The Hunchback of Notre Dame (musical)
|The Hunchback of Notre Dame|
Original cast recording, cover art
|Book||James Lapine (Berlin)
Peter Parnell (North America)
|Basis||1996 Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame and elements of the book by Victor Hugo|
2013 The King's Academy
2014 Pre-Broadway tryout at La Jolla Playhouse
2015 Pre-Broadway tryout transfer to Paper Mill Playhouse
2015 Broadway (temporarily on hold while Frozen adaption is being worked on)
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 closer to the source material than the film.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has received acclaim from critics due to its acting, dark mature tone, gothic set design, and sweeping score. The musical has been positively compared to the 1996 film by many, who argue it is a show that treats its audience with respect rather than catering to youth. A criticism of the production is the "heavy use of narration", which may come across as "shorthand storytelling".
The first English version of the musical was performed by The King's Academy in 2013 (though abridged versions were 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 Misérables (whose book was also written by Victor Hugo), rather than a piece of family entertainment.
- 1 Production
- 2 Synopsis: Original Berlin production
- 3 Synopsis: North American Premiere
- 4 Music
- 5 Principal roles and original cast
- 6 Changes from the 1996 film
- 7 Design features
- 8 Reception
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
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). 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 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.' " 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 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 ." 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 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 ran 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 transferred to the Paper Mill Playhouse from March 4 through April 5, 2015. The style of the show is a "Victor Hugo adaption with the score of Disney's Hunchback", and "truly a work of art".
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. After Arden read the book and discovered that Quasimodo is actually deaf from bell-ringing, he incorporated this aspect into his character, including a sign language-based form of communication. As the piece is a musical, he had to compromise by selectively choosing the moments to forgo the ailment in order to sing; this is generally in moments when he is alone as from his perspective he does not see his deformities.
On May 15, 2015, it was announced on BroadwayWorld that the Paper Mill cast would be releasing a cast recording of the show.
Synopsis: Original Berlin production
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.
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").
Synopsis: North American Premiere
The story starts off in Paris, 1482. The audience is introduced to brothers Jehan and Claude Frollo, orphan brothers who were taken in by the priests of Notre Dame. Jehan is mischievous and deviant while Frollo is pious. After Jehan is caught with a gypsy woman in his room, he is kicked out of Notre Dame by Father Dupin. Jehan leaves with the woman, named Florika, and is not heard from again in years. Frollo, meanwhile, becomes the archdeacon of Notre Dame. He then gets a letter from Jehan, pleading to meet him at another location. When Frollo arrives, he finds that Jehan is dying from the pox. Jehan explains that his wife had died 3 months ago from the same ailment and that his child needs to be taken care of. When Frollo sees the deformed child, he tells Jehan that he will get rid of him. Jehan dies and as Frollo is about to kill the child, he feels the glances from Notre Dame’s statues and decides against it, feeling that it is a test from God. He names the child Quasimodo and forbids him from leaving the confines of Notre Dame’s bell tower. (Bells of Notre Dame)
Quasimodo, now grown up, has gone partially deaf from ringing the bells. He speaks to the objects in the cathedral such as the bells, statues, and gargoyles. He daydreams about going to the Feast of Fools. Frollo arrives at the bell tower and asks him who he is speaking to. When Quasimodo answers that he has been speaking to his friends, Frollo reminds him that stone cannot talk. They recite the biblical story of the flight into Egypt and Saint Aphrodisius, whose name Quasimodo has a hard time pronouncing. After that, Frollo complains about how he must attend the Feast of Fools (Sanctuary Part I). Quasimodo offers to accompany him for protection. Frollo rejects the offer and tells him that he must stay confined to his sanctuary, the bell tower, because the people outside will never accept him (Sanctuary Part II). Quasimodo reminisces about his "sanctuary" and how he’d love to spend one day out there. (Out There)
Down below, the Feast of Fools begins (Topsy Turvy Part I.) Meanwhile, Phoebus, the Captain of the Guard, arrives at the city and flirts with some women (Rest and Recreation). Frollo later welcomes Phoebus and tells him that there is no time for "rest and recreation" as they must get rid of the city’s scum. At the Festival of fools, Esmeralda is introduced and dances for the crowd (Rhythm of the Tambourine). After that, they get ready to crown the King of Fools, who ends up being Quasimodo, who was entered to the contest by Esmeralda.(Topsy Turvy Part II) In the middle of the celebration, someone throws something at Quasimodo and mocks him. The entire crowd turns on him, ties him down, and whips him. Phoebus asks for permission to stop the cruelty, but Frollo forbids it as a lesson must be learned. Esmeralda appears at the scene and halts the beating. Quasimodo asks for water, which she gives him and then unties him. The crowd gets angry at Esmeralda for halting their fun, and she escapes in a puff of smoke, which Frollo believes is witchcraft. The crowd attempts to harm Quasimodo again, but Frollo stops them and scolds them for being barbaric and tells them to go home. Frollo asks Quasimodo if he is now aware that he was right about how cruel and wicked the world is. Quasimodo tells him that he will never leave the bell tower again. (Sanctuary Part III)
Esmeralda enters Notre Dame and is in awe of its beauty. Frollo spots her and tells her that her kind isn’t allowed in the church and asks her why she is there. She tells him she is there to try and help Quasimodo. Frollo responds that he’s his responsibility. He tells her she is licentious and accuses her of black magic. Esmeralda asks if he has any charity, to which Frollo responds that he may be able to save her. After Frollo leaves to conduct mass, Esmeralda prays to the Virgin Mary and asks God to help the less fortunate. (God Help the Outcasts) Phoebus finds Esmeralda and they both argue and fight. Phoebus tells her not to cause anymore trouble and that he’s simply following orders. She tells him to please let her go so that she may see Quasimodo. Phoebus tells her not to fight battles that cannot be won, but she says that she can’t help it.
