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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

March 25, 2015

At The Paper-Mill-Playhouse at Millburn, NJ:

Walt Disney’s THE HUNCH-BACK OF NOTRE-DAME [*****]

Julie Taymor, Eat-Your-Heart-Out! Disney Found a Different-Way To Do Bells & Gargoyles…

Ring-Out, Wild-Bells!

Boldly-Booming-Bells ring-out from Millburn, NJ, in one of the most Be-Belled & Be-Gargoyled Visions of Medieval-Notre-Dame ever imagined.

Even by Victor Hugo, the Original-Imagineer of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Hugo—who loved the Strong-Contrasts of the Hideously-Grotesque with the Miraculously-Beautiful that are best exemplified by Beauty & The Beast & Hunchback—would surely be astonished by the Great-Bourdon-Bells that are cramming the Great-Wooden-Belfrey of the Paper-Mill-Playhouse over in Far-Off New-Jersey.

This New-Incarnation of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is so Stunning, so Astounding, so Altogether-Wonderful that it should soon move across the Hudson-Waters to Broadway!

Seldom has such an American-Musical-Staging achieved such a Vivid-Realization & such Serious-Overtones that its essentially Hokey-Disney-Origins fade-away…

When Hunchback of Notre-Dame first appeared as a Disney-Cartoon-Feature, it seemed Shallow, even Silly.

Its Allan-Menken-Inflected-Score floated along gently down the stream, with No-Sense of the Carl-Orffian-Weight that it now boasts: it is a Mini-Carmina-Burana

Its Gray-Clad Come-To-Life Stone-Saints chant in a Thrumming-Rhythm that Carl Orff would have loved.

In fact, most of Peter Parnell’s Book is Sung or Chanted, rather than Narrated: in a Minor-Way, it is Through-Composed—if not quite to the Level of Richard-Wagner.

As Staged by Scott Schwartz & Choreographed by Chase Brock—despite its Obvious-Comedic-Elements & Romantic-Inclinations—it becomes far more than just another Conventional-Broadway-Musical.

Patrick Page is Dom Claude, a Tormented-Cleric, Unwilling-Uncle of Quasimodo, the Unfortunate-Hunchback of Notre-Dame, strongly-played by Michael Arden.

Ciara Renée is the Sinuous-&-Enchanting Gypsy-Girl, Esmeralda. But she’s even More-Flamboyant than that other Famous-Gypsy-Girl, Carmen…

This Hunchback of Notre-Dame comes to New-Jersey from the La-Jolla-Playhouse in Far-Off-Southern-California—not too distant from Disneyland.

Perhaps I love the Paper-Mill-Playhouse Hunchback of Notre-Dame more than most of New-Jerseyans now flocking to Millburn because I saw the First-Stage-Version of Hunchback in Former-East-Berlin, after the Berlin-Wall came tumbling down & a Purpose-Built-Theatre was positioned at Potsdamer-Platz so that Julie Taymor could Do-Her-Thing.

On one level, it was Pure-Astonishment: a Magic-Box of Complicated-Stage-Machinery & Contrived-Apparitions.

But it was so Technically-Over-Built, that I knew it would never make it to Broadway: No Broadway-Theatre could accommodate those Set-Devices…

Compared with the rich, vibrant Paper-Mill-Playhouse-Staging, Taymor’s Vision was too Mechanistic, too Sterile.

Not another Lion-King, alas…

Award-Nominations for the Magnificent-Notre-Damian-Setting of Alexander Dodge: How about that Rose-Window?

Beg the Shuberts or the Nederlanders to bring The-Hunchback rapidly to The-Great-White-Way!


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