The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a new musical based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo and the songs from the Disney animated feature film. In this adaptation, the bewitching gypsy, Esmeralda is caught in a torrid quadrangle. Her heartbreaking story is brought to fruition by actor, Cassie Simone. Audiences are captivated by her portrayal of the free-spirited ingenue, who befriends the hunchback in this gripping tale of love, corruption and inequality.
Cassie is also no stranger in portraying other iconic characters on stage. She previously starred as Mimi Marquez in RENT (McCoy Rigby Entertainment) and Princess Jasmine in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular (Disney California Adventure). In addition, she is also an accomplished singer/songwriter and has been featured in several national commercials. I got to chat with Cassie recently about the perils of becoming a gypsy, what her next dream role would be and what it was like to portray a Disney Princess.
Hi Cassie! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. How did you initially get involved with this production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
I auditioned way back in the beginning of the year for Esmeralda in the Sacramento production. It was a great audition, but didn’t end up getting it because they had ended up casting Lesli Margherita. If there’s anyone I don’t mind losing a role to it is her! She’s amazing. But Broadway called her back to Matilda and the team ended up calling me to step in. Everything happens for a reason!
From the looks of your Instagram photo it appears you got bruised up preparing for the role of Esmeralda. What happened?
Those beauties are a product of a lot of hard work rehearsing with my good ole tambourine! I also get thrown about by multiple brutes in the show, like you do as a gypsy.
The character of Esmeralda has some of the most beautiful songs in the show. Which one(s) are your favorite to perform and why?
How can you not be in love with this score? Obviously, Outcasts is a very beautiful song and one I treasure nightly, but the lyrics and melody of Someday are my favorite…especially at that point in the show, when the stakes are very very high.
I had mentioned in my review that you were a triple threat. Has performing on stage always come naturally for you?
Triple threat? Oh man, that feels like a huge victory for me! Thank you! It felt pretty natural at a young age to be on a stage, but it absolutely took a lot of training and hard work. I still have things that I know I need to work on. Dancing does not come as naturally for me, so it took a lot of work with our choreographer Dana Solimando to nail all of the tambourine choreography. She was also really great about making sure that whatever she gave me looked good on me and that they were movements I’d be able to perform comfortably. I’m definitely not the performer that’s going to jump from Hunchback to 42nd Street to A Chorus Line. But that being said, I think it’s really important to know what kind of performer you are and what it is that you bring to the table and to just be really really good at what YOU do. As soon as I stopped trying to be right for everything, things started to fall into place.
You’ve got to play your fair share of amazing characters on stage. What are some of your other dream roles?
I am always a fan of playing a strong character, but I love to show my comedic side as well. I could totally picture myself playing Dawn in Waitress! Huge contrast to my current role. Those that know me well can attest to my lighter and quirkier side. I like to play with roles that may start off a bit unsure of themselves but really rise to the occasion in their arc. It’s fun and challenging to play a role that has more than just one color. People hear “Esmeralda” and most jump to fierce, strong, bold, fiery…and while I incorporate all of those qualities I also try to add a layer of vulnerability and girlish wonder to her that I feel doesn’t always get explored. In Victor Hugo’s novel, she’s only about 16 years old. In the Disney film and other films and productions, she has been portrayed as a more mature woman who has really lived some life. While I am not attempting to play her as a 16 year old, I think it’s important to remember that she is innocent in some ways, and that she acts tough because of the circumstances of her life. She has no choice but to be strong.
Aladdin: The Musical Spectacular in Disney California Adventure had such a big cult following (And still does really). What was that whole experience like?
Life changing. It’s a theatre experience I’ll likely never have again. I literally grew up there. It was a safe place to grow and hone my skills. I would leave for other shows and contracts and I could always come back to my family. Lifelong friends came out of that cast. I will forever be grateful that I was able to be apart of it. The fans were and are incredible. I’m so thankful to have such beautiful memories to carry with me.
And finally what do you hope audiences will take away from this production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
I hope this show affects people in a profound way. Whether an audience member relates because they have been subjected to or borne witness to social injustices, the message of this show runs deep for people of all backgrounds, especially in our current political climate. And who knows how many potential hard of hearing actors will come and be inspired to pursue the arts because of John’s (@thejohnmcginty) performance? It is really inspiring to watch.
Follow Cassie Simone on Instagram: @cassiesimone
Esmeralda photos courtesy of Michael Lamont. Princess Jasmine photo courtesy of Regan Wong.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is playing at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts now thru October 9, 2016. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or Order Online