BWW Review: Dare 2 Defy's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME Soars at the Victoria Theatre
Did you know that you do not have to go to Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland in Ohio to find first rate theatrical talent? Dayton has a large number of amazingly talented people that live right here. You can see many of them this weekend in Dare 2 Defy's production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is based on the novel by Victor Hugo and more recently the 1996 Disney film adaptation of the novel. With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Peter Parnell, music from the movie is revisited along with some new songs added for the musical. This musical, however, sticks more closely to the plotline of the novel than the Disney film is somewhat darker. The primary theme of what makes a man versus what what makes a monster remains. It does not shy away from some of the harder topics from the novel. You definitely get Disney with an edge. I wish that the script would have taken a little more time with some of the characters so that we could get a richer sense of who they all were beyond the surface. There are glimpses of this throughout but a little more time with them would given the drama more impact however, the script serves mostly to tie the songs together which is where the majority of the plot movement takes place.
Thanks to Music Director Lorri Topping, Choir Director David McKibben, Orchestra Conductor Judy Mansky and excellent vocal casting by director Angie Thacker, the music is truly the star of this show. Out of the several productions that I have seen Dare 2 Defy productions perform in the Victoria Theatre, HUNCHBACK out performs musically with the sheer ability to completely fill this awesome theatre space. The harmonies from the choir and the ensemble soar and you can almost feel the theatre hum along. Principals, ensemble, choir and orchestra are all at the top of their game.
In addition, the set designed by Richard Waldeck is minimal but ties into the building's architecture and takes full advantage of the grandeur that the theatre itself offers. Choreography by Joshua Ladner is lovely and takes full advantage of the large stage. He manages a large cast in the dancing numbers without the stage ever feeling crowded, which is no small feat. My favorite was "Topsy-Turvy".
Four performances deserve special recognition: Allie Haines as Esmeralda, Philip Drennan as Phoebus, Brennan Paulin as Frollo and T.C. Schreier as Quasimodo.
Allie Haines has a beautiful, crystal clear voice. Her rendition of "God Help the Outcasts" is one of the finest I have ever heard and I say that knowing that it is one of my very favorite Disney musical songs. Of course, I cried. Another highlight is the heartbreaking "Someday" with Philip Drennan, who makes playing the romantic hero look effortless. You can count on every note that he sings being just as strong, if not better, than the one before.
Brennan Paulin's Frollo was delightfully creepy. His best song was "Hellfire" where he struggles with his own desires as a man as opposed to his desire to be above sin; his desire to destroy Esmeralda if he can't possess her. It is positively chilling. Paulin hits all of the right evil notes in his portrayal.
T.C. Schreier's portrayal of Quasimodo is sublime. Physically, he manages to make his own towering frame look small in comparison to the others on stage. He manages to hit every emotion: love, fear, shame, anger, hatred, wonder, desire and everything in between. His best number is "Made of Stone", the poignant outpouring of all of the emotions that have been bottled up inside Quasimodo for so long. It is the best work that I have seen from Schreier. More tears were shed.
It is a great thing for Dayton that all of this talent resides here. Support our local performers and don't miss your chance to see HUNCHBACK this weekend at the Victoria Theatre. You only have three chances. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Saturday matinee at 2 PM. Tickets range from $22.50 to $54.50 and discounts are available for Seniors, Military and Students.
Tickets are available at www.ticketcenterstage.com or by calling 937-228-3630.
Photo credit: Mackensie King