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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Mc Coy Rigby Entertainment is presenting the Los Angeles premiere of the Disney musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This story is based on Victor Hugo’s (the Les Mis guy) Notre Dame de Paris and, more specifically, a number of iconic film adaptations of the novel. Disney’s animated version softened the tragic plot by adding a cute trio of gargoyles and giving the main characters a happy ending, though it still pushed the envelope for Disney entertainment.

 

The American stage production, which sought to blend some of the bleaker elements in the novel with the film, started out at the La Jolla Playhouse and later transferred to the Papermill Playhouse. But the production did not receive a Broadway greenlight. The current production has seen more revisions as well as some canny conceptual changes which help to balance the show. These are mostly thanks to veteran director Glenn Casale’s ingenuity.

 

Casale’s most innovative idea is casting Quasimodo with deaf actor, John McGinty. This is no cheap device. Quasimodo is a misshapen man who has been rescued by Dom Claude Frollo (Marc Jacoby), who is secretly his uncle. Surviving on the “charity” of the church, Quasimodo is kept hidden from the public as the bell ringer for the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the constant tolling of the bells has deafened him.

Escaping from his bell tower for a day, Quasimodo meets the gypsy girl, Esmeralda (Cassie Simone), who protects him from the jeering mob. Frollo hates gypsies with a passion but finds that Esmeralda’s beauty awakens a powerful and forbidden passion within him. Enter the handsome guard Phoebus (Eric Kunze), who catches Esmeralda’s eye, and the characters are set for a dramatic confrontation.

The Deaf West productions of musicals have proved that deaf actors can bring a fascinating new dynamic to musical storytelling and McGinty’s casting as Quasimodo takes full advantage of that. McGinty brings a fresh innocence to the role, though his physical deformities are limited to a prosthetic hump which we watch him put on. Quasimodo’s speaking and singing voice are beautifully performed by a clarion-toned Dino Nicandros.

Jacoby has long had one of the best legitimate voices on Broadway, and he brings both anguish and evil to his despicable Frollo. Simone and Kunze are an attractive pair with strong voices, but they are hampered by the one-dimensional characters offered in Peter Parnell’s book.

Musical Director Dennis Castellano expertly marshals the forces of his cast of powerful singers, along with a choir which flanks both sides of the playing area. The glorious sounds that resound through the theater make Alan Menken’s serviceable score sound almost spectacular.

Casale keeps the action moving and plot points clearly and effectively staged. Stephen Gifford’s suitably grandiose scenic design blends beautifully with Jared A. Sayeg’s moody lighting to illustrate the many Paris locations.

Parnell’s script never successfully synthesizes the darker story elements with the lighter material from the animated film. Nor does it solve the problem that Frollo’s powerful intensity tends to steal focus from Quasimodo’s artless virtue. But this handsome production is certainly entertaining and filled with spectacle.

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts    September 17 – October 9, 2016  www.LaMiradaTheatre.com

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.