The other night I went to see Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" done in our little local theater-in-the-round Hale Center Theater. I had seen this show before in a huge state of the art facility and still was disappointed because the show was so dark and depressing. This time, I had hopes that the intensity of the material would not come across so depressing.
In his Director's Notes, the director said that as a child, he had experience with always being the new kid in each new place they moved. He appreciated those few people who understood how important it was to help ease someone new into their society. He also understood about bullying, often being the brunt of it in his young life. He transferred those thoughts into his direction. The result was powerful and beautiful.
The music in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is perfect for actors who really want to sing. It is difficult and at the same time so rewarding to sing. So, as a director, finding the perfect "triple threats" who can pull off the acting, singing, and dancing for this show can be daunting. I was delighted that this show had all of the right ingredients.
The story is a riddle, "What makes a monster and what makes a man?"
The young man who played Quasimodo was unusual in that he had a spiritual purity that carried beyond the stage lights. For a director, that would be the hardest role to cast. It was obvious that this actor actually lived a pure life in his real life. That actor has to play what everybody sees as a "monster" but who really has a pure heart.
The actor who played Frollo, the priest who was the real villain in the story, had a tougher time. He had the good looks, great voice, and probably in his real life is a truthful, upright, honest man. At first he was not so believable in his role as the villain, however over the course of the show, he grew into the part.
I am constantly amazed at how each live theatrical production of a show can be so different. It is all up to the director. Even through the intensity and darkness of this material, a shining, powerful, hopeful ending came through due to the unique vision of its director and also the amazing talents of the cast. Great show!