Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Stadium Theatre’s current musical extravaganza is “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, a new musical which debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in October, 2014. Then in March, 2015 it played at Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey. Both theatres have had shows transferred to Broadway. Unfortunately this musical did not make it and why is a complete mystery to me. This version is based on the Victor Hugo 1831 novel which was transformed by Disney into an animated film in 1996. This version has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Peter Parnell. However this is not the usual happy musical from Disney where everyone lives happily ever after. The songs from the Disney film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” are powerful and potent and the tale dark and Gothic but still it is an entrancing and enticing musical to see and savor. Director Becca Donald and musical director Mark Colozzi pick the best performers for these roles and infuse them with high energy all night long. Mark plays lead keyboards and conducts a fabulous 9 piece orchestra and obtains awesome harmonies from the cast. Choreographer Matt Parello supplies some upbeat dances to lighten up the show in some of the gypsy sequences. Their expertise wins a very well deserved spontaneous standing ovation at the close of the performance.
The storyline is a deformed man, Quasimodo is hidden from the world by his devious caretaker and longingly observes all of Paris from atop a bell tower. However during the Feast of the Fools, he escapes for the day to join the crowd, discovering both the cruelty and compassion of strangers and new friends he must defend from a familiar evil. Becca blocks this huge epic musical splendidly on a fantastic two story cathedral style set by Wayne Boucher. She brings every ounce of pathos pouring out to the very appreciative audience. The multitude of gorgeous costumes are by Eve Lajoie, Gina Giuliano, Linda McDermott, Dean Hernandez and Caroline Tillinghast . Jack Cappadona does a magnificent job as Quasimodo, the poor tormented creature whose only friends are the gargoyles of Notre Dame. He captures the pathos of this character perfectly and acts his heart out in this role. Jack’s voice is so powerful as he renders the hopeful “Out There” where he yearns to be like other people, “Heaven’s Light” and the 11th hour show stopping song “Made of Stone” which is despairing but all are fabulously sung by this young man who should be a professional performer after seeing him in this performance. Hannah Duhamel also shines as Esmeralda, the gypsy who captures Quasimodo’s heart. She is a gorgeous brunette with a beautiful voice which is heard with the chorus in “God Help the Outcasts” and in “Someday”, a duet with Phoebus where people should learn to live with each other peacefully after facing prejudice against the gypsies. Hannah also sings the poignant “Top of the World” song with Jack when he brings her to the bell tower.
Powerful vocalist Cooper Ceruolo plays the Captain of the guard, Phoebus who falls in love with Esmeralda. His voice is heard in “Rest and Recreation” and “The Court of Miracles.” I last reviewed him as Chris in “Miss Saigon” at the Stadium. John McElroy Morgan as Frollo, the pious archdeacon who lusts after Esmeralda and becomes more depraved. He is terrific as this pious but bigoted man whose hate for the gypsies overpowers his religious nature and he also treats his nephew, Quasimodo with disdain due to his father’s assignation with a gypsy girl. When Frollo meets Esmeralda, his dark side comes out. John is onstage almost the whole musical. His powerful voice is heard in “Hellfire” with the choir. He sends chills up your spine with this bloodthirsty song and his malevolent character. The chorus and congregation vocalists are incredible and their voices soar in the group numbers especially in “The Bells of Notre Dame”, the Latin songs, “Justice in Paris” and “While the City Slumbered.” Mark does a magnificent job with the soaring, beautiful harmonies of these numbers. So for a splendid new epic musical, be sure to catch “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at the Stadium Theatre before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (20 to 22 October)
Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, Woonsocket, RI