Interview: Olivia Noel of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME at Columbus Children's Theatre

Working with CCT is “a full circle moment” for actress

By: Apr. 18, 2024
Interview: Olivia Noel of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME at Columbus Children's Theatre
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Interview: Olivia Noel of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME at Columbus Children's Theatre

Even for an actress who often performs in musicals based on Disney films, Olivia Noel believes there’s something special about Columbus Children Theatre’s production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

Noel plays Esmeralda in the musical adaptation of the 1996 Disney film that will run April 26-May 5 at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long Street in downtown Columbus).

Noel previously performed in THE LITTLE MERMAID and MARY POPPINS while at Worthington Christian High School and was Jasmine in ALADDIN with the Westerville Civic Theatre. She enjoys taking on roles that are well known and bringing her own essence to them.

 “I use the original materials as a guideline but not as a copy and paste (performance),” she said. “I feel like the most important thing is finding your connection to the character and how you want her to come across. Really bringing their human experience to life makes all the difference.”

Noel feels a certain affinity with Esmeralda, a talented dancer who befriends Quasimodo, the homely bellringer of the Notre Dame cathedral.

“This feels different. I grew up watching the movie and seeing so much of myself in Esmeralda,” Noel said. “I admired her resilience, gentleness, wit, and her bold spirit.

“The heart and soul of this character encourages an elevated authentic portrayal of her experience and that has changed my heart position. (It’s) less of a character acting position and more of a ‘How can I make sure I’m conveying her story as authentically as possible while also keeping her ‘Disney personality’ in the mix?’”

Taking on THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME has been a major project for director David J. Glover and choreographer Myles Lawson. The show, the season finale of CCT’s 2023-24 season, features a 25-person cast, a 12-person choir, and a 14-person orchestra.

“This production is the area professional premiere of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and we are pulling out all the stops,” said CCT artistic director and HUNCHBACK’s musical director Zac DelMonte. “The show is by far one of the biggest locally produced theatre productions Central Ohio has seen. The show is guaranteed to amaze, and to create lasting memories at the theatre.”

Joining Noel is the talented cast of Hunter Minor (Quasimodo), James Held (Dom Claude Frollo), Jordan Young (Phoebus De Martin), Michael Neary (Clopin Trouillefou), Patrick Schaefer (Jehan Frollo), Brandon Boring (Father Dupin), Cindy Tran Nguyen (Florika), Christian Cooper (Official), Abby Choi (Madame), Lyndsey Adams (Saint Aphrodisius), Tanner Wink (Frederic Charles) and Brian Waligura (King Louis XI).

Noel describes working with CCT as “a full circle moment.” She took acting lessons with the theatre troupe when she was seven years old.

“This is where I fell in love with performing arts,” she said. “It is surreal being back here in this capacity in a role that I have always dreamed of playing.

“The production team and the cast have been amazing to work with. Walking into the rehearsal space is walking into a room where everyone wants you to succeed and give you a safe space to explore and to grow.”

Noel, who was a featured extra in the Lifetime 2023 movie, The Pregnancy Promise, said finding a safe space has been a rarity. When she told classmates, friends, and family she was going to study acting at the prestigious American Music and Drama Academy in New York City, many tried to talk her out of it.

“Many people from my past discouraged me from pursuing musical theatre because of its competitive nature,” Noel said. “They told me I didn’t have ‘it.’ That decision on whether I had ‘it’ was entirely up to me. You just need to take a chance on yourself and see what happens next.”


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