No, I didn’t go see it live. 😦
BUT. There’s an excellent bootleg available on Youtube right now and ever since Katie and I did that dream cast for the live-action version of ‘Hunchback’ I’ve been low-key obsessed with the musical. So yes. I watched it last night and, guys, I’M IN LOVE.
I knew something of how gorgeous and rich the music is because a) I’ve seen the Disney animated movie, duh, and b) I’ve listened to the studio recording on Spotify. But seeing it actually performed (even a kind of grainy performance) was a million times better. I’m actually not sure how to review this properly, but I guess I’ll start with the characters because there’s sooooo much to unpack when it comes to them.
The success of any version of ‘Hunchback’ rests mainly on Quasimodo’s shoulders and Michael Arden was brilliant. At first I was kind of weirded out by Quasi’s voice but when I learned he was deaf (character, not actor), it all made sense. (And his singing voice is still crystal clear.) Loved the little bits of ASL here and there, loved the emotions he went through (fear, sadness, the new beginnings of love, guilt, etc). It was all so good. (Arden is actually adorable IRL, by the way.)
Okay, you know what I just said about productions of ‘Hunchback’ depending mostly on Quasimodo’s character? Well, I almost felt that this production was more Esmeralda’s story than Quasi’s (almost). I’ve seen Ciara Renée in The Flash and I had no idea she was such a beautiful, powerful singer. She nailed ‘God Help the Outcasts’, ‘In a Court of Miracles’, ‘Someday’…allllll the songs. (At the end of ‘Outcasts’, you can hear a guy wolf whistling at her [from the audience] and I was like, “Srsly? You do know you’re putting yourself on the level of Jerk Phoebus and Frollo, right?”)
Patrick Page was really good as Frollo. Which…I guess is a compliment, but at the same time, well, y’know. I think ‘Hellfire’ was a lot more impressive in the movie (Page did a good job showing all of Frollo’s emotions and everything, but you can’t really beat creepy faceless monks and actual fire). There was one moment where he explodes at Esmeralda (because she was like “I’ve seen the way you look at me!”) that was fantastic acting. Loved it. Also, the backstory with his brother was interesting (though I’m not sure which backstory I prefer – animated or stage musical).
Phoebus was a lot more annoying than in the animated film. Quite a jerk for most the musical, which I HATED because it made it so much harder to ship him and Esmeralda in their (super romantic) scenes.
The musical sticks more faithfully to the book with Frollo’s backstory (at least was a Jehan in the book, though Quasi wasn’t his child) and Esmeralda dying at the end. Of course, that makes it sadder but I was obsessed with Les Mis for years, so yeah. I don’t mind. Loved the songs that were in the original animated film (except for them changing “Who is the monster and who is the man?” to “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”) and I adored most of the new songs too. ‘Someday’ is achingly beautiful. I also appreciated that they kept ‘Heaven’s Light’ and ‘Hellfire’ back to back because it shows such a startling, powerful dichotomy between Quasi’s pure love and Frollo’s corrupt lust.
In the end, I love how this stage musical reinforces the message of the animated film: every human being has value, no matter what. And we need to be kind to everyone, no matter what. It’s a lesson all of us – and I’m definitely including myself in that – could stand to be reminded of.
I’m so grateful that the person who recorded the show included the curtain call at the end. Because I was bawling my eyes out over the finale and having everyone happy (and ALIVE) on stage and all that joyous clapping and cheering…it was the cathartic release I needed. ‘Cause I’ve found that if I watch something sad and there’s no happiness at the end, it’ll depress me for the rest of the day. So, yes. Thank you, bootlegger. *grins*
I highly recommend watching the musical sooner rather than later (if you have the inclination) because Youtube will probably take it down at some point. (It’s definitely PG-13, just so you know.)
Have you seen the stage musical version of ‘Hunchback’? What’s your favorite of the new songs?