The Hunchback of Notre Dame (musical)
|The Hunchback of Notre Dame|
Original cast recording, cover art
|Basis||1996 Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame and elements of the book by Victor Hugo|
2013 The King's Academy
2014 San Diego
2015 Paper Mill Playhouse
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.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has been highly praised due to its darker mature tone and its gothic set design, among other things.
Notably, the piece has a highly 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 Esmerelda, 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 "Esmerelda" mostly serves as a theme for Frollo and Esmerelda.
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).
The musical opened on June 5, 1999, for the opening of the Musical theater Berlin (now Theater am Potsdamer Platz). After a successful run, it closed in June 2002. 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.
This was Disney's first musical to premiere outside the US, 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 it is based on.
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.' " The producers wanted to see how "preview audiences react before making the final decision."
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 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 ." 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."
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. 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.
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. According to TKA, "Walt Disney Productions...selected The King’s Academy Theatre to adapt and premier their [1996 film]". The company collaborated with Disney Executive Studios. 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!" 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. The La Jolla Playhouse production will then transfer to the Paper Mill Playhouse from March 4 through April 5, 2015. 
Synopsis: Original Berlin production
In 1482 Paris, Clopin, an elderly gypsy beggar narrates the origin of the titular hunchback ("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 ("Sanctuary"). After Frollo leaves, Quasimodo decides to go out for just one day ("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 ("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 ("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 ("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 and frees the hunchback 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 ("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 ("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 ("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 ("Hellfire").
After discovering that Esmeralda escaped, Frollo conducts a city-wide manhunt to find Esmeralda. Pheobus, 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.
The soldiers continue searching the city ("City Under Siege"). Having rescued Phoebos, 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 ("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 ("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 ("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 ("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 ("Someday").
Frollo prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake, but Quasimodo, chained up inside the Bell Tower, manages to break free and rescue her in time, 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. When Esmeralda dies after thanking Quasimodo for being a good friend, Frollo pursues him to the balcony where he 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 ("Grand Finale").
The musical numbers of the original Berlin production are as follows:
For the San Diego tryout, "Rhythm of the Tambourine" is added during "Topsy Turvy." "A Guy Like You" is replaced with "Flight Into Egypt," while "The Court of Miracles" and "In a Place of Miracles" are reinstated.
Source: Variety Magazine
- Quasimodo: Drew Sarich
- Esmeralda: Judy Weiss
- Phoebus: Fredrik Lycke
- Clopin: Jens Janke
- Frollo: Norbert Lamla
- Charles: Valentin Zahn
- Loni: Yvonne Ritz Andersen
- Antoine: Tamàs Ferkay
- The Archdeacon: Carlo Lauber
- Quasimodo: Michael Arden
- Esmeralda: Ciara Renee
- Phoebus: Andrew Samonsky
- Clopin: Erik Liberman
- Frollo: Patrick Page
Changes from the 1996 film
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 are also 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."
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.
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. 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."
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."
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."
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." One minor criticism of the musical was the costume for Frollo, which was a big departure from what he wore in the film.
|This section requires expansion. (November 2014)|
The show has received much early praise.
- Hunchback of Notre Dame at The King's Academy
- Into the California Sunlight! Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame Will Have Its U.S. Premiere at La Jolla
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- Disney "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Stage production recording", at the musicalschwartz website
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- Official Der Glöckner von Notre Dame website (Archive)
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- Description of the technical design of the original production