THEATER REVIEW: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” @ Mac-Haydn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]
The theater scene is hopping! None of our regular Berkshire On Stage critics was able to fit a trip to Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham to see “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” into their schedule, but luckily Lisa Jarisch, a longtime subscriber to the Mac, agreed to share her impressions of the production. A true theater lover, Jarisch holds a BA in English from Mount Holyoke College and has experience behind the scenes as a stage manager.
Berkshire on Stage: This is a new musical for the Mac-Haydn, and for the region. In fact, it was only just licensed for production in 2016. Have you ever seen the 1996 Disney animated film or read Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel on which it was based?
Lisa Jarisch: I am totally unfamiliar with the Disney film, and have but a vague recollection of reading the original “back in the day” when classics were a regular part of high school English curriculum. The basic story, however, has somehow worked its way into my English major consciousness…as in the name of Quasimodo always rings a bell. I am also old enough to recall the Charles Laughton film version…which James Benjamin Rodgers obviously channels in Quasimodo’s costume and make-up.
BoS: While it bears the Disney name, this is not a happy fairy tale. Tell us the plot of the show.
Jarisch: “Half-made” and orphaned, Quasimodo (James Benjamin Rodgers) is raised in solitude in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and in servitude to the (im)pious Dom Frollo (Quinto Ott), whose intense hatred for the Gypsies who infest the street of Paris grows stronger during the Feast of Fools, when the city is turned “Topsy Turvy” and passions given free rein. Yearning to experience what he sees “Out There,” Quasimodo gives in to the urgings of the lesser angels…the stone gargoyles who have been his only friends in the tower. The stone saints who also share his world are less successful in their persuasion.