BWW Review: THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME at Göteborgsoperan
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (2nd of March 2019)
When a musical is as good as the "Hunchback at Notre Dame" at the Operahouse in Gothenburg it is hard to know where to begin. Anyone I knew who had seen it before has said it is outstanding so my expectations were quite high and everything and more was actually fulfilled.
Already when I entered the theatre and saw the decor, I got the feeling that this will be awesome. Benjamin La Cour's scenography and lighting design and the video design he made with Jakob Bønsdorff Eriksen are one of the most powerful and coolest I have seen in a musical. It really feels like you are inside Notre Dame, in the bell tower and out in the streets of Paris. They have really used the whole scene so you feel completely enclosed by it and in the middle of the action. It is incredibly awesome when you video design takes you from the ground floor till the top of the bell tower. They have created a 3D-feeling as it even feels like the chairs are shaking. And when Quasimodo ring the big bell, a big bell is projected behind him which gives the impression that it´s swinging back and forth across the stage, though it is just a movie, which is enhanced by the smaller bells that swing back and forth on the stage. It is a Disney musical and it feels a bit like the cartoon characters come to life as the colors and the environments give that lovely Disney feeling. The costumes by Anna Juul Holm and Lotte Blichfeldt are stylish and effective from the gray robes worn by the stone statues to the colorful costumes worn by the Gypsies and Esmeralda- The color palette is perfectly balanced not to pale and not to bright. The visual impression is magnificent!
But how impressive and grand the scenery is, it takes good voices to carry the songs and music written by Alan Menken with text by Stephen Schwartz and translated by Fredrik Fischer and Linnea Sjunnesson. All magnificent ensemble numbers require both skilled soloists, ensemble members, dancers, the opera choir and the amazing orchestra to give the powerful impression and here it is perfect. The music is balanced so the orchestra does not overpower the song efforts. All parts complement each other and becomes one perfect unit. The musical artists in the lead roles have amazing vocal skills.
Most people know the story of the Huntchback Quasimodo (Martin Redhe Nord) that is ill-fated with humps and injuries to the face. His uncle Dom Claude Frollo (Joa Helgesson) take care of him when his parents die. He grows up in the bell tower of Notre Dame and ring the bells and he has never left the church. His only friends are the statues in the church tower. Dom Claude is very strict in his upbringing. He strongly dislikes the gypsies / Romans who one day a year are allowed to stay in Paris on the day of the fools. Quasimodo has a dream to see the city and experience the day of the fools. When he is told that it is probably the last year it is held, he sneaks out from Notre Dame and ends up in the middle of the celebration led by the gypsy leader Clopin Trouillefou (Tobias Ahlsell) and is appointed king of the Fools. When the people see his disfigured body, they turn against him. The only one comes to his rescue is the beautiful Esmeralda (Marscha Songcome) whom Claude, to his horror, feels a strong attraction to. Captain Phoebus (Jonas Eskil Brehmer) falls in love with Esmeralda, and the feelings are mutual. A warm friendship arises between Quasimodo and Esmeralda which Claude does not accept. He does everything He can to dispel the gypsis and exploit his power he has as the Church man. It is an exciting drama with many strong feelings with a tragic ending.
Martin Redhe Nord, Joa Helgesson, Marscha Songcome, Tobias Ahlsell and Jonas Eskil Brehmer are absolutely fantastic in their roles and have amazing voices. They bring out so many emotions and highlight the different personas in their characters. Joa Helgesson expresses the emotional battle within Dom Claude. He has so long lived a strict life and believed that he is standing over the human, but when he realizes that he loves Esmeralda, everything is turned upside down. Quasimodo's whole life has been oppressed by Dom Claude but felt he wants and can do more than he is allowed to do. It is interesting to see how Quasimodo's moves from the shy figure without any confidence to become a strong powerful man who fight for what he believes is the right thing. Marscha's Emeralda is a strong woman who walks her own way and radiates lots of energy and emotions. Marscha Songcome was awarded the Broadwayworld award for best actress in a musical in Sweden for this role.
Göteborgsoperan has created a world-class version which is full of impression and a complete musical experience. Every single role is impressive and there is not a single weak part anywhere. The opening was in fall 2018 and will close April the 6th.
I'm looking forward to the next musical at Göteborgsoperan!