Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda and Martin Giroux as Phoebus Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda and Martin Giroux as Phoebus Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Martin Giroux as Phoebus

I have been watching videos of the most recent cast of Notre Dame de Paris and I noticed something about Hiba Tawaji’s portrayal of Esmeralda that was just off. It was something I couldn’t place but it was something I didn’t like. It was like she was trying to do too much but not succeeding. She  just wasn’t coming off as natural but forced.

Just so we’re clear this has nothing to with her as singer or person, this is just in her acting. She is fine as a singer.

Hiba Tawaji singing Bohemienne picture image

Hiba Tawaji singing Bohemienne

The weirdness in her acting was further noticeable when you watch the preview when the cast was announced. She is singing Bohemienne and she was coming off as sweet, happy and natural. From that video she seemed like the perfect Esmeralda. But then you watch the performance and she has a weird expression on her face and she trying to be sultry and playful and doing weird arm movements.

This led me to watch every Bohemienne performance I could find to see what the other Esmeraldas were doing since there is a bit of a disconnect from Segara’s original performance to what other Esmeraldas do with the song. I say this because I’m most familiar with Segara’s version but it’s not the standard anymore.

 

Helene Segara as Esmeralda and Patrick Fiori as Phoebus Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda and Phoebus Notre Dame de Paris

Bohemienne, under at least Segara, starts off mysterious and somewhat aloof. Some Esmeraldas maintain some mystery but in other parts of the song.  The reason why Segara’s Esmeralda starts this way was because of changes to the lead-in to the song. In the original Frollo starts off by ordering Phoebus to arrest the refugees in which he immediately  runs into Esmeralda and then she starts her song after he asks her who she is. There is a threat here with Phoebus, as he was starts pursuing her and then tries to flirt. She is aloof because she on her guard.

 

In subsequent versions Phoebus gets his orders, there is a scene shift and then runs into Esmeralda already dancing for the people. She is unaware of Phoebus’ orders. So the song is already upbeat and happy at the start.

 

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Italian Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Italian Notre Dame de Paris

Most Esmeraldas perform Bohemienne in a happy upbeat playful manner. Dancing varies but most try to move in a dancing like fashion whether or not it looks natural. Probably the best Esmeralda at conveying the spirit of a dancer and  a playful flirtatious attitude is the Italian cast Original Esmeralda, Lola Ponce. She is very natural in this performance. However the trade-off is her singing suffers. While it’s not bad she does get breathy and out breath in places but you can forgive it as she commits.

Many Italian Esmeraldas follow Ponce’s example in the playful flirty persona. Some try and focus more on singing so they don’t commit as fully. Some are just less natural in their movements and you can see them aiming to hit the next mark.

Other Esmeraldas it’s  just hard to tell if their happy and succeeding in the choreography because the quality of footage is bad.            

 

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Jay as Clopin Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Jay as Clopin

   

So it’s a question of choreography vs singing vs an Esmeralda who is natural with their movements.  It would be unfair to put the blame solely on Tawaji as the choreography is weird at times. Like when she gesturing out towards the audience, why? Or maybe she’s just not super comfortable trying to move sensually while trying to be playful, effervescent and flirtatious while maintaining good vocals. It’s a tall order if not impossible   But then you watch Tawaji perform other songs in the show there is still that awkwardness with her movements so I don’t know. She could not be a very adept actress, great singer and not good in the acting department, she wouldn’t be the first singer not great at acting.

However there seems to be awkwardness with Daniel Lavoie’s movements in this version opposed to his original performance,  so I really don’t know what to think. Could be the director? Or maybe this all better live and the videos are not doing the performances any justice?

The point is in the case of Bohemienne  there is no right way to perform the song. The performer can be more playful, aloof,  flirtatious, sensual, wistful, youthful etc. However it does seem like sometimes the minor choreography can get in the way of the performer’s natural movements and that is when an Esmeralda can look mechanical or awkward and that is something an Esmeralda should never be.   

I feel bad posting another Notre Dame de Paris video off of youtube but life hasn’t been too great this past week. Though, I  have been wanting to hear Tawaji’s rendition of Bohemienne, so this pretty off the cuff.

#1- I think I really do like the changes to the costume. Indeed it’s way pretty in motion. I also like the slits up on those overlays on the back of the costume, it offer yet more movement. Future versions don’t mess it up too much, I still haven’t forgiven the evolution of the damn slit Esmeralda had for like a decade.

#2 – Tawaji is really perfectly cast. Someday I do want to a list the top 10 or so Esmeralda from Notre Dame de Paris. I won’t pretend that I have seen videos or MP3s or all them BUT  I have heard/seen bunches . Maybe 80% but that is probably a high guess.

#3- While YES, Tawaji is a great Esmeralda, I do find her arm movement a little stiff/awkward. It’s like she isn’t quite sold of the motions or is super unsure what to with her arms. Which is a little weird because she is a great dancer otherwise. Pesky arms.

