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REVIEW: Hunchback of Notre Dame

By Adam F. Cohen

originally published: 03/17/2015

(MILLBURN, NJ) -- Papermill Playhouse launched their newest musical "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" Sunday, March 15th.  The production is backed by Broadway legends Alan Menkin (Music) and Stephen Schwartz (Lyrics).  The two teamed previously on the Disney animated movie of "Hunchback" and "Pochohantas." Yet this is the first on stage collaboration between the two.  And they offer a lush, emotionally rich score and searing songs which veer from liturgical, ballads, to dramatic.   

Alexander Dodge foreboding set places us squarely in the cathedral.  Framed on both sides of the stage, we see scaffolding, above are the famed bells, behind the famed stained glass windows.  A chessboard floor hints at the characters strategic survival moves.  On the scaffolding is the impressive Continuo Arts Symphonic Chorus whose 32 voices rouse the audience with a master class of oratorio in Latin and successfully - if a bit over-used - they sets the proceedings, comments, and cement the atmosphere.  Visually, the show is stunning, and Howell Binkley's lights against Dodge's set works powerfully and reflect the gothic mode of Victor Hugo's original novel.

Director Scott Schwartz's de-emphasizes the special effects and focuses on the performers. There are puffs of smoke and trap door exits but the most powerful theatrical moment is Quasimodo becoming a Hunchback by donning his hump and scars. Arden's physicality and delicateness marks a delightful turn as the lead. While thespians change roles before our eyes and narrate the action in third-person direct address, forming a Greek chorus that largely only Quasimodo and the audience can hear.

 

REVIEW: Hunchback of Notre Dame



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There's little in the way of Peter Parnell's book, save for some exposition, he leaves the heavy lifting to the songs.  And there are some beautifully sung moments - though not enough for Arden who shines in "Top of the World" and leads with detailed, nuanced delivery, and outstanding vocal in "Made of Stone" While Page brings down the house with his wickedness-justifying anthem "Hellfire."

Minister Claude Frollo (Patrick Page - icy perfection) watches his beloved brother dies and is left with a baby who he raises in the bell tower of the cathedral.  The baby grows up to be the famed Hunchback (Michael Arden).  Frollo is on a mission to cleanse Paris of lechery and foreigners - especially the gypsies who may have seduced his brother.  Quasimodo develops into a kind, yet isolated young man who yearns for a life outside the bell tower, but accepts Frollo's perception that he is a "half-formed" monster who would be rejected by the outside world.  Esmeralda (Ciara Renée), the gypsy enchantress, emerges as the center of a love square which includes Quasimodo, Frollo, and the noble Captain Phoebus de Martin (Andrew Samonsky).  

There's not much in the way of chemistry or for Samonsky and Renee to do.  She dances well in "Rhythm of the Tambourine." Samonsky gets a few one liners but these characters are as static as the sculptures that adorn the cathedral. 

"Hunchback" deals with the complex shadings and backgrounds that shape who we are and who we should strive to be.  Quasimodo learns to embrace himself and grow into himself as a man, as he stands up to Frollo. And although Quasimodo may not be able to share his life with someone, as he deserves, the show ends with a hope that maybe the world will be better "one day, someday soon."

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame runs now through April 5 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ.  For more information visit papermill.org

 

