You’ve never seen anything like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” now at Music Circus.
This is only the third production of the musical in the United States, and Music Circus is one of only three companies licensed by Disney Theatricals to perform it this season.
The Music Circus production also is the first in which the title character, Quasimodo, is performed by a deaf actor, John McGinty (who is excellent, by the way).
This production is a big deal.
A musical drama rather than a comedy, the play is dark and dense — more like the novel by Victor Hugo than the Disney animated film, with which it does share some songs. Its themes include religious hypocrisy, temptation, vengeance, love, compassion and how society treats minorities and people with disabilities.
The score is the first collaboration between Alan Menken (Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”) and Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked”), some of which may remind you of the music of “Les Miserables” or “Evita!” — can you hear “Don’t cry for me, Esmeralda”? Don’t expect to go home singing any of these tunes. Mostly the score is grand in style and presentation. In addition to the requisite ballads and expository songs, the music often is sweeping, majestic and worthy of its grand setting., It even includes a 19-person choir of local singers, directed by Sacramento State’s director of opera theater, Omari Tau. They perform a beautiful and very difficult choral composition expertly.
As an infant, Quasimodo becomes the charge of Notre Dame’s Archbishop Claude Frollo (Mark Jacoby, who brings to the role fierceness and conviction) after the death of Frollo’s brother. Frollo’s beneficence comes with a determined rigidity. He calls it giving his charge “Sanctuary.” Quasimodo is raised in the church and given the chore of ringing the bells of the cathedral at specified times. He is presumed to have been made deaf by the loud sounds. Frollo segregates Quasimodo from the outside world until one day during the Feast of Fools when Quasimodo escapes into the street, mingling among the many Gypsies who have overrun the city for this one day. Quasimodo is derided and made fun of by many of the revelers, but he becomes infatuated by the sensual Esmeralda (Lesli Margherita), who shows him some kindness. The Gypsy woman also seduces, in one fashion or another, Frollo and chief of the cathedral guard Phoebus (striking Eric Kunze).
Also featured in the cast are Andrew Foote as Clopin, the leader of the Gypsies, and Jim Hogan, as the voice of Quasimodo, both excellent. A large ensemble of very talented singers, dancers and actors completes the cast.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which closes the 66th season of Music Circus, continues through Sunday, with performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (final performance). Tickets range from $45 to $88 and are available by phone at (916) 557-1999, online at sacramentomusiccircus.com or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office at 1419 H Street, which also is the location of the Music Circus.
Courtesy of California Music Circus