| Published: 16 November 2015
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an 1831 French novel written by Victor Hugo. It is set in 1482 in Paris, in and around the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Hugo began to write Hunchback in 1829, but it wasn't until the latter half of 1830 when he finished it, under pressure from his publisher. The story begins in 1482, the day of the Festival of Fools in Paris. Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer, is introduced by his crowning as Pope of Fools. Esméralda, a beautiful 16-year-old gypsy, captures the hearts of many men but especially Quasimodo’s stepfather, Claude Frollo. Frollo is torn between his lust and the rules of the church. He orders Quasimodo to get her. Quasimodo is caught and whipped and ordered to be tied down in the heat. Esméralda seeing his thirst, offers him water. It saves her, for she captures the heart of the hunchback. She is later accused of the murder of Phoebus, whom Frollo tried to kill in jealousy, and is sentenced to death by hanging. Quasimodo saves her by bringing her to the cathedral under the law of sanctuary. Frollo rallies the truands (criminals of Paris) to charge the cathedral. The king, seeing the chaos, vetoes the law of sanctuary and commands his troops to take her out and kill her. When Quasimodo sees the truands, he assumes they are there to hurt Esméralda, so he drives them off. Frollo betrays Esméralda by handing her to the troops and watches while she is hanged. Quasimodo pushes him from Notre-Dame to his death. He then goes to Esméralda’s grave, lies next to her corpse and dies. This plot, especially due to its unhappy ending, has had two results. The first is that the novel was very popular in France, and spurred a historical preservation movement in that country that eventually led to the renovation of Notre-Dame. The second is that very few adaptations of the story for the stage or film have been true to the original story. This includes several late 1800's operas through the silent film version that made Lon Chaney a horror film star in 1923. Charles Laughton played Quasimodo opposite Maureen O’Hara in 1937 to great acclaim. In fact, there has been a Hunchback movie made in practically every decade since then, and even a full scale musical. Probably the most well-known version to our audiences was Disney's adaptation in 1996. It was the second Disney film directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise after the hugely successful Beauty and the Beast in 1991. The duo had read Victor Hugo's novel and were eager to make an adaptation, but made several changes in order to make the storyline more suitable for children. This included making the film's heroes, Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and Phoebus, kinder than in the novel (Phoebus, in particular, was a villain in the novel), and keeping Quasimodo and Esmeralda alive at the end, a move which frustrated some critics who wanted it to be closer to the original material. In the novel, only Phoebus, Fleur-de-Lys, Djali, and Gringoire are still alive at the end of the story. This version spawned a sequel on DVD that found Esmeralda and Phoebus married with a son, and Quasimodo finally getting a girl. In our production this evening, you will find all of the great characters that made the original story so intriguing, but as author Patrick Rainville Dorn, an Anglican priest, dubs it, it is "loosely adapted" from that source. This script features a troupe of actors performing the story 50 years after it took place, right on the steps of the cathedral itself. This allows for some leeway in the events shown, and gives us a chance to show off our slapstick and comedic talents as the plot reels from place to place, rarely even leaving the courtyard in front of Notre Dame! Dorn played up the comedy, but also wanted to maintain the themes of the original novel. As he says on his website, "It should come as no surprise that the axis scene, around which everything else revolves, is the moment when Quasimodo, shamed and humiliated on the public pillory, is given water by Esmeralda, the woman he'd abducted and the inadvertent cause of his suffering. This act of charity, of mercy, of tenderness, shines like a beacon of hope forward and backward through the story. I decided that no matter how silly the show got, and I intended to pack in as much slapstick humor, wordplay and goofy characters as possible, this scene was going to be played straight."
So, with this combination of theme, sometimes sheer craziness and a classic story, you are sure to have as much fun watching this production as we did preparing it for you!
Shrek the Musical, Spring 2016
This musical is based off the well known film that made all of its iconic characters so well known to us all. But did you know that it actually started out as a children’s book, and that it has gone through many, many changes to become the form you see tonight? Shrek! is a picture book written and illustrated in 1990, by William Steig about a repugnant and monstrous ogre who leaves home to see the world and ends up saving a princess. The name "Shrek" is derived from the Yiddish and German Schreck meaning "fear" or "fright". The book served as the basis for the popular Shrek film series over a decade after its publication. Steven Spielberg acquired the rights for the book in 1991, planning to produce a traditionally animated film based on the book. However, around the time DreamWorks was founded, producer John H. Williams brought the book to DreamWorks. As a result, DreamWorks ended up acquiring the rights for the book in 1995, and Katzenberg quickly put the film in active development. Shrek was released in April 2001, starring the voice talents of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz. Chris Farley had originally been cast to voice the title character in the film, but died before being able to complete the project in December 1997; in August 1998, DreamWorks then recast the role to Mike Myers. After his first recording, he decided to record his voice in a Scottish accent. The film was also originally planned to be motion-captured, but after poor results, the studio decided to use computer animation. The film was an immediate commercial and critical success, and won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The film's triumph ultimately led to the releases of three sequels: Shrek 2 (2004, which was also an instant success), Shrek the Third (2007), and Shrek Forever After (2010). Shrek The Musical is a musical based off of the first film, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. They began working on the show in 2002, with the premiere of the show happening in 2008 at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. A fun fact is that a group from Zillah actually went to that production in Seattle and saw many of the lead actors that eventually went on to play in the Broadway production! The Seattle production featured a turn table that could also raise and lower and elaborate costumes. More changes occurred when the show went to Broadway. The leads remained the same, except Donkey, who was now played by Daniel Breaker. The Dragon, was sung by three women instead of one, and was a puppet represented only from the neck up. Several other songs were revamped, including adding “I’m A Believer” as the finale, as it was in the original animated film. The show ran for a year in New York, earning 12 Drama Desk Award nominations and eight Tony Award nominations. It was also filmed for DVD, and many ZHS cast members practically had that memorized before we announced we were doing this show! Following the Broadway run, the national tour began in 2010 in Chicago, featuring an all new Dragon (with an entire body and voiced by one actress) and song, “Forever”. It also featured redesigned sets, cut the Magic Mirror character, and some other changes in the music order. A second tour of North America launched in 2011 at the Capitol Theater in Yakima, WA. Yet again, a newly revised version ran on the West End in England from 2011-2013, again rearranging some of the songs and adding back in several fairy tale creatures that had been cut. The touring version is the one you will see tonight. This show is a terrific challenge for ZCSTC. The music provides upbeat fun, but took a great deal of work to master, as did the choreography. Inspired at the beginning of our production by seeing Eisenhower’s production, we worked hard to bring you this show. Building set pieces, props and costumes took a literal village: parents, students and alumni all spent hours working on swamps, painting book covers, making a 17 foot dragon in their garage, constructing giant foam heads, straw suitcases, and Shrekish martinis, amongst a lot of other jobs that created what you will see before you tonight. We hope you enjoy it!