Here are five things to know about the production:
This show is exposing lots of children to the theater bug. There are 39 kids in the Savannah Cast and 41 in the Grassland Cast, making 74 total (six of them are in both casts.). The three biggest roles are the characters of Rafiki, played by Vega Ankrum (Savannah Cast) and Mia Carino (Grassland Cast); Scar, played by Jake Corson (Savannah Cast) and Jeremy Marks (Grassland Cast); and Simba, played by Nathan Gettman (Savannah and Grassland casts).
Children’s Musical Theaterworks offers a sophisticated and inspired take of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” that feels closer to the Victor Hugo novel than the Disney movie
Abigail Paxton, director of the impressive new Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” gives us some great highs and memorable lows. She and her hard-working cast members — a talented bunch ages 14 to 20 — take us on a sweeping theatrical journey from the dizzying heights of the world’s most famous cathedral to the somber depths of human despair. (It plays for only four more performances through Sunday, July 23.)
I make it a practice not to do standard reviews of CMT shows — at least in terms of offering negative critiques of individual performances — because these young performers are still in a learning environment. But I want to share 10 significant thoughts on “Hunchback.”
It’s got great bones. By that I mean the overall structure and resonance of the show. This Disney adaptation can trace its lineage directly from the animated 1996 movie, but the revamped stage version dispenses with a kiddie sensibility. Paxton commits wholeheartedly to the melancholy tone of the material without making it too grim. (All that youthful energy helps.) And I’m impressed by how every person on stage, from the solo-belting principal characters to the background ensemble members, seems invested in the concept as well.
In Children’s Musical Theaterworks’ local premiere of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” expect a dark and sophisticated musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel
Don’t look for Disney’s name in the title of the new musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” While the production includes some of the more well-known musical numbers by Alan Menken from Disney’s animated movie, it keeps to the original text’s more mature and darker themes. This is more sophisticated fare than you might expect from the folks who brought you “The Little Mermaid” and “Tarzan” on Broadway.
And for that reason, says Abigail Paxton, director of the local premiere of the show at Children’s Musical Theaterworks, she hopes that audiences will approach the material with open minds, both toward the idea that younger actors can handle darker material, and that powerful literature can be translated into musical theater without it becoming silly and frivolous.
“I think this a story that a lot of people need to know — and, let’s face it, not everyone is about to sit down with a 500-page novel to devour,” she says. “It’s Menken’s little musical masterpiece. The score is powerful and resonates alongside the plot to convey Victor Hugo’s work.”