Review by Olivia Ruggiero.
Wow. Simply wow.
Walking into the Edinburgh Academy’s Magnusson Theatre, I am not quite sure what to expect from an amateur production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame – a musical masterpiece and mammoth score to tackle for any production company. But Captivate Theatre pull this show off in the most phenomenal way – it’s astounding, astonishing and breath-takingly good.
Let’s start by recognising what must be the HARDEST working chorus in musical theatre, anywhere in the world right now – these talented group of vocalists sing non-stop with some incredibly complex harmonies and musical passages to navigate. They do not miss a beat though and sing with great fanfare, creating a ring around the theatre second to none. All of them have solo lines are certain points and every single one of them have brilliant voices – there’s not a weak link in the ensemble.
Lewis Kerr as Quasimodo proves that he is a star in this role. His voice is warm and glorious, he displays such a wide range – technically he is brilliant, and he brings such emotion to the role – it’s impossible to fault him. His physicalization of the hunchback is outstanding and shows he is not only an exceptional vocalist but an exceptional actor as well. He is well matched by Aidan McGrath as Claude Frollo. McGrath’s bass notes are like velvet, and it’s hard not to sympathise with a villain that sounds so luscious when he sings. He holds himself with incredible decorum on stage and his descent into madness, as his lust for Esmerelda grows, is brilliantly portrayed. Hudson Harden Scheel is a captivating and engaging Clopin – from the moment the show opens – it’s hard to take your eyes of Scheel – his charisma and stage presence is awesome.
The set is simple – chairs, scaffolding, some wooden crates – but it all works so well and allows the cast to shine. The lighting is complex but well thought out – it adds to the narrative of the story and does not detract from the hard work that the actors are doing.
It is awesome to hear such well-rehearsed live band behind the strong cast. This orchestra is so neat and practiced – the musical direction of this show is fantastic – it really allows the compositional work of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz to shine.
This production of Notre Dame is a little more traditional and adheres more towards the original novel penned by Victor Hugo, rather than the “Disney” adaption of the 1990’s. I feel, however, that this version is perhaps more aimed at older audiences rather than children, as it does deal with more mature themes. The gothic, church-like choral music that underscores most of the show adds to this. There is a depth and complexity to this show that makes the moral stand out even more. I left the theatre wanting to go back for a second time, just to really take in all that was happening on the stage.
Captivate Theatre have done a phenomenal job at mounting this production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame – I only wish I could see it again!