I could not resist sharing these.

Disney Esmeralda Balloon Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Disney Esmeralda Balloon

They are Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame Balloons which I only found as the result of a typo. Typos are magical

Hunchback of Notre Dame Musical performing Esmeralda picture image

Ensemble performing Esmeralda

Last time we talked about the overall set from the American version and in general I liked it. It was a good simplifying of Notre Dame itself. Click here to read that post. However the problem that arises from fairly stationary main set piece is they way other scene outside of Notre Dame are communicated to the audience and in some case even the faced of Notre Dame itself. The American version of the Disney musical used moving set pieces as well as lighting. This also the approached that Notre Dame de Paris used and still uses today, albeit they have less set pieces and use more lighting and abstraction.

Hunchback of Notre Dame Set picture image

Hunchback of Notre Dame Set

While I do like the primary set, all the other such i.e the set pieces, the extras and the cast does make for a lot of chaos on the stage and makes it at time seem like a cluttered mess. There is just too much and to be fair the differing patterns of the floor with the Rose window of the backdrop doesn’t help. If anything, it like the use of the extras made it lack focus.

On Top of the World Der Glockner von Notre Dame. picture image

On Top of the World Der Glockner von Notre Dame.

The American Musical version’s closest other version besides the movie, is the 1999 version musical Der Glockner von Notre Dame. Glockner also had a lot of moving parts but in a a very different way. To communicate the height of the Cathedral they used hydraulic lifts with screens and projections.

Ciara Renee as Esmeralda, Papermill production of Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Ciara Renee as Esmeralda, Papermill production of Hunchback of Notre Dame

Both approaches is an apple and oranges kind of thing and not every production can have hydraulic lifts, moving set pieces are an easier more flexible approach. By I won’t pretend that I don’t like hydraulic lifts, they are cool to see in action. However there is a price, having your character higher in the high makes them higher from the audiences and it easier to loose that characters connection to the audience.

Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame

The use of the American Musical moving set pieces isn’t the issue, the issue is how clutter it made things. And when compare to Der Glockner which has it levels and tier that coalesce better and seem more purposeful, it does seem like American version once again could have use some editing.

And again if haven’t voted in the poll for the next version you still can.

What should be the next version?

  • Quasimodo d'el Paris (53%, 9 Votes)
  • The Dingo Version (35%, 6 Votes)
  • Other (PLEASE say what it is in the comments) (12%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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And I still sick so I’m sorry this post is more confused than normal.

 

 

Hunchback of Notre Dame Set picture image

Hunchback of Notre Dame Set

I have a bit of a confession to make, I really wrote myself into a little corner with this post as originally I had planned to discuss the Gargoyles VS the chorus but I just did that in a more organic fashion last week and I don’t what to be knowingly redundant. After looking through the production, I found my muse, one Alexander Dodge.

Alexander Dodge was the set designer for the American production of the Disney Musical. His other work include, The Tempest, Ghost of Versailles and Anastasia for the Hartford Stage. Anastasia is based on the Don Bluthe movie and is going to Broadway. You can check his work here which is gorgeous.

The Hunchback set is lovely. It does a good job of basically simplifying the cathedral into its main parts os action but working upwards. The floor represent the Sanctuary, the Rose window and the Statues the Middle portions and the bells for the Bell Tower. It’s not hard to understand.  Places outside of Notre Dame are communicated more with set pieces and lightening.

I feel like there is a large disconnect between the vision of the musical trying to slightly minimal with Quisimodo’s deformity and the extras filling in as set pieces with the grand vastness of the set. For instance when Quasimodo is saving Esmeralda, he goes through the Gallery of Kings. The Gallery of Kings is represented with the Extras but they are also part of the set on the sides.  It would have been confusing to an average viewer and the set could have allowed for that. I guess because the extras go back and forth between the animated and stone states that their poses made it clear but I was even confused for a second.

Overall the sets were not so much the issue the vision of the production was problematic. Also a lot of the time it was hard to even see the set through all the moving parts, i.e the set pieces and the extras.

 

 

 

Just for the record, this more on the story/characters and not the technicals of the show, that comes next month.

Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame

I think it’s pretty clear that I’m a little mixed with a leaning towards not liking the show. The Disney plot and the book elements didn’t blend together at all. The only element that worked with regards to the movie and the book was Phoebus and too be fair the 1923 Lon Chaney version did the same type of arc with Phoebus. It’s a classic asshole womanizer turn good when he falls in love trope. 1980’s Teen Movies and Trashy Romance novels do this character all the time, it’s not a hard arc to write. The only character that is likable is Esmeralda and she just Disney Esmeralda with a touch of Der Glockner throw in for good measure.

Michael Arden as Quasimodo with Saint Aphrodisius, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Michael Arden as Quasimodo with Saint Aphrodisius, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame

It seemed that a lot of people were happy when they heard that there would be no Gargoyles in the show. The lack of the Gargoyles in this version gave the production legitimacy and maturity however the gargoyles shouldn’t have a problem.  The Disney characterization of the gargoyles was the problem not just having the characters in the show. The personalities could have been easily tweaked, I.E no fart jokes. They could have written them such that they were represented of Quasimodo’s Id, Ego and Super Ego. Even if that is an obvious attempt at seeming smart it’s still an attempt at writing characters and not filling the stage with extras. It was easier to write non-character extras or simply the congregation than writing and fixing the gargoyle characters like what Der Glockner did, although they were boring they were still characters.

Ciara Renee as Esmeralda, Papermill production of Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Ciara Renee as Esmeralda, Papermill production of Hunchback of Notre Dame

The congregation also had another ill-affect to another character, they made Clopin useless. Clopin really does nothing in this musical. In the Disney movie Clopin takes on a few roles; he is the story-teller, leader of the Court of Miracles and a performer. It’s the story-teller role however that gives him his importance. It makes more interesting. Without that role his other roles could have been filled by the congregation and no one really would have noticed.

Hunchback of Notre Dame Musical performing Esmeralda picture image

Ensemble performing Esmeralda

Ultimately the concept of blending the Disney movie and the book didn’t work as this musical presented the  story. It was disappointing to say the least. With more tweaking and editing it could have have worked into a fluid narrative that would been more impactful and bittersweet. The music was good, so it wasn’t ALL bad.

Note for next month – Next month I’m taking a minor break. This means there will only be five posts in June. I’m only going to posts Tuesday and one Wednesday for a casting post since people seem to enjoy though. I can’t say if this will be for the whole Summer or just June but I need break.

Also here is a poll for what should be  reviewed next. It expires June 30th

What should be the next version?

  • Quasimodo d'el Paris (53%, 9 Votes)
  • The Dingo Version (35%, 6 Votes)
  • Other (PLEASE say what it is in the comments) (12%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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Ciara Renée as Esmeralda and Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus performing Someday, La Jolla cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Ciara Renée as Esmeralda and Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus performing Someday, La Jolla cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

When I planned these posts, i.e. weakest/strongest posts I thought I would be more on the side of the stronger but when I was thinking about the strongest aspects I came up with more of the weakness than strengths. I feel a bit sad that I’m more mixed with siding more on the side of not being as in love with it as some other people. But oh well. I’m going to TRY to be as positive as I can.

So what did the musical do well? Well the music and the score were amazing. I mean you can’t go wrong with Alan Menken and a requiem mass inspired music. It also does well when it’s doing it own thing. Like Thai Mol Piyas

I will say that Esmeralda and Phoebus were well done. The irony here is that Esmeralda is left pretty much untouched from her Disney persona and the book persona didn’t really enter into her characterization. Phoebus however is a great combo between the two which gives him an arc. He starts out closer to the book and then turns more of Disney character. I think this what they tried to with Frollo and it just didn’t work.

The performers also do a great job, as in they sing well. I will say Arden does a good job with Quasimodo in parts. His weird attempt at sounding deaf boarders on sounding mentally disable. I get that he is deaf and lacks self-codience but really?

And also there were no gargoyles, that was a plus. Still not sold on the chorus as it seem kinda of high school or some day camp but still no gargoyles.

