BWW Review: THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is Powerful at The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild
Baldwinsville Theatre Guild, an ambitious community theatre in Central New York, repeatedly tackles some challenging large-scale musicals to show off local talents. Their latest musical production is none other than The Hunchback of Notre Dame, featuring a principal cast of ten, an ensemble of seven, a 22-member choir, and a live orchestra under the meticulous direction of Abel Searor.
The musical - which unfortunately did never make it to Broadway following a world premiere at Papermill Playhouse - is based on the Victor Hugo novel. With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and a book by Peter Parnell the musical is passionate, powerful, and dramatic. While the musical features songs from the Disney film of the same name, theatergoers shouldn't walk in to the performance expecting to see the Disney film on stage. Yes, it features the songs from the film and familiar characters. However, this musical production digs deeper into the characters and the underlying message. Additional songs advance the plot and contribute to further character development.
The production is a real treat to attend at The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild.
First, Josh Taylor's set design works well for the space and allows for easy scene changes. The set makes the audience feel like they are up in the bell tower with Quasimodo (Liam Fitzpatrick) and all of his friends. Other standout technical elements include costumes by Stephanie Long, and lighting by Liam Fitzpatrick.
The live orchestra is right in front of the audience. An equally choir powerful choir, placed on each side of the orchestra, sings passionately as the cast brings the story to life. Unfortunately, the performance I attended was plagued by distracting sound troubles. The sound was muffled, or cut out completely at times during the musical numbers, which took away from some of the performances. Still, the cast delivers the roles with passion and commitment.
Liam Fitzpatrick, who is no stranger to theatergoers in this area, stars as the outcast, Quasimodo. Fitzpatrick seems to have a deep connection to and understanding of this complicated character. His devotion to the role is evident throughout. The role is a vocally demanding one, with some high belting numbers. He gave his all in performing "Out There," and "Heaven's Light," and his rendition of "Made of Stone" was full of passion. Fitzpatrick's voice did crack on quite a few songs especially as he was belting full out, although it seemed like he might have had a cold. His professionalism shined through though.
A confident and enchating Ceara Windhausen charms as the Gypsy girl Esmerelda that befriends Quasimodo. She sang "God Help the Outcasts" beautifully, but unfortunately it was one of the numbers where the sound system wasn't functioning well. Her duet with Fitzpatrick on "Top of the World" is adorable and charming. It showed off their chemistry and was a highlight of the evening. During Act II, she puts her acting skills to the test as she embodies this girl that would rather burn than give herself up to Frollo (Bob Brown).
Speaking of Frollo, Bob Brown steals the show with his deep, powerful, and professional vocals. His vocals are hypnotic throughout, but the number "Hellfire" was a showstopper for me. Brown's vocals were a key to that number's success, along with contributions from the ensemble and choir, and choreography by Stephfond Brunson.
Paul Thompson is confident, comedic, and charming as Captain Phoebus de Martin. His vocals shine in the musical numbers, including alongside Ceara Windhausen in the memorable duet, "Someday."
Other standout performances include Taylor Peck as Florika and Corey Hopkins as Saint Aphrodisius. Josh Taylor entertains as Clopin in the number "Topsy Turvy" and and Kristina Abbot's (Madam) clear and confident vocals make many of her solo moments a highlight.
Baldwinsville Theatre Guild's production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is truly powerful and passionate. It's very well done, especially for a community theatre. The vocals and story take center stage.
Running time: Approximately two and a half hours with one twenty-minute intermission.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame presented by The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild runs through February 10, 2018. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild, click here.