#4 – While I do appreciate this recording, I really do, I did laugh when Tawaji runs  up stage on the First Bohemienne to do that arm thing you see ALL Esmeralda do, which I find to be the most mechanical of her motions and due to the angle of the video Esmeralda is TOTALLY blocked by Clopin. I can’t if Tawaji falls prey to mechanicalness that plagues all Esmeraldas or somehow makes it work for her.  Just funny, not complaining.

But if the production wants to send me a recording of the show to review, please do! I will review it with all the praising as you want. I know they won’t.

With  the new production in Paris of Notre Dame de Paris there has been updates to the costumes. These changes range from fairly minor to a near complete overall, though still in the spirit of the original designs. This also marks the first time the costumes have really been altered aside from minor variations in Esmeralda’s and Fleur-de-Lys’ costumes and of course the Italian version. So let’s start with Esmeralda’s main costume in the 2016/2017 production.     

 

Helene Segara as Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris

Helene Segara as Esmeralda from Notre Dame de Paris

It seems like the evolution of the costume has some full-circle in some ways. As you had the first generation of the green dress, which if you recall was made from a patterned velvet that was sewn to give it a patchworked look and sported asymmetrical sleeves. The caveat with costume is it didn’t move to showcase Esmeralda as a dancer. Though to be fair, the original production didn’t have Esmeralda dancing as much as subsequent versions.

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris

Italian version has been the only version to really deviate from the original style. The Italian version uses a lighter fabric and the pattern is made from lace though it it keeps the patchwork like pattern. The silhouette was the same of the original.  

 

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda 2016/2017 Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda

Now in 2016, the production seems to have gotten the movement memo and has created an Esmeralda costume that has the basic elements of the original and the movement of the Italian version but it’s all together very different.

Just a bit of background, I first saw this dress at like 2am one night after a few too many weird videos on youtube (more on that next week) and my powers of critical thinking were out. I had no idea how to feel about this new design and to be honest I still don’t. Parts of it I like and other parts I’m confused by.

To be clear this dress is lovely to watch. It’s prettier in motion and I do applaud the production the innovation in changing things up. I for one was getting tired of the newer versions of the costume, with the higher hems and less embellishments.  They just didn’t look visually pleasing.

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Jay as Clopin 2016/2017 Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Jay as Clopin

Ok, so the actual dress, there is A LOT going on with this costume. First it does hit all the basic components of the original with the color, neckline, basic silhouette, sleeves and slit. Thank you for getting the slit right, looks way better on an actual seam. Honestly, I’m not sure what the first you notice about this costume is  but for me it was the pattern or lack of one. They just nixed the pattern or any attempt at mimicking one. There is a little ombre as it’s a darker green on the bodice and a lighter green on the bottom. The patchwork pattern is now done with seams along the bodice and speaking of these seams they do an interesting asymmetrical overlay over one breast. This fabric overlay starts over the breast on one side goes around the back and ends under the breast on the other side of the bodice. This overlay is where a lot of the costume’s movement comes from and where the sparkly embellishments live. Instead of having sequins or beads sewn on the dress this version has them  in the overlay. I can’t really tell if it’s an insert or a lining. It also matches very closely do it’s harder to see. There also COULD be some sparkle elements on the dress itself but it hard to really tell. There is also ANOTHER overlay at the seam at her waist. 

But wait, there is more. All the edges of the costume are very much ragged. This is of course done on purpose to make Esmeralda look more like she lives on the streets. Most of the other versions did this element to an extent but the 2016/2017 version  has the edges look more frayed and distressed.   

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda 2016/2017 Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda singing Vivre

Then there are the sleeves. There HAS to be two  different versions of the costume because one has shorter, more distressed sleeves and the other has longer less distressed sleeves. The shorter one reaches, at the longest, mid upper arm, just above the elbow. The shorter version also has three layer of fabric. The longer one reaches just past her elbows with no layering. Another theory is that the sleeves were hemmed after the preview of the show as in the picture Esmeralda shouldn’t be wearing the green dress during Vivre.

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda 2016/2017 Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda

 

 That really should bring us to the  prisoner costume but I found so very little pictures of it so I will have to hold off on complaining about it but I what I can make out is it  seems to have an A-line silhouette and looks to made of a lacey burlap.  

 

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda 2016/2017 Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda

I just find that bodice overlay really baffling from a design stand-point. It took me a while to figure it out and while in motion I understand it, in pictures it just looks weird and somewhat awkward. I guess it was a good compromise in adding movement while holding true to the original but it just a weird mix-bag for me. I don’t hate, I’m just not sure I like it. I really don’t know how to feel.

But what do you guys think of this costume? Like it? Hate it? No opinion? Like the disney costume better?

I have not been keeping up with the new production of Notre Dame de Paris, bad me. So far, I think Tawaji is great Esmeralda and I will have to look more into the other comments of this production.

 

Also shameless plug since it’s Christmas time,