A good author can bring the simplest of things to life in ways we’ve never imagined. In his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, author Victor Hugo describes love in a beautiful and delicious way. He says “Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin.”
It’s a passionate statement. Although dark and moving, love is at the heart of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and this month, Cardinal Music Productions is bringing the Disney classic version to life in its popular musical form starting November 30 in Windsor.
Based on the 1996 Disney film and Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame tells the story of Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre Dame, and his desire to one day become part of the outside world. When he summons the courage to attend the Feast of Fools, he meets Esmeralda, a compassionate gypsy who protects him from an angry mob. But at the same time, Quasimodo’s master, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, and the new captain of the guard, Phoebus de Martin, fall in love with the beautiful girl. Adding to Quasimodo’s struggle is his punishment and derision from Frollo, following years of psychological abuse, and the danger posed by the gypsies, who are willing to kill any outsiders who venture into their secret hideout.
“This show is like a mirror of our society,” says producer and director Joseph Cardinal. “Pretty much everything is in the show is still relevant today; we still have trouble accepting people and things that are different from what we are in our daily life. Then there’s the constant struggle with people learning how to have proper relationships with others. Mankind has spent centuries attempting to master the art and yet we seem to constantly come up short. Will we ever get it right?”
The original musical premiered in Berlin, Germany in 1999 and was performed in German. It was produced by Walt Disney Theatrical and became the company’s first musical to premiere outside the United States. It ran for three years, becoming one of Berlin’s longest-running musicals.
The English-language version came to life in San Diego five years later and eventually closed at another performance in New Jersey in 2015 after it was announced that it would not move to Broadway.
“The show never made Broadway because it was too expensive to stage,” Cardinal explains. “They didn’t feel that they could pay an entire choir and still be profitable. I have seen the show and I also have seen the shortened version that was playing at Disney World. The show is not like the film at all. The film is really dark, but for the live show they changed many things to make it work for the stage and live audiences.”
Fans will also enjoy stunning music from Disney mastermind Alan Menken who scored The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, as well as lyrics from genius Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked, Pippin).
“The score is perfect in every way imaginable,” Cardinal adds. “It is majestic and powerful and yet has the ability to bring you to tears in a heartbeat. The writing is brilliant.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a unique musical that won’t make the rounds in Southwestern Ontario very often, despite being a recognized as a movie and legendary book.
“My company is not afraid to take chances on shows such as this, Heathers or Jekyll and Hyde,” Cardinal says. “They’re great shows that deserve to be seen – if we didn’t do them, they wouldn’t be done. I think that is very special.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame will take place at The Green Room Theatre at E.J. Lajeunesse on Nov. 30, as well as Dec. 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9. Tickets are $25 and available at Cardinal Music on Jefferson Avenue in Windsor.