ABOUT THE PLAY
Inspired by Victor Hugo’s gothic novel and songs from the Disney animated feature, this version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was adapted for the stage by the creative team of Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, and Peter Parnell in 2014. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer of the Notre Dame Cathedral, has spent his life locked in a tower by his guardian, archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo. Longing to be with other people, Quasimodo escapes to spend one day ‘out there,’ which leads to his chance encounter with the enchanting gypsy, Esmeralda. Quasimodo isn’t the only one captivated by her free spirit though. The handsome Captain Phoebus and Frollo are equally enthralled. As the three vie for her attention and Frollo attempts to destroy the gypsies, powerful forces propel each of them toward their fate, be it malevolent, graceful, loving, or heroic.
In 1829, when Victor Hugo began writing the novel that inspired the musical, many Gothic buildings in Paris were being demolished and replaced by modern constructions. According to The Vintage News, “Quasimodo is, in fact, a symbol for the forgotten Gothic architecture of Paris, and the book is Hugo’s way of alerting the citizens of the City of Light to preserve the beautiful buildings of the city.” Hugo’s masterpiece achieved its goal and resulted in a movement, which fought to protect Gothic architecture in Paris.
Over the past hundred and eighty-five years, Hugo’s masterpiece has been adapted numerous times. In fact, it’s been made into 13 films (according to director, Brad Carroll, the 1939 Charles Laughton film is a must-see!), 5 movies made for television, 5 non-musical adaptations, 8 musicals, 6 operas, 5 ballets, and a video game. Clearly, this universal story of unrequited love and a yearning for acceptance resonates as powerfully today as it did when Hugo created it.
In an interview with PLAYBILL, composer Alan Menken spoke to the character of Quasimodo, saying, he’s the perfect example “of ugly on the outside and beautiful on the inside. That strikes a chord with everyone.” In the same interview, lyricist Stephen Schwartz agreed. Quasimodo “resonates very much for me. I write a lot of shows with outcasts in the lead.”
What’s more, Schwartz was so determined to connect to Quasimodo’s perspective on the world that he wrote the lyrics to “Out There” in the bell tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral. “I brought my little yellow pad up there with me and scrawled lyrics,” Schwartz recalls. “It was very helpful just for getting a feeling of what it must have been like for the character of Quasimodo to have lived his entire life up there.” “This story has been told countless times. People keep trying to do it in various forms – a film, a television movie, a musical, an opera,” Schwartz explains. “The story, as they say, has legs.” Theatrical producer and current president of Disney Theatrical Group, Thomas Schumacher, takes it a step further when he says, “These characters all come together, all with purpose, all trying to do the right thing while facing extraordinary obstacles. We don’t offer a solution, but we go to this place that you or others may call dark, that I would call life.”
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Directed by PCPA veteran, Brad Carroll, this adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame uses the age-old convention of “Story Theatre,” a theatrical device in which an ensemble of storytellers not only narrate the story but also take on various roles. “I find this style of theatre particularly captivating,” Carroll explains, “Because it asks the actors and the audience alike to journey together into a realm of shared imagination.” In telling this epic story of “love rendered impossible,” the musical features theatrical elements of melodrama, medieval pageantry, religious ceremony, musical theatre, opera, and of course, Disney. For Carroll, the larger-than-life yet completely human characters that populate this story each represent a conflict of opposites. “Frollo and Esmeralda are both, at once, fire AND ice; Quasimodo is inner beauty but external ‘damage,’ Phoebus is external beauty but inner ‘damage.’ These opposing factors, so human and so real, are the forces that drive the action of the play,” Carroll says. “The compelling question posed by this musical – ‘What makes a monster and what makes a man? – is a question that seems to be both as old as time and as current as today’s headlines. And then there is the larger question, are we either one or the other? Or, does the potential exist in all of us for both?”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alan Menken (Composer) has composed some of the most beloved songs and musical scores of our time, winning eight Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, 11 Grammy Awards, one Tony Award, one Drama Desk Award and two Outer Critics Awards in the process. Born to a young aspiring actress/playwright and boogie-woogie piano-playing dentist, Menken attended New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he graduated with a degree in Musicology. He then joined BMI Musical Theater Workshop, taught by eminent conductor and composer, Lehman Engel, and the rest is musical history. While best known for his Disney film scores for animated masterpieces like Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, Menken also composed the scores for Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies, Hercules, Enchanted, Sister Act, and Tangled, among others. Menken doesn’t seem to be slowing down any with recent projects including the various television series like Tangled: The Series, Once Upon a Time, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Return, in addition to composing for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Stephen Schwartz (Librettist/Lyricist) wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway hit, Wicked. Schwartz has his own collection of awards, including three Academy Awards and four Grammy Awards and has contributed music to and/or lyrics to beloved musicals like Godspell, Pippin, and Children of Eden, among others. Local audiences may remember Schwartz as composer and lyricist for the American Premiere of the Hans Christian Anderson musical, My Fairytale, produced by PCPA in Solvang in 2011. This is not the first collaboration between Menken and Schwartz. In fact, the pair earned Oscars and Grammys for their work on Disney’s Pocahontas and Enchanted. Schwartz also provided songs for DreamWorks’ first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt, earning him another Academy Award for the song “When You Believe.” Schwartz has been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Peter Parnell (Book) is a Broadway and off-Broadway playwright, television writer and children’s book author. Born in New York City in 1953, Parnell received his B.A. from Dartmouth College and was the recipient of the Reynolds Travelling Fellowship in Playwriting upon graduation. His plays have been produced at the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons in New York City, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and the Seattle Repertory Company, among others. Parnell was writer and producer for the popular television shows The West Wing, Six Degrees and Brain Dead. His 1998 stage adaptation of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre was awarded the BackStage Garland Award for Production and the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Best Play.
Victor Hugo (Author) is a celebrated French Romantic author best known for his poetry and his novels, including Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris. Born in France in 1802, Hugo studied law but he never committed himself to legal practice. Instead, he followed his mother’s advice and embarked on a career in literature. Hugo was a passionate artist and activist. In 1830, Hugo went so far as to assemble a “Romantic Army” to ensure that his play, Hernani, was not shut down by French censors. The Battle of Hernani was a triumph for the romantics leading Hugo to become one of the most important French Romantic poets, novelists, and dramatists of his time. Hugo died in Paris in 1885 and remains one of the giants of French literature.