Based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame has been transcribed into a musical with a little help from the 1996 Walt Disney production. The play itself has been written by Peter Parnell, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The Manchester Musical Youth group have decided to tackle this classic as their latest production.
It must be said it’s been a good few years since I’ve seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame and this production is certainly a lot darker than I remember the Disney movie. There’s also the addition of new songs.
Even though the play is set in Paris, it almost has a Greek feel to it. The numerous statues and gargoyles almost act as a chorus that is quite typical of many Greek plays such as Suppliant Women. From that point of view, it made sense that this production was played out on a traverse stage with the audience being on either side. However, if I’m being picky, I think a full ‘in the round’ stage format would have been more effective, but I do realise there the company may have been limited by the venue.
For those who may not be familiar with the plot of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, two orphaned brothers; Frollo and Jehan are separated after Jehan is expelled after being caught with a gypsy. On his deathbed, Jehan gives his deformed baby to Frollo to raise, who goes on to become Quasimodo. Frollo has developed a hatred for gypsies after this. I did like that Frollo was given a backstory and it wasn’t just a general hatred to the Roma community – which I don’t think the Disney movie explored. Frollo forces Quasimodo to live in the bell tower to hide and ultimately to control him. As Quasimodo grows, he wonders what it like ‘Out There’. He spots the perfect opportunity on ‘Topsy Turvy Day’ and ends up meeting Esmerelda.
The cast is led by Billy Borrows as Quasimodo and Basit Khan as Frollo. There was a good juxtaposition between the two, Khan having a more mysterious deep voice and Borrows who had a bit more of a bright tone.
It is difficult to single out cast members for their performances as they all did a fantastic job, right down to those with ‘smaller’ parts who were narrating the story. The cast as a whole worked tremendously well together.
The show continues at Z-Arts until Saturday and the last remaining tickets can be found at https://www.z-arts.org/events/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame/
Reviewer: Brian Madden
Reviewed: 13th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★