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June 18, 2018
The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Review
All photos by Kinectiv
A theater’s season is often concluded with a very powerful show. After a strong 2017-2018 season, Fulton Theatre needed to pull off quite a heavy hitter. The Hunchback of Notre Dame does not hold back any punches. It is packed with excellence and will leave you feeling elated for days.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is about the life of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame. As the nephew of archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, Quasimodo lives a secluded life in the cathedral bell towers. Dom Claude Frollo teaches him only of the darkness in the world and its people. Despite his environment, Quasimodo views the world below as a wondrous place. With the encouragement of his statue and stained-glass friends, he ventures out during the Feast of Fools to experience the world for himself. His adventures reveal the world’s love, torment, hope, despair, seclusion, and acceptance. In the end, Quasimodo learns what truly makes a man.
The show opens 90 voices strong with The Bells of Notre Dame. Strong emotion is invoked immediately. A full choir on stage is absolutely breathtaking. Words do not give Hunchback’s choral ensemble justice. With such a strong chorus, cast members need to be unyielding—and they are. Everything about Hunchback is powerful.
The introduction of Quasimodo (Nathaniel Hackmann) is absolutely beautiful. Nathaniel shows his transformation into Quasimodo on stage. It is a simple moment that carries the whole weight of the character. It is awe-inspiring. Watching Nathaniel interact as Quasimodo with Dom Claude Frollo and then as his inner self with his statue and stained-glass friends is astounding and heart wrenching. Nathaniel brings such innocence and grace to Quasimodo. Then he sings and is a powerhouse of emotion. It truly is a wonder to behold.
Clopin (Donovan Hoffer) is our storyteller throughout the show. Donovan is bold, nimble, charismatic, and athletic as the leader of the gypsies. Topsy Turvy begins the Festival of Fools. Donovan is lively on stage and fully encompasses the gypsy personality. His charisma entranced me as he narrated the show.
Esmeralda (Kalyn West) is the catalyst to the inner battles of Dom Claude Frollo, Pheobus De Martin, and Quasimodo. Kalyn is seductive, strong, and gentle as Esmeralda. It is no wonder she brings out the true traits of these three men.
Dom Claude Frollo (David Girolmo) is tormented by his faith and lust for Esmeralda. His solution is destruction. David Girolmo is intense. His convictions as his character and as an actor are deep and vivid. Hellfire is a violent performance. David paired with the full chorus is ardent. It is one of my favorite moments of the show.
Pheobus De Martin (Travis Taylor) is conflicted by his duty to serve Dom Claude Frollo and doing the right thing. Travis impressed me the most with his singing. He has a soothing voice while still carrying so much power. His chemistry on stage with Kalyn is sweet and chivalrous.
As the show continues, each character struggles with accepting their true selves. The theme of acceptance is prevalent in God Help the Outcasts, Top of the World, and Heavens Light. All go through pain and anguish but the ones who choose love and good prevail.
Hunchback may not end the way you wish it to. However, Quasimodo is seen for the man he truly is and it is an exquisite scene to behold. Much like the transformation into Quasimodo, the culmination of his trials and his acceptance of himself brought tears to my eyes.
Everyone that played a part in Fulton’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame should feel proud. You truly put together a phenomenal show. I have thought about it every day since I saw it and plan to see it again. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is playing now until July 21. For tickets, please visit www.thefulton.org/box-office/buy-tickets/hunchback-of-notre-dame/ or call the box office at (717) 397-7425.