REVIEW: ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ All-New Production with Familiar Elements from Disney’s 1996 Classic

Walt Disney Studios first released their animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame nearly 23 years ago. The film adaptation retells the story of Quasimodo, the deformed bellringer of Notre Dame and his struggle to fit within society. Along the way, he finds support from unlikely friends, three stone gargoyles and with their guidance becomes the celebrated hero of the story.

The stage adaptation however, rings truer to Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel and digs deeper into mature themes like damnation, transgression, sexual repression and genocide. Besides the darker subject matter, the musical also focuses on a love quadrangle between central characters Esmeralda, Phoebus, Frollo and Quasimodo.

Walt Disney Theatricals first produced Der Glöckner von Notre Dame in 1999, where it became one of Germany’s most successful musicals. The production made its U.S. debut at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2014, followed by a limited run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. It was later announced the show would not transfer to Broadway.

Following the success of regional productions in both Sacramento and Los Angeles, the musical is now making it’s Ventura county premiere at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. 5-Star Theatricals The Hunchback of Notre Dame stars Will North Cleckler (Quasimodo), Cassandra Marie Murphy (Esmeralda), Greg North (Frollo), Adam Hollick (Phoebus) and Justin Michael Wilcox (Clopin).


Will North as Quasimodo and Cassandra Marie Murphy as Esmeralda

Director, Misti Wills has done something unique. She brings a family friendly component to this all-new production by adding familiar elements from Disney’s 1996 classic. Most notable were the colorful costumes by Beth Glasner and Quasimodo’s prosthetics by Trina White. Previous stagings had the actor use only their face to create the facial deformity. There were also a few surprises including the use of fire in several scenes but most prominent in Frollo’s tumultuous solo “Hellfire.”

The two standout performers were Cassandra Marie Murphy as Esmeralda and Justin Michael Wilcox as Clopin. In Notre Dame, Esmeralda captivates an archdeacon, guard captain and bellringer. In real life, Murphy spellbinds the entire audience with her heartfelt rendition of “God Help the Outcasts” and soars high with my personal favorite “Top of the World.” Wilcox, also embodied the essence of his vagrant character perfectly creating one of the best incarnations of the gypsy king we’ve seen to date.

Choreographer Michelle Elkin does an outstanding job with her lively, alluring and over-the-top dance routines. From “Topsy Turvy” to “Rhythm of the Tambourine” each rousing number was a pleasing spectacle of sight and sound.

Speaking of sound, let’s not forget the breathtaking music and score. The collection of songs written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz are some of the best. Each serve as a memoir from the characters past, present or future. Again, you do not want to miss Murphy and Wilcox in one of Disney’s finest musicals.

5-Star Theatricals The Hunchback of Notre Dame is now playing through April 29, 2018. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (805) 449-2787 or Order Online

Photos courtesy of Ed Krieger

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