 

 

Quasimodo during Out There Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Quasimodo during Out There Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

I have been wanting to this for a while. I was going to do Hellfire but for some reason Google Translate was being weird so I went with Out There. So this is Out There through Google Translation.

It went from the original English to Hindi then to Swedish then to Japanese then to Spanish then to Korean and then back to English and here is what we got;

“These safety behind this stone windows and railings”
“People looking down at me,”
“I like my life hiding here alone, I am in favor of them”
“They show the hunger is for profit of history”
“All my life, I remember your face”
“They know they can not learn from”
“All my life, seems to go in one day”
“Over them”
“However, some of its”

“There”
“Living in Japan”
“Let me see one days”
“I ask all”
“Always keep”

“There”
“I do not know where they live”
“I want to”
“I will venture”
“Only meet one days”

“Mills and craftsmen external wife”
“I can see through the ceiling and gable”
“Day ev’ry, they scream to hear that embarking on his life
“It has to be that they inadvertently gift”
“If I had their skin”
“Ev’ry want the goods immediately”

“There”
“Senna walks”
“Enjoy breakfast out”

“Humdrum”
“Freedom to move”
“Just days after”
“I swear I will enjoy drill”
“And part of me”
“Does anger”
“What not despair”
“Previous Bent”
“I do not care”
“I wrote”
“One day”
“There”

LAST THREE SONGS!

Michael Arden as Quasimodo & Ciara Renée as Esmeralda during the finale, La Jolla Hunchack of Notre Dame picture image

Michael Arden as Quasimodo & Ciara Renée as Esmeralda during the finale, La Jolla Hunchack of Notre Dame

While the City Sleeps – A bridge song. Maybe it a slight bitterness in my mood, I’m not perfect in some of criticisms but I really do not care for the choir singing near operatics with the nasal singing of the chorus or rather the congregation. That nasal tone is very musical and Broadway but it two styles that do not mesh well together.

As it is, it’s a bridge song getting the musical from Someday to Made of Stone. But styles of singing just didn’t work, the congregation is capable of singing not as nasally so I’m not sure why they did here.

Made of Stone – I don’t want to seem jaded, though to be fair I am but this version of Made of Stone is very much the same as the German version. Is that bad? No. I just can rave about this song as much. That being said it’s well done. Michael Arden gives great performance. He pulls off a good combination of anger and pathos that the song requires. Though in the stage show at least for the La Jolla performance, I wish he was just a little bit anger but it could have just been that show, that night.

I do think it’s weird that Quasimodo asks what his own mind know of him. Quasimodo is crazy. Also I don’t know if I get why the congregation take off their cowl things? I think something more akin to pulling hoods over their faces would have been better, like they lose the spark and individuality Quasimodo’s mind gave them. But what do I know about stage craft.

Though I still maintain I liked Made of Stone before Someday better. There was just more power there but they clearly wanted the the epic Latin music that the Disney movie had hence the switch.

Finale – OK, before I can even start with the song, I need to discuss this insanity of logic in the script. One of Esmeralda’s crime was stabbing Phoebus. No musical, I told you can not do that. I might have forgiven you if you let it alone but you bring it back? I know the book did it, it made sense (somewhat) in the book but you can’t do it here. Frollo sentenced Phoebus to die in public, then he stabs him, still in public though albeit in some confusion, then blames Esmeralda and THAT is one her crimes she is to die for? THE FUCK? I know you wanted to be like book more but you need to think about logically. There was enough to convict her, witchcraft was enough. Just so much NO here. And that was just one line.

Aside from that one line which seems like it shouldn’t matter but does, how is the Finale? This one is a bit of a roller coaster. There are parts I really like and other parts that I find meh to other parts that are just left me wondering if musical didn’t really getting the original  source material i.e the book.

Before I say what parts of the song that were good and which ones missed the mark, let’s just discuss the song sturture. It’s a frankenstein song as in it’s made up of other songs from the show. Like Made of Stone, Someday, On Top of the World, Esmeralda, Sanctuary, Out There and Bells of Notre Dame. This is the same case of the German version so it’s not a negative. they all work together.

