Hunchback Sisters of Notre Dame

I’d seen the 1939 film years back, but had yet to see a stage production of Hunchback. Although Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has been re-adapted numerous times for the stage, ballet (and Disney), I’m certain that audiences haven’t seen a production quite like this before.

Ron Pederson
[Ron Pederson]

A production of Alberta’s Catalyst Theatre, now on through March 10 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Hunchback takes a decidedly futuristic approach to the traditional costumes and stage sets of past Hunchback of Notre Dame productions. Jonathon Christenson serves triple duty having written, directed, and composed this version of the classic tale.

The darkly romantic musical set amongst the buttresses and shadows of Notre Dame’s cathedral, Hunchback’s tale of a tormented priest, a beautiful dancer, and a deformed bell ringer is told through brightly coloured arches hinting at the cathedral’s structure, brought together by a talented cast and stage crew.

[Scott Walters and Ava Markus]

The three hour (including one intermission) musical is well developed through song, the narration of Jeremy Baumung‘s Pierre Gringoire, and the unique costumes and props created by Bretta Gerecke, Sheena Haug, Amy Kucharuk, and Daniela Masellis. Alberta’s Citadel Theatre is responsible for that gorgeous set, allowing movement of all characters, short and tall.

Scott Walters and Jeremy Baumung
[Scott Walters and Jeremy Baumung]

Themes of loneliness, unrequited love, and despair trickle through the main three characters, La Esmeralda (Ava Jane Markus), Frollo the Priest (Scott Walters), and Quasimodo (Ron Pederson), the latter brilliantly pulling off both a crippled hunchback and a deaf person. All three leads are fantastic, particularly Scott Walters’ vocal talent. Towards the end of the first act, his hatred and sadness are so strongly felt during one particular number that it brought me to tears. My guest had the same experience to share after Thursday’s opening performance.

If you’re a Blade Runner fan, this production is for you. The overall atmosphere of the musical is futuristic and goth at the same time. The musical numbers do hark back to the 80’s, and rather than a tired Quasimodo appearing with the hunch packing inside his shirt, he’s now sporting an exterior rounded vertebrae, from our vantage point almost resembling a space-age back pack.

Mother and daughter
[Beth Graham and Ava Markus]

Get out and enjoy this production, as it’s a far cry from Disney and worth the admission for both the talented cast and creative team at Catalyst. Hunchback is a co-presentation of The Cultch and the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.

Tickets are available online, by phone (604.873.3311), or in person at the theatre box office (Monday to Friday, 10 am to 5 pm).

Special shows include post-performance talkbacks with the cast (February 27 and March 6), and a Salon Saturday pre-performance talk at 1 pm (March 3).

Photos courtesy of David Cooper.

1 Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.