BWW Interviews: Patrick Page Talks Paper Mill's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Broadway star Patrick Page, a veteran of eleven Broadway shows including Casa Valentina, Lion King, and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark takes on the role of the evil Frollo in the stage musical adaptation of Disney's animated film THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. The production, which opens at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse on March 4th, also features Michael Arden (The Times They Are A-Changin') as Quasimodo and Ciara Renée (Pippin) as Esmeralda.
Today, Page speaks exclusively to BWW about this new musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic.
Throughout your career you have gravitated towards playing the role of 'The Villain', including Scar in the Lion King, the Green Goblin in Spider Man, and now Frollo in Hunchback. Why does that type of character appeal to you?
Yes, I do enjoy it a lot. You know the antagonist of a play or musical is usually the engine of the plot. The plot really can't happen unless you have a strong villain, and the stronger the villain is, the more interesting the piece is going to be. Especially in a story like Hunchback of Notre Dame, which comes out of romanticism. And the villain tends to be the wittiest character, who will often confide their feelings to the audience. And they also tend to be very complicated people. So yes, I love it.
As a classically trained actor, how do you approach a character like Frollo?
You know Hugo was a great reader of Shakespeare, he loved Shakespeare. And, for example, the character of Frollo, who I play in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is modeled in many ways on a character in Measure for Measure, Angelo, the Deputy of Vienna. They are very similar, both very religious, pious, repressed men who fall in love and then they set out to destroy everything around them because they can't deal with those issues in their own psychology. And of course some of my other roles in the past, for example Scar in The Lion King is modeled largely on Hamlet's Uncle Claudius, the so-called villain of that play, as well as Richard III, the villain of that play. So yes, my classical training is very helpful. Especially with musicals, where there is so much material to cover with dance and song, so the book scenes tend to be shorter. So the more you can give your character an interior life, a backstory, the better. So if you've done a lot of these types of roles, which I've done, Richard III, Claudius, Macbeth and Iago and all those bad men, it's very helpful when you take on this type of character in a musical.
Were you familiar with Disney's 1996 animated film version of Hunchback?
I saw it when it came out and I admired it tremendously, especially the score. And I wished at the time that they would have been able to, and I understand why they couldn't, stick more closely to the novel, which I loved when I read it in high school. And so that is something we are able to do more now that we're bringing it to the stage.
Yes, that is something I was going to ask you, how does the stage adaptation differ from the original film?
It's almost entirely different from the film in the sense that, well obviously it has this tremendous score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, this amazing choral music. But the book is completely different, it's not the same book as the film, although elements of the story of course are the same because the film was adapted from the novel and the musical was adapted from the novel, but in the musical there are just too many things that you couldn't really do in a G-rated movie. That doesn't mean that this is R-rated or that you couldn't bring your family, but it's really not geared towards children, certainly not children under the age of 10 or so.
That being said, do you think some theater goers may be expecting the show to be exactly like the animated film?
Well we really did not see that at all in La Jolla, where the show ran last fall. And if they did come in with an idea about the Disney film, they certainly didn't seem to have any trouble going along with what we were doing. The responses from the La Jolla audiences in fact were quite extraordinary so it seems like whatever changes have been made are changes that audiences are willing to go along with.
Yes, the reviews from La Jolla were outstanding. What do you think it is about this story that is connecting so strongly with audiences?
I think there are so many things about this story that connect on so many levels. Quasimodo is one of the great figures of literature. And we feel for him. This boy, this deformed, deaf, abused boy who is shut away up in the tower of the cathedral. Then through one act of kindness, when he is being tortured by the townspeople, one girl stops them and gives him water and he falls in love with her. And it's such a moving story. And then the fact that the priest, at the same time also falls in love with the girl and then the soldier also falls in love with her and then these three men compete for this one exotic, foreign, remarkable, sexual women who is seemingly absolutely good and pure and worthy of all of their love. And it's just a remarkable story.
Have there been many changes made from the La Jolla production?
Yes, we've been in rehearsal for two weeks now and we've made quite a few changes. We tried to hold on to everything we loved and then we just built on that. And I think they are doing quite an extraordinary job with that in terms of taking what we all thought were the strengths of that production and then just taking it further, clarifying and making it even better.
Can you talk a bit about working with this wonderful creative team?
Oh it's fantastic isn't it? My first musical was Beauty and the Beast and then after that I did Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden which Alan Menken also wrote the music for. So I've had kind of a long experience with him which is just wonderful. And this is my first time working with Stephen Schwartz and my first time working with Scott Schwartz and I worked with Chase Brock, our choreographer on Spider Man Turn Off the Dark. So you know as you get older, you start to be in the room with a lot of people who you've spent a lot of time with, which is wonderful. And our great stage manager, Matthew Shiner was the stage manager when I played Iago in Othello in Washington DC and I think also when I did Macbeth in Washington DC with Kelly McGillis, so it's just all these wonderful connections.
What are you most excited for audiences to see in this new adaptation of the classic novel?
I think the fact that it is so theatrical. What we're putting on the stage exists in the theater and for the theater and for the live audience. And that makes it unique in that way. Because it's using all the techniques of theater and engaging the audience's imagination as it goes along. I think audiences love that. It's similar to my experience working with Julie Taymor, when those giraffes walked on stage at the beginning of The Lion King and we knew perfectly well, we could see the human beings walking the giraffes out there, and we saw the elephant, and we knew perfectly well that there were people walking down the aisle inside that elephant and that's what brought tears to our eyes. You know if Julie had tried to put one over on us and put a big giraffe out there where we couldn't see the human being, we'd spend all our time trying to figure out the trick, but instead we become part of the inner workings of how theater is put together, almost becoming a co-conspirator in the event, and I think that takes you back to your childhood in a way. When I was young, my brother and I would go out in our backyard and I'd tie a blue towel on my back and he'd tie a yellow towel on his back and then for the next eight hours I was Batman and he was Robin. All we needed was a blue towel and a yellow towel and the rest of it was our imaginations. I think that's what good theater does as well.
Well I'm hoping the magic of this production makes it to the Broadway stage in the near future.
Oh yes, I would love that. And I think that this score and this story deserves to be there. But even beyond that, I've seen how it has affected people in La Jolla. We had a very short run there, we were there only five or six weeks and yet there were people coming eight, nine, ten, eleven times and we were sold out every single performance so they would have to wait on these long lines. And I will never forget the way they would leap to their feet at the end of the show and cheer and I could see the tears in their eyes. It was a truly wonderful experience.
About THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Inspired by the classic Victor Hugo novel, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME features music by Alan Menken (Disney's The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Little Shop of Horrors), and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). The production is an intimate retelling of the famous love story, with a lush, emotionally rich score and a production that will leave you inspired. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME will open at the Paper Mill Playhouse on March 4th and run through April 5th. Click here for tickets and additional information
About Patrick Page:Patrick Page has appeared on Broadway as 'George/Valentina' in MTC's Casa Valentina, Osborn/Green Goblin in Spider-Man-Turn Off the Dark, The Grinch in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Scar in The Lion King.
Other Broadway credits include Rufus Buckley in A Time to Kill, De Guiche in Cyrano De Bergerac, King Henry in A Man for All Seasons, Decius Brutus in Julius Caesar, Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, Marley in A Christmas Carol, The Kentucky Cycle.
Off-Broadway credits include Rex, Richard II, The Duchess of Malfi, The Sound of Music (Carnegie Hall).
Photos by Kevin Berne
Lion King Photo courtesy of Patrickpageonline