So what parts did I like? I liked the song after Frollo died, in particular the congregation singing about the world to Frollo’s part of Out There. That part was lovely and so bittersweet, made me tear up a little bit. Also the lovely female Latin solo was quite nice. The ending is the best part of this song hands down.

The meh parts were the parts lifted from the Disney movie which is little sad since it’s the Sanctuary/ fight scene. It just didn’t translate that well to stage show. I can see why Notre Dame de Paris didn’t bother. Speaking of Notre Dame de Paris, Frollo has the same powers to suspend Sanctuary or rather negate, still same difference. I will say that the molten lead was cool in the stage show.

The part that leaves me questioning if the people in charge get the book was Frollo’s death. Though I will say I did like that response to Frollo saying “You don’t want to hurt me” and the congregation saying “Yes” in a creepy whipser, that I liked. Ok, so this part hurts my brain trying to figure it out. On the one hand Quaismodo throws Frollo off the building and he utters “There lies all that have ever loved.” But unlike the book where Quasimodo throws Frollo in a fit of rage for laughing at Esmeralda’s death here in this version he seems more intent on killing him, saying the wicked should not go unpunished. Quaismodo was quite murderous here. It just didn’t sit well with me. I get the whole scene was a call back to start of show when Frollo was singing the wicked shall not go unpunished but still.  Maybe if Frollo had been more crazy at this point and laughed. This version he so cool and calm that it just weird. Where is this guy’s crazy lust?  It’s not Frollo.

But hey at least like in the book everyone but Phoebus dies even if it’s super unclear that Quasimodo takes Esmeralda and lies down to die. If you don’t really think about things too much and just let this Finale wash over you, it’s great and very powerful at the end. Though I would note the riddle of what makes and Monster and what makes a man is technically the moral albeit vague. The ending for me was the best part of the finale.

Still more to say on the cast album.

Ciara Renée as Esmeralda and Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus performing Someday, La Jolla cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Ciara Renée as Esmeralda and Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus performing Someday, La Jolla Cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In a Place of Miracles – Technically this song is not new to this incarnation of the musical. It was originally written for the Disney movie along side As Long as there is a Moon which more or less did the whole wedding thing of Esmeralda and Gringoire but with Phoebus. Both Songs were scrapped for pacing and time. In the German version there was a song called Out of Love that was reprised here and was sung earlier by Phoebus with the Gargoyles to convince Quasimodo to help Esmeralda.

Before I get the song itself I want to point the choice to use this song instead of As Long of there is a a Moon. Some of the purpose of this musical was to reconcile the Disney movie with the book. In some ways the two kind of muddle each other a bit. If they had picked As Long of there is a Moon they would have gotten a book scene in there but it would have made no sense as the Gypsies where trying to leave their homes quickly, which is one reason it was scrapped from the movie. I respect that they went with the logical choice instead of trying to get a book scene in the show.

That being said this version of the song is different than the deleted song from the Disney movie. Most of the lyrics are there in parts as well as the melody but it does borrow somethings from Out of Love reprised where Quasimodo sings a reprised of Heaven’s Light but wait because it also does it own thing too. Admist the confessions of love and heartbreak, the Gypsies and Clopin sing about leaving their homes and hope for a better and kinder place.

The structure of this song is a little weird. The second verse is basically Esmeralda, Phoebus and Quasimodo singing over each other. This makes it somewhat dissociate but the song is doing a lot for three minutes. We have a love song, sad song and a bittersweet moving song, so not a bad thing but it’s a style that I’m not that crazy about though they do mesh together.

I don’t really love the melody either, it’s pretty enough but I’m not crazy for the notes on “Place” but that is a preference. I do prefer the Out of Love Reprise but this song is fine.

Also who else heard the the melody of the Tavern Song at the end?

Justice in Paris – There is much to this song, it under a minute to set up Esmeralda’s burring. It’s to the melody of The Bells of Notre Dame so I like the melody.  So there is no trial it seems this song is just a bridge song to get the audience from the “love” song to the burning of Esmeralda.

