Jareth Gaddis in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Photo courtesy Mind’s Eye Theatre.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by Peter Parnell
Directed by Janet Morris
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
As you step into The Mex Theater before The Hunchback of Notre Dame, hymns and church songs fill the air. An impressive, monumental set fills the entire space accented by stained glass and bells at every angle. Below this set rests a chamber choir and music pit kept in the shadows, just out of view from the action. Mind’s Eye Theater’s Hunchback is a thoughtful and moving production that teaches tolerance in the face of cruelty. And let’s be honest, this is something we all need right now.
To begin with, the vocal performances are absolutely gorgeous. As a whole, this cast dominates Stephen Schwartz’s spiritual ballads and show tunes with harmony and ease. The opening number, “The Bells of Notre Dame”, sets a high bar and the cast persistently reaches the high notes and blends their voices beautifully throughout the rest of the show. Songs like “Topsy-Turvy”, “The Court of Miracles”, and “The Tavern Song” allow this company of singers to flex other octaves and have a little fun while they’re at it. Truly, the five lead actors, supporting players, and background choir each contributes such vocal strength to an emotionally stirring score that the musical performances are truly striking.
As Quasimodo, Jareth Gaddis brings dual physicality to his hunchback. With a limp, a slurred speech, and jarred posture, Gaddis commit to a physical characterization that is apparent to the outside world yet disappears once he’s alone. Gaddis’ moments of solitude are rich with longing and desire for acceptance with heartbreakingly moving performances of “Out There” and “Heavens Light.” Quasimodo finds himself trapped in his tower by his would-be caretaker and man of faith, Dom Claude Frollo. Jason Potts’ Frollo is a moral villain who sees himself as protective guardian to Quasimodo and the inhabitants of Notre Dame. Potts gives a stern and unyielding performance that gains momentum with a mighty blow right before intermission during “Hellfire.”
Tymika Prince is a fierce beauty as the gypsy, Esmerelda. A rebellious outcast who accepts Quasimodo’s otherness, Prince shines during “God Help the Outcast” and “Top of the World.” Prince’s performance is steered by love and tolerance right until her tragic end. As the army captain in love with Esmerelda, Phoebus, Jeremy O’Brien, is a scrupulous hero. O’Brien and Prince share a tender moment of harmony during “Someday,” in the second act.
This production relies on a company of storytellers led by Clopin, the lead gypsy player portrayed energetically by the charismatic Phillip Rivera. This concept of shape-shifting gypsies is perfectly executed by Mind’s Eye Theater Company and allows actors to serve as narrators, kings, madams, saints, townsfolk, and even statues within Notre Dame. Gone are the three obnoxious gargoyles from the cartoon adaptation. Cast members don gray drapery with simple poses and still stances and serve a chorus of encouragement and company in times of loneliness for the secluded Quasimodo.
With The Hunchback of Notre Dame Mind’s Eye Theater Company has crafted a family-friendly morality tale about loving and accepting one another. With such chaos and disorder in our world, this production reminds us that we are all the same and we deserve kindness and compassion no matter what.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
December 8, 9, 12, 15, & 16 @ 7:30
December 10 & 17 @ 2:00.
Mind’s Eye Theater Company
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!