Monday, September 26, 2016

A Night At the Theatre

Hello, all! Welcome to fall! Yet another season has ended and I'm one unit of time closer to my book release.

I hope to have more news on that front for you later, but for now, how about I talk about what I did this weekend? I went on a road trip to see a play. In a theatre 4 hours away from where I live.

And it was totally worth it.

All right, story time. So, in St. George, UT, there's an outdoor theatre called the Tuacahn, that has excellent quality musicals in the summer. This year, they were performing the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Yes, it is a stage musical. Here's a video promo of the stage show from the Paper Mill Playhouse:


One of my friends really, really, REALLY loves the Disney movie, and I like it quite a bit myself, so we planned a trip and went down to St. George to see this play. We drove 4 hours down to see the Thursday show, and then 4 hours back the next day. And yes, I still say it was worth it.

 
The set, as seen before the show began.

 
 My friends and I, having fun minutes before the show started.

The musical is an interesting thing. It's based on both the Disney movie and Victor Hugo's book. The music is from the Disney movie, with a couple songs added. I can't convey to you how much I loved the music in this play. I always loved the movie's songs and score, and it's all there! Even the added songs were great. Truly moving music, and it's something to hear someone sing "Out There" live.

The interesting thing is, I remember reading about this play in the New York Times when it premiered. I didn't pay much attention to the article (I was busy) but I remember scanning it and getting a sense that the play was based on the Disney movie but really dark. It didn't make much sense to me.

[Warning: I'm not going to give away spoilers that haven't technically been out for years, but if you don't want this play revealed to you in any way for any reason, you may as well stop here and come back later.]

It makes sense now. The play is a tragedy, and I don't mean it's bad. It was very good. It's just sad.

The play follows, more or less, the movie plot. A few details are closer to the book, but overall, it's recognizable. The very end, though, right after Quasimodo pours molten lead out the cathedral, is the book's ending. I wondered, if that's how it happened in the play, but the movie plot all the way to the end lulled me into a false sense of security. I do like the book ending, too. It was interesting, though, seeing it mixed with Disney's happy (okay, happier) take on the story.

Characters were also a combination of Disney and book. Frollo is more sympathetic, more of a tragic character. You see more of his backstory. Quasimodo is deaf, and Phoebus is a bit more arrogant and less noble than in the Disney movie. The play was kind of like what you'd expect if Disney made movies for adults instead of kids.

Although, Hunchback of Notre Dame, the animated movie, isn't exactly what I'd call a "kid's movie." There's way too much darkness in that movie. It's brought out in the play.

We had excellent performers. Our favorites were Frollo (who nailed "Hellfire" with his deep voice and played his complex character well), Quasimodo (DANG! What a voice! And also, excellent acting), and Clopin (sassy rogue, that's all I have to say).

I'm going to wrap up, now, because I don't want to spoil too much. But I want to point out one part of the play that I thought was interesting. In the opening number, "The Bells of Notre Dame," the song ends with the line, "Here is a riddle to guess if you can, sing the bells of Notre Dame: What makes a monster and what makes a man?" In the play, that line starts with the chorus singing together, and then for the last part, "What makes a monster and what makes a man?", one guy emerges from the crowd and delivers that line. Then they put the costume on him: he's Quasimodo. Frollo is actually the one who puts the hunch on him.

No interpretation here. Just interest. I love seeing adaptations; they make me think about stories I know in a new way.

And when the adaptation is a musical? Well, let's just say I'll be listening to the soundtrack for a while longer.

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