SomedaySomeday was originally written for the Esmeralda Prayer segment in the Disney movie. They had written God Help the Outcasts first but felt they wanted something more intimate for the scene but changed their minds and placed Someday as a credit song. It was put into the German version which Esmeralda and Phoebus song right after Frollo’s proposition and it continues till Esmeralda reaches the pyre. This means it is not sung directly after Made of Stone in this version. This annoys me a little bit since it’s a nice converse to Made of Stone but I will hold off judgement till I get that song.

As it stands, this song is gorgeous. It’s left unchanged from it’s purpose of being a  bittersweet hope for the world, which sadly is still not true. Comparing it to the German version which is called Einmal, there is a  build-up to a big swell at the end as Esmeralda is about to be burned. In this version it keeps its intimacy  as it’s just Esmeralda and Phoebus. Apples and Oranges both are great despite the different tones.

Also while on the subject Einmal has very different lyrics than Someday. Einmal speaks of people learning to respect each other after thousands of battle and bloodshed while Someday is softer in the lyrics. Still I have no issues with the song it’s beautiful and  Ciara Renée  and Andrew Samonsky sing it very well.

Second Act and we’re back to three songs.

Michael Arden as Quasimodo with Saint Aphrodisius, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Michael Arden as Quasimodo with Saint Aphrodisius, Musical Production of Hunchback of Notre Dame

Entr’acte – There isn’t much to say on this on a contextual level as it just a the choir singing a melody of the songs as while as music in latin. That being said, it’s gorgeous. I really love Out There in latin. It’s the prefect capsule of the Disney score of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Flight into Egypt – Another New Song for the production. This song differs between the La Jolla version and the cast album i.e. the Papermills version as the remove a verse from the La Jolla cast and replace it with a verse about the Amulet map. In the La Jolla version Esmeralda gives him the map after the song.

In a way this song replaces A Guy Like you, in that Quasimodo’s friends offer him encouragement by way of a song. There is also the little matter of both song give Quasimodo the idea that Esmeralda Like-likes him. As much as I don’t want to defend A Guy Like you, I’m going to. In a A Guy Like you the Gargoyles plant that idea into Quasimodo’s head, whether they are Quasimodo imaginary friends or not is a mute point. In this song Quasimodo likens protecting Esmeralda to being like a bride. I think the propping up of Quasimodo’s hope by his pals and then the having his hope dashed is more heart-breaking than a mild thought across his mind especially where Quasimodo has inability to believe anyone could love him, it hard to take in that he would reach that conclusion. Unless it really was just a passing fantasy but that makes the heartbreak and the pain less believable.  I mean the song is just encouraging Quasimodo to save her like a beheaded Saint. That being said Flight into Egypt is better than A Guy Like you. A Guy Like you is really mean-spited.

One thing that weird is that Quasimodo doesn’t know the name of Saint Aphrodisius. I mean it’s played for a laugh but for  a guy whose life was Notre Dame and studied the religion it’s just weird. Though maybe Quasimodo was friends with the Stained Glass windows. I will say that way they did  Saint Aphrodisius in the La Jolla show with the singer’s head going off and on was the best bit of stage craft so far.

As the Song goes, it’s pretty good. It’s a nice melody and ties into Notre Dame well.

The Court of Miracles –  The tempo on this song has been slowed down. This makes it creepier but far less fun than the Disney version.  They also have replaced a lot of lyrics from the movie. For instance the line from the movie “We find you totally innocent, which is the worst crime of all.” with “We have to protect at all costs our secret; it’s our lives or yours, so you’re going to hang.” From mu understanding this could be because any reference to Frollo being a judge has been taken out and in that line Clopin was mocking Frollo, so they replaced it. I also miss the line where Clopin asked if Phoebus and Quasimodo have any last words and they being gag muff something and Clopin says “That’s what they all say.” Now it’s “Didn’t think so.” Again they removed Clopin mocking judges and such.

Beat for beat the song is the same I just didn’t care for this rendition.

One Song this week!

Hunchback of Notre Dame Musical performing Esmeralda picture image

Ensemble performing Esmeralda

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.