The Barn Theatre’s run of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is in its second week. It continues through Sunday. Retired WMUK General Manager Gordon Bolar has a review.
There have been many adaptations of Victor Hugo’s novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” including the 1939 Charles Laughton movie and the 1996 Disney animated feature. The most recent stage adaptation of the story, with songs from the Disney film, is currently playing at the Barn Theatre.
If you go
- Where: Barn Theatre on M-96 west of Augusta
- When: Friday June 23rd and Saturday June 24th 8:00p.m. Sunday June 25th 5:00p.m.
- Tickets: Can be purchased at www.barntheatreschool.org or calling 269-731-4121
Although this production has a lot of pluses, some will find it sags at times under the weight of Peter Parnell’s book for the stage.
First, let’s acknowledge what is right about this show. Jonnie Carpathios, in the title role, brings life to the misshapen Quasimodo with movement and song. Although challenges are assigned to this actor, he endows his character with physical and emotional believability in each scene. Despite the contortions demanded by character, costume, and make-up he displays strong vocal support in each song, including an introductory number “Out There”.
Helping to make the hunchback more sympathetic is Samantha Rickard, as Esmeralda, the fiery gypsy dancer who befriends Quasimodo. Rickard and Carpathios win the audience over early as they perform “Top of the World”, a charming duet that goes a long way toward warming up to an otherwise cold Act I storyline.
Rickard also embodies the chief love interest of characters including the evil Archdeacon Frollo, played with economy by Robert Newman and Captain Phoebus, played with flare by Jamey Grisham. Rickard and Grisham’s Act II duet, “Someday” shapes an idyllic vision that will replace the “ugly and cruel” world they inhabit.
Eric Parker, plays Clopin, a Fagan-like figure, who commands the underworld in the shadows of Notre Dame Cathedral and marshals an army of beggars and thieves. He is supported by a lively chorus to create the colorful Feast of Fools with the number “Topsy Turvy”.
The young and talented chorus plays an important role throughout as they bring the alleys of Paris to life and animate speaking gargoyles or stone figures heard only by Quasimodo.
The elements that don’t work so well in this production begin and end with the portrayal of some of the play’s stage action.
Too often the production relies on strobe lights to help stage slow-motion falls from buildings and other chaotic scenes. Frequently violence and fights, are handled in a manner seemingly inconsistent with other conventions and choreographed movement. An example of stage action that does work is the clever meandering search for Esmeralda through Paris streets.
Finally, some passages from Parnell’s clunky book narrate action or movement that could be easily shown rather than described.
This production always does better when its focus is on human scale, questions such as “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” And fortunately that’s most of the time. The production is less effective when it attempts to portray large scale spectacle and stunts. That of course is the province of cinema, animation, literature and perhaps other adaptations of this ageless story.