On Tuesday, I was able to attend a soft opening of the production, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Department of Theatre and Dance in the Ted Paul Theatre at the Earley Center for the Performing Arts.
For “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, music is written by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and book is by Peter Parnell, with the original book by Victor Hugo. The director for the Mankato production is chair of the department Paul Hustoles.
The musical is set in 15th-century Paris, with Quasimodo (Billy Gleason), a bell ringer with a deformed spine, Dom Claude Frollo, his caretaker, and Esmeralda (Delanie Wiesdrich), a traveling gypsy, being three of the main characters. Quasimodo has spent his whole life in the bell room in the church that Dom Claude Frollo is a priest in. He has been conditioned to believe that because of his deformity he would never be seen as beautiful and everyone in the outside world would make fun of him. During the Festival of Fools, gypsies come into the city and celebrate everything imaginable; they dance, they sing, and they spread joy. Esmeralda comes in and gives a dance performance and sees Quasimodo hunched over and watching. She grabs him by the arm and dances with him; everyone celebrating sees his face and believes that he is ugly, but Esmeralda sees the beauty within him and quickly becomes friends with him.
The cast and crew did an outstanding job telling this classic story to the audience; the gypsy costumes were bright and colorful, the 30-person chorus sang with purpose, the set was built with thought and character, and everyone involved gave everything they had into this show. Many of the characters brought in their own light humor within the script, which made the production even more pleasant for the audience. The vocals throughout the show were articulated and sent chills throughout the body; this type of energy didn’t stop after intermission. All of the work from the cast and crew left the audience in a fit of cheering, which was heard after each song.
The show brings light to social issues that are still being dealt with in today’s society. The other gypsies would judge Quasimodo based on his looks and his spine, and people still judge others based on looks today. Although this production is seen as a kid’s production, teenagers and adults can still convey the message to not judge people based on their looks, but to get to know the person for who they are.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” opens in the Ted Paul Theatre on April 11-13 and again on April 18-20. Tickets can be purchased at the Early Center for Performing Arts box office on campus.
Header photo courtesy of the Department of Theatre.