Esmeralda runs up the stairs to the bell tower. Quasimodo frantically tries to hide, encouraged by the bells and gargoyles, but she catches up to him. She tells him not be afraid and that she is very sorry for what happened at the festival, but notices that he has a hard time hearing her. Quasimodo tells her that he is very good at reading lips, so as long as he can see her face, they can communicate. Quasimodo shows Esmeralda the view from the tower, which Esmeralda finds beautiful. The gargoyles and bells encourage Quasimodo to talk to her. (Top of the World) Quasimodo rings the bells and tells them to "sing for her". Frollo runs up to the tower, confused as to why he is ringing them at completely the wrong time. Frollo is startled by Esmeralda’s presence because he thought she had left. He offers her shelter at the cathedral so that he may save her soul. She rejects his offer because she does not like the way he looks at her. Angered, Frollo tells Phoebus to escort her out of the church and that she is to be arrested if she ever sets foot in Notre Dame again. Frollo scolds Quasimodo for thinking that Esmeralda is kind and that he must get rid of impure thoughts. He tells him to never think of her again, as she is dangerous and was sent in from hell to tempt them.
Not able to cease to think of Esmeralda, Frollo starts to roam the streets every night. After walking down an unknown alley, he discovers the gypsies celebrating with wine and dance (The Tavern Song (Thai Mol Piyas)). Phoebus pays them a visit to have a little fun, and discovers that Esmeralda is there. The dancing resumes as Frollo, despite his efforts, is unable to look away.
Up at the tower, some of the objects tell Quasimodo not to think of Esmeralda because Frollo forbade it, while others tell him that no one should be able to dictate his thoughts. Quasimodo thinks about the many times he’s observed couples in love, and how he never thought himself worthy of being loved until now. (Heaven’s Light) Frollo, meanwhile, is also unable to stop thinking about Esmeralda. He resents her for "casting a spell" and awakening impure thoughts within him. He now desperately needs her to be his, or she will otherwise burn. (Hellfire)
At the Bastille, Frollo arrives unexpectedly to ask King Louis XI for special powers to stop a gypsy witch in order to protect the citizens. The King tells him to do whatever he feels is necessary, but to be prudent. Having obtained the necessary permission, Frollo gathers the cathedral guards and Phoebus to hunt down Esmeralda. They look everywhere and offer money in return for her, and they finally end up at a brothel known for hiding gypsies. When they do not yield what he is looking for, Frollo orders Phoebus to burn it down. Phoebus refuses and Frollo orders his arrest. Esmeralda shows up to stop him, and a fight breaks loose. During the commotion, Frollo stabs Phoebus and blames Esmeralda after she picks up the knife. Esmeralda and Phoebus disappear into a puff of smoke with the help of Clopin. Frollo continues the hunt, while Quasimodo grows worried about her whereabouts. (Esmeralda)
Esmeralda shows up at the tower of Notre Dame, and asks Quasimodo to hide Phoebus, who is badly injured. She gives Quasimodo a woven band which doubles as a map to the court of miracles, and she leaves. The gargoyles scold Quasimodo to not help Esmerelda in any other way, and he becomes inspired by the story of Saint Aphrodisius to go out to the world and help her. (Flight into Egypt)
Phoebus awakens and tries to get up, but Quasimodo carries him off to hide him before Frollo can find out. As Frollo arrives, he notices that Quasimodo is acting a bit strange. He tells Quasimodo that, if he were to know where the gypsy was hiding, that he must tell him. For the very first time, Quasimodo lies to him and denies knowing where she is. A guard comes up to the tower to tell Frollo that they know where the gypsy is. Frollo cheerfully tells Quasimodo that they will now be successful in capturing her and leaves.
