Hooray for Hunchback | TheatEAR Newsflash

While I was away last week, The Hunchback of Notre Dame had the nerve to open at La Jolla Playhouse in California. While I get over this, I think it’s the perfect time to share some info about the East-coast aimed production, set to make a home at Paper Mill Playhouse in March of 2015 (before heading to Broadway, I hope!).

This is one of the only animated films that I’ve been dying to see on stage, so I am thrilled it’s finally becoming a possibility. I especially like that this story is darker than most of the screen to stage adaptations; I want to see Disney Theatrical grow in a different direction. This could do the trick.

Short and sweet preview but I love the powerful music and how the character interpretations are not cartoon-y. So important to a story that is so serious and heartbreaking and very grown up.

Here’s some of the recent feedback:

  • “Someone, probably helmer Scott Schwartz, has clearly been studying “Peter and the Starcatcher” (and why not? It too kicked off in La Jolla), for “Hunchback” is right out of that hit’s playbook in merging sumptuous visuals with bare-bones platform staging conventions.” – Variety
  • Very tough but thoughtful review from L.A Weekly. Pretty show but not original enough. (Sounds like the general problem with musical theatre lately.)
  • Charles McNulty hits so many of the problems I’ve felt with recent Disney Theatrical productions in his Los Angeles Times review: “Filled with action, suspense and romantic fantasies that don’t have a chance in hell of being realized, the tale of the misshapen cathedral drone has built-in popular appeal. But this latest incarnation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has a horrible identity crisis on its hands.”
  • “Okay, #HunchbackofNotreDame was legit good, save a shakey start to Act Two. FINALLY, DISNEY.” — Lance+Jeff (@LanceAndJeff) November 16, 2014

Not exactly a slam dunk but the bright spot is that a show like Hunchback has the time (and resources) to go through some alterations before the Broadway announcement is made. Can they balance the kid-friendly with the adult storyline? Could they possibly make this classic story feel fresh and not just another Disney production? It’s certainly not an impossibility and I hope it happens. Since Disney jumped into Broadway, it took a lot of them to be taken seriously and though they have had a ton of successes nothing has affected theater-goers like The Lion King, a show that has been gracing Broadway for 17 years.

Sure, that kind of success is rare. It was the first Broadway show to make over one billion dollars. THE FIRST SHOW. With anything else, producers and directors and fans and all those involved open on the big stage and hope for success but I doubt they think about something as momentous as 17 years on Broadway and hitting the billion dollar mark. Part of this drought is the reason why I want Hunchback to blow us all away. Healthy competition is a good thing plus at some point you have to prove you are still in the running and not depending on past successes all the time.

Hunchback of Notre Dame at La Jolla Playhouse
Playbill | Photo by Kevin Berne

No matter what — it will be exciting to see what happens next!

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

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