Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical” presented by Bobdirex (4 stars)

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“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” presented by Bobdirex

Bobdirex, the vehicle for Bob Harbin, producer and director, has taken on the ambitious project of The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical, a haunting success.

Thank the gods that Victor Hugo won’t have to roll in his grave quite as much, given the saccharine Disnification of the 1996 animated movie. Instead, I was pleased to find that not only is much of the music that made the original soundtrack, one of the most under-appreciated Disney works, included in the stage musical, but also the dark aspects that are only hinted at in the animated version (for obvious reasons) are further addressed on stage.

AND NO GOAT.

I’m assuming that most people know the basic plot of the story, so I’m going to skip it and move right into the show’s presentation.

In addition to the traditional commentary, expertly delivered by Keith Potts as Clopin, the king of the Gypsies (who also has a strong singing voice), the performance also includes spoken choral narration—always an engrossing element in productions. And speaking of all things choral, the large choir gives the production the necessary weight for many of the numbers (even if they sometimes overpower the principle singers), and their Entr’acte is absolutely beautiful.

Jacob Butler makes an excellent Quasimodo, conveying the tentativeness and insecurity that this man has been smothered by all his life. A couple times, he struggles with a high note, but his rendition out “Out There” is still arresting with all the emotions behind this song.

Shelbi Armstrong as Esmeralda is a knockout. Not only does the girl know how to shimmy, but her powerful and lovely singing voice is on excellent exhibit, most notably in “Someday,” a duet with the also talented Logan Moore as Phoebus, and “God Help the Outcasts.” She can also cop an attitude and then become a caring friend whenever the need arises.

Bill Book as Dom Claude Frollo is good in his authoritative position, though I found him a too unaggressive in his exploitation of Quasimodo and his carnal attraction to Esmeralda. I was hoping for more of a villain. (You can check out the Disney version of “Hellfire” here.)

The riot of colors used in costuming (Peachy Keen Costuming) and smoky effects are set well against the black stage, which is only adorned with a large rose window and minimal props. The Gargoyles (Curtis Peters, Matt Rohrer, and April Armstrong-Thomas) are amusing, but their costumes, while elaborate, are a little off-putting, as their googly-eyes and the breastplate on Armstrong-Thomas are a little strange. The lighting (Matthew Ford Cunningham) set a particularly ominous mood.

Nitpicking aside, I still find the production more than worthy of accolades.

  • Continues through July 7-9
  • $25 with discounts available for seniors and students
  • Marian University Theatre, 3200 Cold Spring Road
  • 317-280-0805, bobdirex.com
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freelance editor and writer

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