A CurtainUp London Review
Notre Dame de Paris
"How can we make a world without poverty or borders?"
Well it's 18 and a half years since I last had the opportunity to review Notre Dame de Paris, the French musical about the hunchback of Notre Dame based on Victor Hugo's novel "Notre Dame de Paris". Last time it was in English, this time it is in French but with Jeremy Sams' surtitles. Now it is set in the magnificent surroundings of the Coliseum, the home of the English National Opera with some of their orchestra playing in support. I suppose much of our reaction to productions is to do with expectations and whereas last time I had hoped in vain for a new Les Miserables, this time I knew what to expect and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, albeit with some tongue in cheek.
Cast in Notre Dame de Paris
(Photo: Alessandro Dobici)
There is much that is the same as the original production but I think the athleticism of the choreography is even more extreme and admirable for its exertion and execution, but I am still divided as to whether dance should be about jaw dropping backwards somersaults or less frenetic expression. I think the costumes have improved but you'll be pleased to know the dancing with crash barriers and a climbing wall is still there. As the musical seems to feature immigrants and asylum seekers whom I do not remember, it has, for me, taken on more of a current affairs slant than before. I still don't believe that people would possess documentation in the 15th century ("Les Sans papiers") to prove their asylum seeking status but there's always artistic licence! I half wanted to dress the protesters in the yellow jackets of recent Parisian protest but instead they have feathered headdresses and bare chests.
The tunes are universally pretty and the singing magnificent. Angelo del Vecchio as Quasimodo has an interesting voice with a decidedly different timbre and is sympathetic as the deformed bell ringer who falls for the gypsy girl Esmerelda (Hiba Tawaji) who in turn has fallen for the two timing Phoebus, Captain of the King's Archers (Martin Giroux). Hugo's novel has been adapted into opera and there is another based on Esmerelda and her three lovers, Quasimodo, Phoebus and the wicked priest Frollo (Daniel Lavoie) whose oath of celibacy goes for six when faced with Esmerelda's beauty.
I liked too Jay as Clopin, the leader of the underclass in prison and out. Richard Charest as Gringoire the poet provides much of the narrative and marries Esmerelda after a woman agreeing to marry him will prevent his hanging. The marriage will be in name only. Gringoire sings a song with Frollo about their enforced celibacy.
We are told that this musical got into the Guinness Book of Records for taking the most money in its first year from 1998 to 1999 and in London it has found a loyal following of French ex-patriates who gave it a rousing reception. It has shown in numerous countries and been translated into nine languages. I still have immense difficulty with the surtitles in English. They are better than the English version words but still read as too simplistic, maybe they lose something in the translation?
I have saved to last the link to my review of this show in 2000
go here. Quite a lot of my comments then apply still.
Musical Numbers and Synopsis
- Le Temps des cathedrales Gringoire the troubadour sings about the catherdral and its future.
- Les Sans PapiersUndocumented immigrants who have come to seek asylum sleep in front of the cathedral.
- Intervention de FrolloFrollo the archdeacon of Notre Dame, orders Phoebus to chase off all the undocumented immigrants. Phoebus obeys but lingers for a moment on seeing Esmerelda.
- Danse d'EsmereldaEsmerelda reads Phoebus's palm.
- Bohemienne Esmerelda proudly sings about being a Bohemian.
- Esmerelda, tu sais Clopin warns Esmerelda against the wickedness of men.
- Ces diamants la
- Phoebus and his fiancee Fleur de Lys declare their love for one another.
- La Fete des fous Gringoire presides over the Feast of Fools. Whoever makes the ugliest grimace will be crowned the King of Fools.
- Le Pape des fous Quasimodo, hunchbacked and lame, only has to show his face to be elected the King of Fools.
- La Sorciere Frollo proposes to kidnap Esmerelda and bring her to Notre Dame to educate her in religion.
- L'Enfant trouve Quasimodo cannot refuse Frollo, who raised Quasimodo as his own son.
- Les Portes de Paris At midnight, the gates of Paris are closed. Gringoire finds a night of mysteries.
- Tentative d'enlevement Quasimodo tries to kidnap Esmerelda. Phoebus stops Quasimodo's attempt and asks Esmerelda to meet him the next night at the Cabaret du Val d'Amour. Frollo hidden in the shadows hears Phoebus' plan.
- La Cour des miracles Esmerelda finds refuge in the Court of Miracles. Clopin condemns Gringoire, who had followed Esmerelda, to hang. Clopin decrees Gringoire's only salvation to be for a woman to agree to marry him. Esmerelda proposes a marriage in name only with Gringoire.
- Le Mot Phoebus Esmerelda asks Gringoire the meaning of the word Phoebus.
- Beau comme le soleil Esmerelda and Fleur de Lys sing of their love for Phoebus.
- Dechire Phoebus is torn by his love for both Esmerelda and Fleur de Lys.
