There are numerous reasons I’ve been waiting excitedly for months to go see The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have been a fan of the Disney movie, on which the play is partially based, since childhood. Every time I re-watch it, however, I realize just how dark the tone and themes of the story are and wonder why millions of children love the Disney movie so much. I consider it the darkest Disney movie, which is probably why it has always been my favorite.
I have been a fan of the book, on which this play is also based, since high school. I loved both the book and the musical of Les Miserables, so I decided to read another hideously long book by Victor Hugo. Though I am a fast reader, it took almost a month to finish The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The messages of the two books are very similar, in my opinion; they both promote a kinder, more charitable, and loving world using the plight of the down-trodden to illustrate their point. However, I think The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s sad moments are more depressing and dark…Phoebus is tortured and killed, Quasimodo’s love is forever unrequited, Esmeralda is raped, Quasimodo pushes Frollo to his death atop the church, Esmeralda is hanged, and Quasimodo starves himself holding her corpse. The musical and the Disney movie take out many of the darker deaths, but the eerie religious and sexual overtones of the book remain.
I have read a reason Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame was to promote knowledge of old Gothic architecture so it would not be destroyed back in the 1800s. I have been to Paris twice, and both times I stared at Notre Dame in awe. I cannot think of a more beautiful yet scary location than Notre Dame; so it is absolutely fitting that the story is centered both there and the dark and seedy streets of Paris.
For all of these reasons and more, I have to say I loved the musical and I recommend seeing it right away. The music was beautiful; some songs were taken from the movie (like the touching “God Help the Outcasts” and the intensely scary “Hellfire”), while others were new but fun. There is a live chorus that sits on stage, joining in on most of the songs. I can’t describe how chillingly beautiful it was when the musical started out with the chorus singing “Bells of Notre Dame.”
Here is the stage:
Go see it and enjoy!