The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

Rebecca Varidel
1st Oct 2023

Regals Musical Society is currently presenting a world class musical production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame based on the Victor Hugo novel, with songs from the Disney animation (that by the way has a different Disney ending) - music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Peter Parnell.

This is striking stuff, with an amazing captivating set, and momentous lighting design that catapulted the powerful performances and direction into another realm. This show is only on until 8 October, so make sure if you are in Sydney to get yourself along as the community based not-for-profit theatre prices ($39, $49) bely the astounding quality of this phenomenal production.

As the performance space, the auditorium of Rockdale Town Hall provides a good view from any chair. Seated waiting for The Hunchback of Notre Dame to start, the enormous stained-glass lighting helped ease the audience from the 21st to the 15th century when the story is set. Then there were claps of thunder, and the ringing of bells to further transport us.

Yet soon the audience was transported to Medieval Paris, and soon after the show had started, we forgot we were even in Sydney at all.

All of the leads in this The Hunchback of Notre Dame are totally tremendous. No notes. Central to the tale, you might remember is the main character Quasimodo, and Daniel Wakeford is outstanding in this role. As a side note, it was interesting to read that Daniel is currently studying Music Theatre at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The recent introduction of this course to the hallowed music educational institution cements the growing prominence of musical theatre in our city of Sydney. Yay! In his performance, Wakeford - with a little help of costuming - creates a believable character who wins our hearts. Each step, each gesture, each note resounds with every spectrum of emotion. He hobbles and leaps. He flies from meek to powerful. He is loved.

Alyssa Bishara is heavenly as the gypsy Esmeralda, perfecting the art of happy freedom in both voice and dance and tambourine. She sooths us in the chaos, and radiates a generous warmth to match the generous soul of her character. Bishara is strong and centred yet balanced and creates a stable central pole for the men (Quasimodo, Dom Claude Frollo, Captain Phoebus, Clopin Trouillefou) around her. Declan Dowling as Dom Claude Frollo is menacing. His very presence fuels fear and subservience. His voice reverberates with domination. And that evil laugh! What a character actor, and singer. Joshua Houston brings a lightness of both step and song to the charming Captain Phoebus. His swashbuckling stance turns our attention to him wherever he is on the stage. Jonathan Holmes truly animates the Gypsy leader Clopin Trouillefou. Was that a Disney character alive on the Rockdale stage?

The Gargoyles are super duper and just perfect for the stage. The Gypsies are energetic fun. Further transporting us, the Congregation Choir harmonies soar and sooth our souls. The choreography, and its execution, didn't quite hit the high bar of the rest of the production, but the dancing added dimensions to the show, particularly to the gypsy liveliness. Costumes throughout the show enhance the story and our imaginations.

All in all, this is purely fabulous entertainment. In these troubled times (then or now) if the message from the story also resonates you with, all the better.