Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Dom Claude Frollo (Tom Ford), Archdeacon of Notre Dame Cathedral, supervises Quasimodo, providing him with work assignments. Frollo attempts to provide Quasimodo with theological training and assigns him a job ringing the bell in the nave of the church. Unfortunately, the Archdeacon forgets his vow of celibacy and indicates to Esmeralda his sexual interest in her. He sends Quasimodo away from Notre Dame in order to have time alone with Esmerelda. What follows is a violent attempt at rape. Because Esmerelda will not submit to his lust, the Archbishop sentences her to be burned at the stake, and Quasimodo attempts to rescue her.
As Quasimodo, Corey Mach plays a man held down by his physical deformity. However, as he falls in love with Esmeralda, he slowly displays his body and spirit undergoing a change, to a man capable of love. Mach is a handsome man who has matinee idol good looks and a body capable of playing strong, romantic leads. He lets his character modulate from a helpless deformed man to a strong man capable of romance, love and personal, physical battles.
As Esmeralda slowly releases her distance from Quasimodo, she opens herself to the possibility of romance and love with a kind man who is physically imperfect. She is beautiful and has been pursued by many men, yet she is capable of finding love in the arms of this man who loves her. She would kill the archdeacon to protect the man she loves and the love they share.
There is also a cast of 14 playing the congregation. These storytellers play bit parts: gypsies, gargoyles, statues, soldiers, revelers, parishioners, priests, prostitutes, and citizens of Paris. The production is also accompanied by the choir of the Baldwin Wallace University Choral Studies Program.
The score, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, supports the vocals and the story and is performed by a nine-piece orchestra. The instrumentalists are solemn and perform appropriate music for a quiet, serious mood. Consequently, the music establishes the mood for Jaclyn Miller's choreography. Usually a musical has some bright songs and fast paced numbers; this production has quiet music.
Victoria Bussert does a superb job directing the show. The technical aspects are suitable and the cast brings to life on the stage the story of a love destined for failure.
Jeff Herrmann devised a set that represents the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The appropriate church represents the congregation, the city of Paris, and the young lovers. In one of the final scenes, stakes are set on fire to kill certain characters. The flames are not large, but the smoke makes the church seem to be burning. Martha Bromelmeier has designed religious garments for many of the characters. These costumes have few bright spots. Esmerelda wears the brightest costumes on the stage. She and the other women who hang out with Madame, owner of a brothel and safe haven for gypsies, brighten the stage with the sexiest costumes. The lighting design by Mary Jo Dondlinger is subtle, calm and has the quiet look of Notre Dame as I remember it from the last time I was in Paris.
Great Lakes Theater's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a bold, superior production, one of the best productions to face an audience from the Hanna Theatre stage.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame will play in repertory with A Midsummer Night's Dream through November 4, 2017. For ticket information, telephone 330-640-8869 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org.
Music: Alan Menken