Phoebus gets up to go help Esmeralda. Quasimodo offers to help which Phoebus scoffs at. Quasimodo reminds him that he can barley walk and that he has her map. Phoebus refuses to believe that the woven band is a map, causing Quasimodo lift him up over tower to give him a good view of the city, which makes Phoebus finally agree with him. After that, they both go into the streets of Paris to try to find Esmeralda’s whereabouts.
When they land at the court of miracles located at the cemetery, they are greeted by its inhabitants who are displeased to see them. Clopin reveals that they will hanged for their intrusion. (Court Of Miracles) Esmeralda arrives in time to stop the hanging and explains that both men are her friends. Phoebus discloses that Frollo will attack at dawn, and the gypsies start to pack up to relocate. When Phoebus asks Esmeralda to go with her, they embrace and acknowledge their love for each other. Quasimodo looks on, heartbroken that his love will never be returned. (Heaven’s Light Reprise/In a Place of Miracles) Frollo interrupts and thanks Quasimodo for helping him find the court of miracles. He arrests Esmeralda, Phoebus, and the rest of the people there. He tells Quasimodo that he is very disappointed in him and orders the guards to take him away and tie him up at the bell tower.
Frollo visits Esmeralda at her prison cell, and tells her that he can save her if she accepts to be with him. When Esmeralda refuses, he threatens Phoebus’ life as well. He tells her that his love for her burns like hot lead and attempts to rape her. (Sanctuary (reprise)) He halts when a guard shows up with Phoebus. Frollo thinks that allowing her to have a final conversation with Phoebus will make her rethink his offer. Esmeralda tells Phoebus that the only way to save both of their lives is to give herself up to Frollo. Phoebus pleads that she does it so that she may save herself, which Esmeralda refuses. They speak about a day when will life will change for the better. (Someday)
At the bell tower, the structures try to encourage Quasimodo to free himself so that he may save Esmeralda. Quasimodo tells them all to go away; that he’d only make things worse. When they tell him that he doesn’t believe that, he angrily informs them that they can know nothing of what he feels; they’re only made of stone. He expresses that he wishes that he were also made of stone, so that he could cease to feel all the pain inside him. (Made of Stone)
Outside of the cathedral, Frollo reads off Esmeralda’s sentence, which includes witchcraft and stabbing a soldier. Frollo gives her one last chance to save herself and tells her to think of his offer. Esmeralda answers with spitting on his face. Angered, he lights the pyre to which Esmeralda is tied to. Quasimodo is finally able to break free and runs down to save Esmeralda and takes her back to the cathedral. Phoebus convinces the people of Paris to fight against the guards, but they are still able to make their way to the cathedral and they try to break into it. Upon seeing this, Quasimodo dumps a cauldron of molten lead onto the guards. Quasimodo goes to Esmeralda and tells her that they have been victorious and that she is safe. Weak from inhaling too much smoke, she feebly thanks him for being such a great friend and dies. Frollo comes in and asks Quasimodo if she is dead, which he confirms. Relieved, he tells Quasimodo that they are finally free of her poison. Angry, Quasimodo hears the voices of the structures encouraging him to kill Frollo. Despite Frollo’s pleas, he throws him off of the cathedral.
In deep grief, Quasimodo realizes that everyone he’s ever loved is now dead. Phoebus arrives and finds out that Esmeralda has perished and tries to carry her away, but is unable to due to his injuries. Quasimodo carries Esmeralda’s body outside and sets her down in front of the crowd. Afraid he will be blamed for her death, he starts to retreat. A girl emerges, and twists her body to show that she is just like him. The rest of the crowd follows suit, accepting him at last. Years later, the bodies of Quasimodo and Esmerelda are discovered under the crypts of Notre Dame. When the two bodies get separated, they crumble into dust. (Finale Ultimo)
The musical numbers of the original Berlin production are as follows:
Original USA Production
Principal roles and original cast
|Character||Original Berlin Cast||La Jolla Playhouse Cast||Papermill Playhouse Cast|
|Quasimodo||Drew Sarich||Michael Arden|
|Esmeralda||Judy Weiss||Ciara Renée|
|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|
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, 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 a 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.
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."
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.
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.
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." 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". The Hollywood Reporter said "Menken's uncommonly complex, classically-influenced score often soars". NBC New York notes Arden transform[s] into the hunchback before our eyes, much as Bradley Cooper did in "The Elephant Man."". 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". NJ.com 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". New Jersey Stage wrote "''Hunchback'' deals with the complex shadings and backgrounds that shape who we are and who we should strive to be." Theatre Mania said that Ciara Renée,''God Help the Outcasts'' leaves "a poignant impression", rather than the film version which left a "saccharine aftertaste". 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". Daily Geek said "Overall, this is a risk-taking production that pays off beautifully in the end."
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- Official Der Glöckner von Notre Dame website (German) (Archive)
- Description of the technical design of the original production