Capital City Theatre Goes ‘Out There’ with ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Staged Concert
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Julian Decker as Quasimodo in Tuacahn Amphitheatre's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Photo by Daryl Getman.
When Broadway performer Julian Decker learned there was a theatre that wanted to produce the first staged concert version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he knew he had to get involved.
“One of the greatest things about performing is being able to look at a show without all of the extra pizzazz,” Decker explains via email. “Those elements take a production like Hunchback and make it thrilling to watch, but sometimes can lead audiences away from the story that is being told.”
Decker will revive his role as Quasimodo in Capital City Theatre’s upcoming production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Decker served as the Quasimodo understudy in the original production, and portrayed the famous outcast at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Utah.
Based on the Victor Hugo Novel and songs from the Disney animated feature, The Hunchback of Notre Dame had its U.S. premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2014 and went on to Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, New Jersey in 2015. CCT artistic director Andrew Abrams saw the show at Paper Mill Playhouse and says he felt deeply moved by the score and the story.
In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a deformed bell-ringer named Quasimodo is held captive by archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo (Ryan Knowles). Longing to be in the real world, Quasimodo escapes his evil caretaker and joins the boisterous crowd during the Feast of Fools in Paris. He quickly learns that the outside world can be just as cruel as Frollo, until he meets the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda (Syndee Winters) and becomes captivated by her free spirit.
Syndee Winters, from the original "Hamilton" cast, will play Esmeralda. Photo courtesy of Capital City Theatre.
The story follows CCT’s theme of acceptance for the 2017-2018 season, which also featured the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in the fall.
“The shows couldn’t be more opposite of each other, but each exhibit a kind of acceptance,” Abrams says. “With Spelling Bee we had a bunch of 10-year-olds that were misfits and socially awkward, but trying to find a common ground in the spelling bee. With The Hunchback of Notre Dame, there’s the whole idea of Quasimodo being deformed with a guardian who keeps him locked up and basically says, ‘you can’t go outside because I’m embarrassed by you.’”
CCT fist held auditions for The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Madison, where they found 16 featured ensemble members who will portray narrators, gypsies and gargoyles in the piece. From there Abrams, who will serve as music director, and stage director Brian Cowing flew to New York City to hold auditions for the five principal actors.
Decker admits he didn’t realize CCT was located in Madison until right before his audition. The NYC-based actor has been flying to Madison for the past four holiday seasons with his girlfriend to visit her family, and is ecstatic to share The Hunchback of Notre Dame with her young nieces and nephews.
“Sharing this story not only with these youngsters who are near and dear to my heart, but all the children and parents that will come out to see it, fuels me in giving them a magnificent performance,” Decker says. “The depth of this music can take you on a journey filled with a multitude of emotional colors.”
In addition to the cast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame will feature a 50-person choir and 22-piece orchestra on stage. Abrams says that because of the one weekend run (June 1 – 3), the decision to make the production a staged concert made the most sense since they wouldn’t have much time to utilize an extravagant set or costumes. “We really wanted to aim it at the people and the music,” he says.
CCT artistic director and "Hunchback of Notre Dame" music director Andrew Abrams. Photo courtesy of Capital City Theatre.
Not only will CCT’s Hunchback of Notre Dame have a short run, but an expedited production schedule as well. The cast and production team only get one week of rehearsal and three tech runs before the show. However, Cowing and Abrams have no doubts that these professionals will be able to pull it off.
“To have a live orchestra on stage with Madison’s best and a fantastic choir, the scope of this thing is going to be so big,” Cowing says. “It’s going to literally be a wall of sound coming at you.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, presented by Capital City Theatre, runs June 1 – 3 at Overture Center for the Arts’ Capitol Theater. For tickets call 608-571-4212 or visit capitalcitytheatre.org.