmeralda, "Out of Love" is a theme for Phoebus and Esmeralda, and the song "Esmeralda" mostly serves as a theme for Frollo and Esmeralda.


German production[edit]

Matt Wolf of Variety said that "The prevailing tone, indeed, is far and away the most somber of the three Disney film-to-stage shows yet." He wrote that "The design is likely to be the show's talking point in any language, coupling as it does the best of British and American talent with a new $100 million dollar-plus playhouse specifically adapted to accommodate the demands of the piece. The aquamarine stage curtain, Gothic tracery already encoded within it, rises to reveal set designer Heidi Ettinger's ever-shifting array of cubes that join with Jerome Sirlin's projections to conjure the medieval world of the Parisian belltower inhabited by Sarich's misshapen orphan Quasimodo, his unyielding master Frollo (Norbert Lamla) and a trio of very chatty gargoyles."[10] One minor criticism of the musical was the costume for Frollo, which was a big departure from what he wore in the film.[citation needed]

English production[edit]

The English version of the musical, the first version stages in 12 years, has received near unanimous critical acclaim. NY Daily News wrote "This stage musical smartly excises comic relief from the film’s giggling gargoyles...The look of the show is also very good. Alexander Dodge’s lavish bell-tower, Alejo Vietti’s gritty period costumes and Howell Binkley’s dynamic lights lend to the atmosphere."[30] The New York Times deemed it a "surprising[ly] self-serious...polished but ponderous musical" with a "simultaneously impressive and oppressive" stage and "rich choral singing". [4] The Hollywood Reporter said "Menken's uncommonly complex, classically-influenced score often soars".[31] NBC New York notes Arden transform[s] into the hunchback before our eyes, much as Bradley Cooper did in “The Elephant Man.”".[32] AM New York called the musical "an unusually dark and chilling piece of musical theater which explores physical deformity, religious extremism, sexual repression and even genocide", adding "it may be in Disney's interest to bring this to Broadway".[33] wrote it had "dazzling scenery and special effects", and that the story connects through Arden's "judicious...mix [of] a frail head voice with a deep, robust tone, timid gestures with displays of might, embodying his character's outward vulnerability and his inner strength".[34] New Jersey Stage wrote "''Hunchback'' deals with the complex shadings and backgrounds that shape who we are and who we should strive to be."[35] Theatre Mania said that Ciara Renée,''God Help the Outcasts'' leaves "a poignant impression", rather than the film version which left a "saccharine aftertaste".[36] Variety noted "Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s strongest numbers explicitly tackle the win themes of social conscience and individual moral responsibility, from the celebration of an out-of-control, witless populace in ''Topsy-Turvy'' to Esmeralda’s prayer ''God Help the Outcasts'', deeming the entire score "serious and effective".[37] Daily Geek said "Overall, this is a risk-taking production that pays off beautifully in the end."[38]


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  2. ^ Into the California Sunlight! Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame Will Have Its U.S. Premiere at La Jolla
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  4. ^ a b Isherwood, Charles (2015-03-18). "Review: ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ at Paper Mill Playhouse". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
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  6. ^ Simonson, Robert and Lefkowitz, David. "Disney's Berlin 'Hunchback'Will Rehearse in New York in Spring 1999", November 10, 1998
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  8. ^ "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," Find Articles at, Variety
  9. ^ "'Der Glöckner von Notre Dame', Production History", accessed January 28, 2011
  10. ^ a b c d e Wolf, Matt. "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (Der Glockner Von Notre Dame)", Variety Magazine, June 21, 1999 - June 27, 1999, Section: Legit Reviews; Abroad; p. 86
  11. ^ a b Geitner, Paul. "Disney's 'Hunchback' Goes to Stage", Associated Press Online, May 26, 1999, Section: Entertainment, television and culture, Dateline: Berlin
  12. ^ "'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' Cast Album", accessed January 28, 2011
  13. ^ Haun, Harry. "Playbill On Opening Night: 'The Little Mermaid' — Starfish Express", January 11, 2008
  14. ^ Cerasaro, Pat. "Alan Menken Interview"., November 15, 2010
  15. ^ "Will Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame Swing to Broadway? | Broadway Buzz". 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  16. ^ "Finale – Music of Der Glöckner von Notre Dame – Part 9 | The Hunchblog of Notre Dame". 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  17. ^ Joy. "The King's Academy presents Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" - Christian Singles of Palm Beach (North Palm Beach, FL)". Meetup. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  18. ^ Chris. "TKA' s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame almost here". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  19. ^ Name * (2012-11-08). "The King’s Academy Theatre Company Set to Premier Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame | The King's Academy". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  20. ^ "Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame Live - Act I: Opening and Bells of Notre Dame". YouTube. 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
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  28. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2015-03-18). "Review: ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ at Paper Mill Playhouse". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  29. ^ a b c d Lampert-Creaux, Ellen."Bells Are Ringing", October 1, 1999
  30. ^ "". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  31. ^ Scheck, Frank. "'The Hunchback of Notre Dame': Theater Review". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  32. ^ ""Hunchback," at Paper Mill, Has Some Kinks to Work Out". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  33. ^ "'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' theater review -- 3.5 stars - am New York". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  34. ^ "Review: 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' premieres at the Paper Mill Playhouse". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
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  36. ^ "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  37. ^ Verini, Bob. "Theater Review: Disney's 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 
  38. ^ Rowell, Dalin. "Theater Thursday: "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" Paper Mill Playhouse Review". Retrieved 2015-04-25. 

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