by Lorie Lewis Ham
This year The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical became one of my favorite shows! It is dark, moving, and powerful, with amazing music. So when I saw that the Selma Arts Center was putting on a production I knew I was going to be there!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a musical based on the Victor Hugo novel, with songs from the Disney film. The show begins with two brothers-Claude (Terry Lewis) and Jehan Frollo (Benjamin Deghand). They were taken in as children by the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Claude (mostly referred to as just Frollo) has devoted himself to the church, and Jehan has rejected the church, living what his brother considers to be a wild life. Jehan returns one day with a child that he had with a gypsy woman–he is dying and asks Frollo to look after his child. The child is Quasimodo (Thomas Hayes). Because he is deformed, Frollo hides him in the cathedral and never lets him leave–teaching him that the world is evil and that Quasimodo is a monster and the world would reject him. Quasimodo’s only friends are the statues and stone gargoyles that he speaks to as though they were alive.
Each year there is a big festival. Frollo, who is now the cathedral’s archdeacon, sees it only as a night when debauchery and sin run free. Quasimodo longs to go, but Frollo never lets him. Finally, one year Quasimodo sneaks out and meets a beautiful young gypsy girl named Esmeralda (Sabrina Lopez) who changes his life. A couple of other key characters in the story are Captain Phoebus (William Bishop), who has been scarred by war, and the gypsy king Clopin (Aaron Pierce). The plot is a complicated tale of bigotry and hatred, but also of acceptance, love, and a hope for a better world in the future. It is sad, inspiring, and much darker than the Disney movie.
What I love the most about this show is the story, but the songs are also dark and beautiful, and a few are just fun. Some of my favorite songs are “God Help the Outcasts,” sung by Esmeralda and Quasimodo’s songs, “Out There” and “Heaven’s Light.” However, the song that is still running through my head is “The Bells of Notre Dame.”
This is an amazing cast! Terry Lewis, as the pious and heartless Frollo, is eerily and perfectly creepy–a very different sort of role for Terry, though he did play the Devil in Damn Yankees this year. Terry’s songs are haunting and his performance powerful. Thomas as Quasimodo was sweet and innocent, and his singing was beautiful and moving. William Bishop never fails to impress with his incredible voice, and he made a perfect dashing and haunted hero. I have enjoyed seeing Aaron Pierce in some funny and playful roles of late, and he too has a lovely voice. Sabrina Lopez has the perfect look for Esmeralda and did a wonderful job in the role. The entire cast did a splendid job!
Despite a few sound issues, this show was impressive and just plain wonderful! Major kudos once again to directors Dominic Grijalva and Juan Luis Guzman for putting together an amazing show.
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW! The Hunchback of Notre Dame continues at the Selma Arts Center at 1935 High Street, in Selma, CA until December 2. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. More info can be found on their website.
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