The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Captivate Theatre is a full-length, with intermission (there’s ice cream – and you might need it) musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic.
The songs, though, are from Disney. Captivate are from Edinburgh.
I really enjoyed this, from start to finish, despite the baking heat of the Magnusson Theatre.
Director Sally Lyall has done wonders; Colum Finday and Fraser Hume got the music to a tea and the costumes just what we needed. As noted, it’s an Edinburgh cast and an appropriately diverse one.
The ensemble all seem to be lead performers in waiting and all impressive singers. Hudson Scheel plays Clopin Troillefou, the Roma King; Hamish Coles is Phoebus De Martin, the new captain; Camila Lopez and Lewis Kerr are outstanding as Esmeralda and Quasimodo. I’m saving my loudest applause for Aidan McGrath as Dom Claude Frollo. What a voice! It’s like a singing James Earl Jones has been transformed into a young Scottish guy.
What to expect
There’s a cast of about 20, all in costume and a well-lit stage. A scaffold at the back represents the titular Notre Dame, and crates are deftly put into position to whisk up chairs, tables and parapets as needed.
The ensemble cast presents the gargoyles here, who still hold under stony lights when not apparently talking to the hunchback. Get used to the ensemble playing a few characters and without much, if any, costume change. It does not impair the performance at all, and there’s never any confusion when someone is a lieutenant or one of the Roma.
Lewis Kerr fearlessly jumps off that scaffold. The game of “Will he? Won’t he?” is over quickly; he will! That’s the danger thrill. There is fighting and bloodshed in The Hunchback of Notre Dame but all that is abstracted in this version, with a little sword and no fake blood. Even fire is represented by streamers.
However, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not a play with a happy ending.
For the most part, though, this version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is entirely musical. The songs pace us through the plot, and the characters narrate any gaps. Works for me!
You don’t need to know the book’s plot or the animation to enjoy this performance.
Vibe and performance
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has some of my favourite songs of Edinburgh Fringe 2023. This singing success is not all down to Aidan McGrath because I’m sure we could randomly point to any of the performers and get a fantastic song, but once more, for the record, Aidan McGrath, wow.
The performance is finely and loudly tuned. You’ll hear everything clearly from the back row. I know that’s where I ended up after rocking up a mere 10 minutes before curtain up.
Timing and variety are spot on. As the plot lifts and drops in mood, so do the songs, and we move from solos to multi-singer and to (nearly) whole cast chorus epics.
Put aside the comfort of the theatre and whether you score a good seat or not because I think you’d have to be actively anti-musical to dislike The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
A remarkable performance and a musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, mixing the book with Disney songs.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is well-paced, powerfully sung, tragic, lovely and thoughtful. It’s a recommendation.