Dark Disney Opens The Barn Season PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 17:30

When the name of Walt Disney is a part of a musical production’s title, one can understandably assume that this will be a family affair, audience-wise.

That assumption would be questionable when referring to the Disney musical which opened the 71st season of summer stock at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI Tuesday evening.

Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre Augusta MIIt is “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” based on the 1831 novel by French author Victor Hugo and the 1996 film from American animator Walt Disney.

There have been literally countless films, silent and otherwise, plus TV and radio productions and theatrical creations of the story of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and his love for Emeralda, the gypsy dancing girl.

Being in the public domain, the Hugo novel has been twisted and turned without having to stick strictly to its cast and plot. The same is true of the musical, with music by Disney regular Alan Mencken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Peter Farnell.

Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre Augusta MIDo not look here for the young lovers to go off together into the Parisian sunset or the much-maligned bell ringer to find a happy melody.

This “Hunchback” is the consistently darkest of any Disney-named production. All Disney films have at least one deadly dark moment: The wicked queen in “Snow White,” the death of Bambi’s mother, the cruel stepmother in “Cinderella” and a multitude of villains in “Pinocchio,” to name just a few.

Most villains, however, receive their just rewards while the downtrodden hero/heroine rides off with his/her companion of choice.

Do not look for that to happen here. Just note that there is no joy in Mudville for this much-told tale which is unfortunate as, given every aspect of the production, it is one of the best complete packages on The Barn stage in several seasons.

A very solid cast is headed by one of the company’s favorite recurring guest star, Robert Newman, in the definitely dark role of Dom Claude Frollo, a churchman who cannot resist the charms of Esmeralda (Samantha Rickard) and literally abandons everything sacred in his attempt to possess her, including framing her for a criminal offense.

Esmeralda’s kind gestures have earned her the silent love of Quasimodo (Jonnie Carpathios) and the not-so-silent cavalier affection of Captain Phoebus de Martin (Jamey Grisham), an officer in the cathedral guard.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre August MIAdd to this Frollo’s declared hatred for the gypsies, led by Clopin Trouillefou (Eric Parker). He swears to eliminate them all after the Feast of Fools, the one day they are allowed in the city. (That did kind of sound familiar.)

Adding to the downward path is Frollo’s care for Quasimodo who, in this scenario, is his unwanted nephew. Checking back it became apparent that these characters are mixed and matched and dispatched or not depending upon which scenario you read or see or hear.

Never mind. Enough to say that any humor from the Disney film has been eliminated. The Three Stooges-like gargoyles are now as somber as the saints’ statues, all of which talk with Quasimodo.

The score is sung-through, with only a few dialogue segments, allowing all the principals to display excellent voices. Newman especially is a happy surprise. He has a majority of heavy solo assignments and delivers them with just the right touch of tortured soul-searching to almost make his character sympathetic — almost!

The trio of unhappy lovers also do justice to Menken’s music but at least one up-beat tune would have been appreciated.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIParker, the gargoyles, statues and people of Paris are not only characters but deliver the narrative, sometimes in solo and sometimes in ensemble form. For the most part, with the exception of the jumbled finale when I could not figure out what was going on, the story line is clear if not completely familiar

Director Hans Friedrichs does a fine job of steering the many characters through a frequently tortuous plotline.

Conductor Matt Shabala leads an orchestra that is positive and supportive. Scenic designer Samantha Snow delivers a sturdy set that meets major location and physical requirements.

The major plus here is this: If you want to see “Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame” this may be your only opportunity. Just know it is well-done without a traditional happy ending.

”DISNEY’S HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME” plays through June 25 in the theater on M-96 in Augusta, MI For show times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 June 2017 18:01
 

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