With big expectations, Geyer's 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' delivers
Shawn Conway of Delmont has been waiting for the opportunity to direct a stage musical that blends the best of the 19th century Victor Hugo novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and Disney's 1996 animated adaptation of the story of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in 1482 Paris.
When the production rights for “Hunchback” came out last January, he jumped at the chance to bring the show to the region, following a production in Pittsburgh.
“I'd been a big fan of the cartoon since it came out and loved the clips of it I had seen online, so as soon as it became available I sought permission from Actors and Artists of Fayette County to put the show on,” Conway said.
New book, new songs
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” with Peter Parnell's new book and new songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, takes to the stage June 14-17 at Geyer Performing Arts Center, Scottdale.
Jessie Glover of Jeannette portrays Quasimodo, a character he describes as “your classic case of beautiful soul, but with a rough exterior.”
As a self-proclaimed “Disney nerd,” Glover said the Disney connection was a major reason why he had to be part of the show — in addition to its beautiful score and story.
“The most challenging part for me is trying not to be influenced by the Disney film. While the two are largely similar, this Quasimodo is a little different and more realistic. It's difficult for me to not go full-Disney, so I try to find a balance,” he said.
Courtney Harkins of Nashville, Tenn., formerly of Irwin, plays Esmeralda, a smart and sassy woman who also is kind and loving.
Fighter for justice
“She is so much more than just a pretty face,” Harkins said. “She is strong and brave and not afraid to pull her knife out for a fight and I love that about her. She is a fighter for justice and won't stop until the world is a better place.”
She played Esmeralda last fall for a theater company in Nashville and said she couldn't pass up the opportunity to come back home to where she grew up to do the show again and see her family and friends.
She said “Hunchback” is a beautiful story about love and friendship that everyone should be able to relate to in some way.
“The music is also amazing, and it'll be stuck in their heads for days,” she added.
Conway said there is a scope to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” that the audience will expect a production to live up to.
“The movie was one of the most beautifully animated movies of its time and that's what people expect — large beautiful sets with soaring harmonies. I think that we??re really delivering on that expectation,” the director said. “But beyond the production value, it also challenges the audience to take a look inside themselves.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.