- Ananke Gringoire asks Frollo the meaning of the word ananke engraved on a stone in Notre Dame.
- A boire Quasimodo is tortured on the wheel for trying to kidnap Esmerelda. She brings him water.
- Belle Quasimodo, Frollo and Phoebus sing of their feelings for Esmerelda.
- Ma maison, c'est la maison Released from the wheel, Quasimodo finds Esmerelda inside Notre Dame and offers her the cathedrals protection.
- Ave Maria
Esmerelda is touched by the spirit of the cathedral.
- Si tu pouvais voir en moi
Quasimodo realises that he is the only one to love Esmerelda with his entire heart.
- Tu va me detruire
Frollo is driven to self-destruction.
Frollo follows Phoebus to his fateful meeting with Esmerelda.
- Le Val d'Amour
While Esmerelda is with Phoebus, Frollo who was spying on them, strikes Phoebus and disappears. The soldiers arrest Esmerelda.
Gringoire sings of fate, the mistress of all destinies.
Frollo and Gringoire discuss ideas that have changed the world.
- Les Cloches
Quasimodo refuses to ring the bells. The disappearance of Esmerelda has driven him mad.
- Ou est elle?
Frollo worries about Esmerelda's fate. Gringoire reveals to Clopin that she is in prison.
- Les oiseaux qu'on met en cage.
Esmerelda calls Quasimodo to her rescue. Concerned, he looks for her everywhere.
Clopin and the undocumented immigrants are arrested.
- Le proces
Esmerelda is brought to trial. She is accused of stabbing Phoebus.
- La Torture
As the judge, Frollo tortures Esmerelda, and she confesses her love for Phoebus. Frollo condemns her to hang.
- Etre pretre et aimer une femme
Frollo strips himself of his title as judge and is left to suffer the emotional torment of his unrequited passion.
Learning that Phoebus is alive, Esmerelda begs him to return to her.
- Je reviens vers toi
Phoebus returns to Fleur de Lys claiming that Esmerelda has bewitched him.
- La Monture
Fleur de Lys refuses to marry Phoebus while Esmerelda is alive.
- Visite de Frollo a Esmerelda
Frollo visits Esmerelda in prison and confesses his love for her.
- Un matin tu dansais
Esmerelda rejects Frollo's advances, confident that Phoebus will come to her aid. Frollo is furious that Esmerelda refused his ultimatum and throws himself on her.
Quasimodo, who has followed Frollo, frees Clopin and the undocumented immigrants. Clopin attacks Frollo and frees Esmerelda. He brings them to Notre Dame to seek asylum.
Gringoire implores the moon to listen to Quasimodo's lament.
- Je te laisse un siflet
Quasimodo gives his help to Esmerelda.
- Dieu que le monde est injuste
Quasimodo sings of the injustice to the world.
- Vivre Esmerelda realises that her destiny is to live or die for her love.
- L'Attaque de Notre Dame
Frollo orders Phoebus to drive out the undocumented immigrants. Clopin is killed in the attack. Before dying, Clopin asks Esmerelda to continue the fight.
Phoebus reads Esmerelda her sentence. She is led to the gallows in front of the cathedral.
- Mon maitre, mon sauveur
From the top of the towers of Notre Dame, Frollo watches Esmerelda's hanging. Quasimodo learns of Frollo's actions and seizes Frollo, throwing him down the stairs to his death.
- Donnez la moi
Quasimodo demands to be given Esmerelda's body.
- Danse mon Esmerelda
Quasimodo holds Esmerelda's body in his armsand mourns her sacrifice for love.
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Notre Dame de Paris
Written by Luc Plamondon
From the novel by Victor Hugo
Composed by Richard Cocciante
Directed by Gilles Maheu
Starring: Hiba Tawaji, Angelo Del Vecchio, Daniel Lavoie, Richard Charest, Alyzee Lalande, Martin Giroux, Jay
Dancers: Alexandre Lacoste, Giuseppe Marino, Luca Calzolaro, Giulia Barbone, Gianluca Falvo, Alizee Duvernois, Domenico Ausillo, Emanuelle Pironte, Anais Replumaz, Julie Zano, Joane Nabonne, Roberta Zagretti, Martina Ronchetti, Renato Capalbo
Acrobats and break dancers: Pascal Fortunato, Nathan Jones, Jonathan Gajdane, Alex Besnier, Samuele Poddi, Abdel Kader Diop, Alberto Poli, Carlos Felipe Suarez Arvelo
Choreography: Martino Muller
Set Designer: Christian Ratz
New Costume Design: Caroline van Assche
Lighting Design: Alain Lortie
Musical Director: Matthew Brind
Surtitles: Jeremy Sams
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7845 9300
Booking to 27th January 2019
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 23rd January 2018 evening performance at the London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4ES (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)
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