Thursday, August 31, 2017

review - THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME - Actor's Youth Theatre

Noah Delgado (far left), Colton Stuart (seated center), Bailey Gorman (far right), and Cast
Photo by Shanley Burk
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through September 2nd.

"Victor Hugo's classic 1831 dark, brooding, gothic romantic thriller "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" became a colorful, mostly upbeat Walt Disney animated cartoon in 1996 with a tuneful score from composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. In 2014 the duo joined forces with bookwriter Peter Parnell for a theatrical version of the story, which fortunately jettisoned most of the cutesy, cartoony aspects of the film for a show with a more somber tone that aligns more with Hugo's original work. ...Actor's Youth Theatre presents the Arizona premiere of the musical with a teenage cast for a two-week run which will then be followed by an adult cast production for another two weeks. The teen cast does a fairly good job in portraying the romance, intrigue and melodrama of this well-known story of a deformed man who falls in love with the gypsy girl Esmerelda, though the show itself leaves a little to be desired....the plot follows the deformed Quasimodo who lives in the cathedral's bell tower, held captive by the deacon Dom Claude Frollo. ...He is made fun of ..yet finds himself helped by Esmeralda and the dashing Captain Phoebus. Frollo, like Quasimodo and Phoebus, finds himself drawn to the gypsy girl. When she doesn't return his affections, he is conflicted by his feelings and makes it his mission to destroy her, her fellow gypsies, and anyone who gets in his way. Can the deformed bell ringer save Esmeralda and himself from Frollo's evil plan? The...score very operatic in nature...yet, oddly, the majority of the new stage music is for everyone but Quasimodo. It just seems strange to deprive the title character of at least one additional soaring tune besides the film score's "Out There." ...The book, while completely serious, is still very melodramatic in nature with a bittersweet ending that, while in line with, though not completely consistent with, Hugo's original ending, detracts somewhat from the novel's main theme of the true nature of beauty.
While not everyone in AYT's cast is able to fully deliver the soaring vocals the score requires, and there is a major issue with the audio levels where just about the entire un-mic'd cast clearly needs to project more in order to be heard, the four leads do a decent job in bringing the main characters vibrantly to life. With a continually downturned gaze, Bailey Gorman is good as the lonely and obedient Quasimodo...while Noah Delgado has the right amount of serious gravitas, with a hint of lustiness underneath, for the troubled Frollo. Benny Cowans brings a perfect fiery yet romantic tone, with a beautiful voice, as the feisty Esmeralda, and Colton Stuart is appropriately strong and charming, with a clear singing voice, as the confident Phoebus. ..Director Dane Burk does well balancing the melodrama with the few moments of humor in the piece...Burk's set beautifully designed and executed, making the small space seem much larger than it is. Choreographer Corrinne Mann provides some lively dances...The costumes from Stephanie Wright are filled with rich, earth tones, while Skye Bradsher's lighting washes the stage in blues and reds to evoke the cool nighttime scenes and the hot "hell fire" moments when Frollo is conflicted, though there were several times at the performance I attended when the cast was in the dark...The stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a bit of an oddity when compared to other Disney theatrical adaptations....there are many adult themes and situations that weren't in the film, including a much more downbeat ending, which makes it unlike other Disney films that became Broadway hits ...which followed the same plot, and family friendly tone, as their movie counterparts. That may be why this musical never made it to Broadway after two prominent pre-Broadway productions.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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