One Song this week!
Esmeralda – Before I start, can I just say that watching the La Jolla performance of this song was bat-shit stupid. It was dumb to have Frollo stab Phoebus, then blames Esmeralda for it and yet he just condemned Phoebus to die and Esmeralda is already wanted. It like what the hell? What is the point of Frollo stabbing Phoebus? Musical, I respect what you’re doing but you can’t just insert the stabbing scene from the book into your show like that. You just seem like you want to add things even though they don’t make sense with the narrative you’re telling. And while I’m mentioning the La Jolla recording, there are a lot of differences from the La Jolla version of this song vs the cast album. Do you have any idea how tasking these reviews are? I have to deal with the Disney Movie Version, the book, the German version, and two versions of the English musical version.
As you may know, Esmeralda is the Act 1 closer from the German version. This is where Frollo is on a man-hunt for Esmeralda and is burning Paris because he is super obsessed. It’s also where Phoebus says No to Frollo for not burning a Family in a Mill, though in this musical version it’s a brothel that harbors Gypsies. I think the change is so they could make some sexual connotations about Phoebus visiting and that Frollo shouldn’t be there.
Esmeralda was my favorite song from the German version as it’s both very dramatic and speaks to the basic theme of the story, the differences of the hearts of three men. I will say that it’s not my favorite song in this version as the I slightly prefer the Tavern song but it’s on point with the German. I do however have some issues with it though.
For starters, I hate the lyric “He held the Torch that Crackled like the Gypsy’s Voice.” Even if Esmeralda in these Disnye-ish versions has a smokey quality, crackled is a terrible word choice. I understand Phoebus is supposed to be reminded of her in this instant and in the German version he hears her singing in his head but really Menken? Crackled? A Crackling voice is indicative of an old person or someone with a cold.
And there is another issue I have. When Phoebus hears Esmeralda sing in his head in the German version, she sings a few lines from a song she sang to him in Notre Dame. This is the case in La Jolla performance though it’s a chorus and not Esmeralda herself. He then throws the Torch and say I’m just a fool though the line in German is I think I rather be Good than right. In the cast album it’s FREAKING God Help the Outcasts, which yes is pretty BUT Phoebus never heard that song! It’s wouldn’t be important to him as the other song was because Esmeralda sung it directly to Phoebus. They just replaced because the audience knew it better. That choice annoys. It also annoys that they just didn’t have Esmeralda sing it because she even reveals herself to Frollo and crew while in the German version she stays out of sight like in the Disney movie. This choices are really ill-conceived.
Weird choices asides, this still a great song that is much like German version in term of its powerful grand scale and is a great song to end Act I.