BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is a Moving Experience
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME at the new Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy is a moving experience that does justice to the meaningful source material and exquisite score.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Peter Parnell) is based on the classic Victor Hugo novel and includes songs from the Disney film. A retelling that is more faithful to the story's mature origins than the animated feature, it still features the deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo; his pious caretaker, Claude Frollo; the captain of the guard, Phoebus; and the kind gypsy girl, Esmeralda, who has entranced all three.
James Bounous (double cast with Bradley Quinn Lever) becomes Quasimodo in his stance, speech patterns, highly trained vocals, and emotive expressions that reflect the character's sensitive soul.
Josh Richardson (single cast) gives Claude Frollo humanity with visible internal conflict that fills out much more than one dimension as his journey unfolds.
Rebecca Boroughs as Esmeralda (double cast with Angela Chatelain Avila) brings a sweetness and beauty to her soaring ballads but is missing earthiness and nuance in her scene work.
Jacob Theo Squire as Clopin (double cast with David Paul Smith) is aptly mysterious with a characterization and vocals that are spot on. Brock Dalgleish as Jehan (double cast with Jeremy David Egan) and Kaitlyn Dahl as Florika (double cast with Haley Wawro), who narrate and personify the gargoyles along with Clopin, infuse substance and significance into every word and note.
An interesting choice has been made to give all narration (divided among the entire ensemble in the script) to just these three characters. It streamlines the action and adds significance when you consider their relationship with the main characters, revealed early on in the show. It really works.
However, it also removes the intended framing device of a church congregation together presenting a morality play ultimately proving more complicated than it seems. This dilutes the theatricality of the piece and means that some elements feel out of place. Some seemingly insignificant changes in how the story is presented also reduce the moral ambiguity and ultimately weaken the audience's potential catharsis.
Still, as a straightforward tale of seeking the beauty within one's soul, this telling is solidly crafted with a trajectory and finale that are evocative and uplifting.
Director/choreographer Dave Tinney and musical director Kelly Dehaan have shepherded the performances to be much more than just the individuals on their own. There is a unity and power that radiates from the large group of actors and singers, skillfully costumed by Peggy Willis, as they navigate through the ever-shifting multi-leveled set.
Scenic designer and technical director Kacey Udy fills the space on, above, and even below the ground with a scale befitting Notre Dame. Although the dearth of stone in the design is keenly felt, the weathered wood, flickering candles, and burnished bells evoke the cathedral's presence. This is along with the wonderfully restrained use of projections with impactful stained glass images and complementary colored lighting from projection and lighting designer Josh Roberts.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME has a book filled with meaning, a score filled with passion, a talented cast, and visuals on an epic scale. It is more than worth making every effort to see.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME plays through March 31, 2018. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.
Photo Credit: L-R James Bounous (Quasimodo), Josh Richardson (Claude Frollo), and Rebecca Burroughs (Esmeralda)