(Curtain Call & Red Carpet Photos Maryann Lopinto – Video Magda Katz)
by: Maryann Lopinto
The Paper Mill Playhouse is a Regional Theatre in Millburn New Jersey. It is a stones throw from New York City and reachable in less than 45 minutes on the New Jersey Transit from Penn Station. It’s New York’s regional theatre being so close. Not only does the Paper Mill produce classic shows, musicals and plays, it is a birthing place for new shows before they move to Broadway. NEWSIES a Disney Musical, based on the cult movie by the same name, made it’s move to New York City, had a successful run and is now touring, currently HONEYMOON IN LAS VEGAS, also based on a movie is on Broadway.
This past week, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME made its debut at the Paper Mill with the hopes of its journey to Broadway. Based on the animated Disney feature, of the same name, and the motion picture classic, the show, as well as the movie, has music by Alan Menkin and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. It is based on the Victor Hugo classic published in 1831.
There is family involved. The lyricist is Stephen Schwartz and his son Scott Schwartz directed the show. He did this in a clever way using various cast members to narrate through the show, moving the story along. He also had a headless statue character, Neal Mayer, carry his head and in an amazing way place it back on his shoulders (you have to see this to believe)! Alan Menkin’s daughter Nora Menkin is part of the ensemble. She is quite talented,
Other connections, Ciara Renee, who is Esmeralda, was recently in Schwartz’s PIPPIN on Broadway and is a perfect Esmeralda – a gypsy woman who is outcast in Paris. She dances and sings beautifully. Both Andrew Samonsky (Captain Phoebus de Martin) and William Michals (Tribunal), worked together in Lincoln Center’s SOUTH PACIFIC.
Handsome Michael Arden plays Quasimodo the Hunchback, his voice soared with “Out There” and “Heaven’s Light”. He is the nephew of the Archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo (Patrick Page) of the great Cathedral of Notre Dame who adopted the deformed Quosimodo as an infant as a promise to his dying brother. His life is spent in the bell tower of the Catheral and is the bell ringer; this is a safe environment to keep him away from ridicule and scorn because of his physical disability. Not connecting with anyone, his friends are the gargoyls who he speaks to. It isn’t until they talk him into leaving for one day to go out into the world to see what it is like, does he come upon the cruelty of the people who humiliate him and abuse him until he is rescued by the Gypsy Esmeralda who befriends him.
There is no lack of talent in this show, all with great voices. Patrick Page is caring and wicked and Samonsky, who tries to seduce Esmeralda into bed, instead falls in love with her. The ensemble and a symphonic chorus round out the cast.
Alexander Dodges’ set, the Cathedral de Notre Dame along with a stained glass window, and the huge bells of the belfry (which descend) are majestic and incredible, and we do believe we are in this Cathedral.
The hope is that this will make its way to Broadway. This would be the sixth Disney animated feature to become a full Broadway show: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, LITTLE MERMAID, TARZAN, THE LION KING and ALADDIN, the latter two are still running.
Next on the slate will be a musical adaption of the motion picture EVER AFTER (which starred Drew Barrymore) will star Christine Ebersole in the lead with book and lyrics by Marcy Heisler and music by Zina Goldrich opening at the end of May.
Video: Magda Katz