I have a hard time deciding what is my actual favorite musical. I have a top five:
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- American Idiot
- Avenue Q
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Some of it may be determined by when I last saw or listened to something, but usually, Hunchback is at the top of that list. And after this last weekend’s performance, it is cemented in that place.
Hunchback has always been special and my favorite Disney animated movie. The stage production is even darker and really expands on quite a bit. I was able to see it performed here by a community theater group, and while it was good, the professional touring company blew me away.
Hunchback is one of those shows that really does benefit from having a bigger budget for sets and lighting. The way this product has moving pieces, from the opening number when my jaw dropped as the curtains did, revealing what Quasimodo and the gargoyles and statues would be climbing on, to the spinning stage that let Quasi transform from actor into himself, I could not believe how amazing the set itself looked.
Divine is the only thing I can think of to describe the lighting. When the rose window was revealed on the back way behind the choir, the light from it seemed to change with the setting sun and the arches of the theater itself lit up in reflected light, and it was nothing short of dazzling.
The actors were amazing (I didn’t care for this Esmeralda, mainly she kept changing the rhythm of the songs, but she could dance like no other) and the choir was massive.
Hunchback is unique in that is not only has a (seated) choir on stage, but that they sing the entr’acte, albeit in Latin. The show also leans into the fact that it is a morality play, and we first see the actor playing Quasimodo as himself, before he puts on his costume on stage, transforming before our eyes into the stooped character, before changing back at the end of the show.
It’s a rare show to be produced, but if you ever get the chance, go see it. The cast album is amazing (staring Michael Arden as Quasimodo) and many times when I listen to it, and each time I’ve seen it performed, I cry during the finale.
Of course, there is also a blanket recommendation to go to live theater, it’s a wonderful, immersive experience and a wonderful way to give back to the community through the many outreach programs theaters do. The Fulton Theater in Lancaster was really a hidden gem and I’m so glad I got to go there!
I’ll leave you with a few lines from the Finale:
The world is cruel
The world is ugly
But there are times
And there are people
When the world is not
And at its cruelest
It’s still the only world we’ve got
Life will be kinder
Love will be blinder