The Hunchback of Notre Dame - The Musical
Victor Hugo’s classic tale of Quasimodo is brought to life in all its musical glory by Trinity Players in a production at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall which successfully transports the audience from the West Midlands to medieval Paris.
Disney’s 1996 film brought the Hunchback’s story to a new generation and was followed in 1999 by the first stage production, featuring the original Disney music alongside nine new songs from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Trinity Players’ latest production is quite a coup for the group and for Sutton Coldfield: they are the first company in the West Midlands to be given the rights to perform ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. Directed by Dan Barnes, an impressive cast and choir rise to the challenge of breathing life into this grand-scale musical.
Mark Crudgington and Dave Crump’s set, complete with giant stained-glass window, bell-tower and split levels, works well to take us into the contrasting worlds of church and city. Vocal performances are strong across the cast but the choral singing of the excellent choir provide some of the most atmospheric moments of the night, almost lifting the roof off the Town Hall.
Despite losing some of the darker aspects of the original novel, this musical version of the story remains an interesting and important exploration of the treatment of outsiders. It combines great family entertainment with important messages about tolerance, acceptance and love.
Steven Blower combines childlike sincerity with vulnerability in the title role of the hunchbacked bell-ringer who longs to be a part of the Paris he looks down on from the cathedral heights. Quasimodo (which we learn in the show means half-formed) is called “monster”, “thing” and “creature” because of his deformity. Blower’s performance of “Out There” in which he yearns to live a full life evokes our sympathy and there is a lovely connection with his only friends – gargoyles and statues played by members of the cast.
Paul Westcott is in fine voice as Archdeacon Frollo, Quasimodo’s adoptive father and master. Draped in a black clerical robe, he cuts a forbidding figure and is an excellent villain: domineering, cold and pious. His performance of “Hellfire”, accompanied by priests and the choir, is a highlight as he battles to reconcile his repressed desires with his faith. His hatred for the Roma community (referred to as ‘Gypsies’ in the show) throws into question who is the ‘monster’ and who is the ‘man’: Frollo or Quasimodo?
Inner and outer beauty unite in Janine Henderson’s moving performance as Esmerelda, the ‘gypsy’ girl who shows compassion to Quasimodo and is the love interest for both Frollo and Captain Phoebus. In a powerful vocal performance across the show, ‘God Help the Outcasts’ stands out as she pleads for acceptance in an intolerant world. Dan Holyhead is honourable and charming as Phoebus and Dan McCloskey is a mischievous Clopin, leading the revelling at the Feast of Fools in style.
The decision to use professionally recorded tracks rather than an orchestra works, allowing the choir to take centre stage and filling the Town Hall with one of the best instruments: the human voice. With a cast of over fifty, this is a large-scale, ambitious community production of a great musical which is not to be missed.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is playing at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall from 6th to 10th June 2023.