REVIEW: Hunchback of Notre Dame




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Centenary Stage Presents "Apples In Winter" - a National New Play Rolling World Premiere
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Centenary Stage Company’s 2018 – 19 theatrical season continues with the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of Jennifer Fawcett’s award winning Apples in Winter. Limited performances will run November 8 through November 18 at the Centenary Stage Company Lackland Performing Arts Center at 715 Grand Ave. Hackettstown, NJ.
Trojan Women: JCTC Reinvents Classic Tragedy for Today’s Times
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) presents Trojan Women, a multimedia and multilingual adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy reimagined for today’s turbulent times. Trojan Women  opens Friday November 2nd for an 11-show run that closes on Sunday November 18 at Merseles Studios, 339 Newark Avenue, Jersey City. Tickets are $25 ($15/ Student and Senior Discount – must show valid ID).
Douglas Taurel To Perform "An American Soldier's Journey Home" On Veteran's Day
(HOBOKEN, NJ) -- On November 11, 2018 (Veterans Day), Douglas Taurel, actor and creator of the acclaimed solo show The American Soldier, will perform his new play An American Soldier’s Journey Home at the Hoboken Museum in Hoboken, NJ at 4:00pm. The play was commissioned by the Library of Congress Veteran History Project. It was invited to performed at the Library of Congress both on Veterans Day and Memorial Day of 2017. The play will commemorate 100 years when the Great War ended and the last shot was fired.
Fair Moon Stages Presents "Wishes & Dreams: A Celebration of the Music that Animates our Lives"
(RAHWAY, NJ) -- Fair Moon Stages presents “Wishes & Dreams: A Celebration of the Music that Animates our Lives” on Sunday, November 4th at 3:00pm, at The Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, NJ. A 30-piece orchestra and 20 vocalists performing delightfully familiar songs from animated movies highlight the concert. The event is a benefit for the company, whose mission is to present accessible and professional theater at affordable prices. Their well-received inaugural season included Disney’s High School Musical, Legally Blonde and the NJ premier of Mamma Mia.  
Menopause The Musical Comes To State Theatre
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) --  GFour Productions, winner of 44 Tony Awards and 54 Drama Desk Awards,  brings the international hit show Menopause The Musical® to State Theatre in New Brunswick for two performances on Saturday, November 10 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. This a groundbreaking celebration of women who are on the brink of, in the middle of, or have survived “The Change.” 


Plant Yourself at Exit 82 Theatre Company’s Little Shop of Horrors!
Little Shop of Horrors is a smash Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi musical that has devoured the hearts of theatergoers for over 30 years. Now, Toms River, NJ’s Exit 82 Theatre Company has developed a unique rendition of the show created by Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin, which is currently running at their new Exit 82 Studio Theatre located on Main Street in downtown Toms River.
Playwright Walter Anderson Talks About "The Trial Of Donna Caine"
​​​​​​​The political climate in the United States—with its right and left, red and blue, conservative and liberal—prompts this question: Is reconciliation possible?
Assisted Living: The Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
The crowd is making it’s way inside Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts on this beautiful Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 afternoon for the first of two sold-out performances of Assisted Living: The Musical!
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Long before we had Twilight and True Blood, one vampire ruled them all - Dracula.  Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel brought Count Dracula from Transylvania to Victorian London.  In this blood thirsty tale of terror, the city seems helpless against his power, and only one man, Dr. Van Helsing, can stop the carnage.  But to do this, he must uncover the vampire’s lair and pierce his heart with a wooden stake.  
House On Haunted Hill
House On Haunted Hill is a classic B-movie by William Castle that came out in 1959.  It starred Vincent Price as a millionaire who offers $10,000 to five people who agree to spend the night locked in a house he’s rented on Haunted Hill.






Event calendar
Sunday, Oct 21, 2018


MUSIC

DiTrani Bros: Folk, Swing, Jazz, Ragtime!! @ Roxy and Dukes Roadhouse, Dunellen - 7:00pm

Jazz Guitarist Abe Ovadia @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Gypsy Jazz Brunch with Pyrenesia and Max Hansen Buffet @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

Dryden Ensemble: Bach Cantata Fest @ Miller Chapel (Princeton), Princeton - 3:00pm

Suzzanne Douglas @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 7:30pm


THEATRE

The Ghost Princess @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 2:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm

CDC Theatre presents A Few Good Men @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 2:00pm

Wait Until Dark @ Somerset Valley Playhouse, Hillsborough - 8:00pm

World Premier of, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, A Horror of a Play @ Forum Theatre (Metuchen), Metuchen - 3:00pm

The Color Purple @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm

Almost, Maine @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm

Black Tom Island @ The 1882 Carriage House, Liberty Hall Museum, Union - 3:00pm

*Uncle Vanya, Scenes from a Jersey Life in Four Acts @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 7:00pm

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie @ Westfield Community Players, Westfield - 2:00pm







DANCE

DRACULA - THE ATLANTIC CITY BALLET @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 4:00pm


FILM

A conversation with John Cusack Following a screening of Say Anything @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:00pm


KIDS

Summit Farmers Market Pumpkin Painting @ Summit Farmers Market, Summit - 10:00am


POETRY

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 9:00am


MISC

HAUNTED ILLUSIONS LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 3:00pm

THE MAGIC OF BILL BLAGG LIVE! @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm

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