Hear Those Bells Ring: A Discussion on Hunchback of Notre Dame

Photo by straannick/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by straannick/iStock / Getty Images

 Now, ok I hear you all saying, “Hey Taylor didn’t you just do an entire article about Disney?” and to that I say look at the official logo for the musical, not the movie logo. You will notice the standard Disney’s (Insert Animated Classic Here) is absent. Even though it uses the music from the Disney film, it technically is not a Disney Theatricals show in the same way of - Ok, who am I kidding. It totally is. Anyways, if you haven’t been able to tell by now, I love Disney and I love their musicals. The company may show up very frequently in my articles, but hey, they’re slowly taking over the world anyways, so just preparing you to worship your new overlords.

Oh yeah, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, let’s talk about that.

I guess, somehow it is possible that maybe people don’t even know in the slightest what Hunchback actually is, and that’s fair - some of us aren’t as fond of the Disney renaissance as others are. So for many the most popular example of Hunchback is the 1996 Disney movie, but that itself is based on the classic story by Victor Hugo (you know the guy who wrote Les Mis), which in America is known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but in France, the books origin and location it is better known as Notre Dame De Paris. Which for those who need to brush up on their French is...just the name of the Cathedral. Victor Hugo didn’t really care much for fancy titles. That book went on to inspire an opera, several movies (most notably a black and white one in the thirties that came to be used as a huge reference for the Disney movie, the two drawing many visual parallels), the not Disney version musical, (it actually looks really cool and I believe it’s being shown in theatres temporarily soon and you absolutely should go see it), and of course a Disney movie! The story behind the movie is actually really cool because the movie was made after Beauty and the Beast did extremely well on Broadway, and Disney wanted to make a movie specifically to later be able to be turned into a musical and well…

It didn’t go the best. You see the musical was first adapted in Germany under the name Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame, which didn’t adapt much from the 1996 movie, and it actually did really well, there was of course plan for an American adaptation but it took years and years to happen. This is most likely because of the new songs and much closer story to Hugo’s that made this story overall much different than the 1996 movie. The show ran at La Jolla Playhouse and looked as if it was Broadway bound but, in the end, Hunchback got no further than that and was soon placed into licensing territory.

Hunchback tells the story of Quasimodo, the son of Jehan Frollo who, after being cast from the cathedral and dying from disease, gives his son onto Claude Frollo to take care of. Frollo appoints the deformed boy as the bellringer of Notre Dame who, after many years of ringing the bells and only being in the company of statues and gargoyles and his master, wishes to see the world outside of the cathedral and out there among the citizens of Paris. Quasimodo gets his chance to during the Festival of Fools, the one day Romanies, or “gypsies” as they are called, can walk around without being subject to arrest. During this, Quasimodo is decided to be the ugliest man in Paris and crowned the King of Fool, where he is then whipped and mocked by the citizens. He is saved by Esmeralda who, without knowing that the citizens would react so harshly, encouraged Quasimodo to enter the contest. Quasimodo retreats back into the bell tower where Esmeralda runs after him. Phoebus, the captain of the guard. stops her upon entering, but eventually lets her go. She finds Quasimodo and the two share a moment on the top of the world. Frollo who has developed a deep lust for Esmeralda, begins to stalk her, vowing to either maker her love him or burn her at the stake, while Quasimodo has fallen in love with Esmeralda and views her as the one bit of heaven’s light in his cold dark world. Esmeralda is then tried as a witch and arrested. Phoebus defies Frollo and refuses to turn her in and the two flee to the cathedral where Quasimodo is ringing the bells to sound the alarm that Esmeralda is in danger. Phoebus is injured, and left there while Esmeralda goes to seek refuge. She gives Quasimodo a map he must decode to find her, and the two, after much trial and error and almost being hung for entering the court of miracles, find her and warn her than since Esmeralda has fled, Frollo has found the hideout and will attack at dawn. In reality, Frollo has not found the hideout but follows Phoebus and Quasimodo to where it is and arrests Esmeralda and Phoebus while Clopin, the king of the gypsies, manages to escape. Esmeralda imprisoned is cornered and assuaged by Frollo overcome with lust, and then she and Phoebus are granted to spend their last night together, as Quasimodo who is now chained up in the bell tower is hopeless and would rather be made of stone than screw up anything else. When Esmerelda is about to be burned at the stake though, Quasimodo changes his mind and breaks free in order to save her. He swings down to the pyre and fights off the guards declaring sanctuary and climbing back up to the bell tower with an unconscious Esmeralda. Clopin returns and frees Phoebus who both rally the citizens to fight after Frollo breaks the sacred laws of sanctuary that states no one can be arrested inside the holy place. Quasimodo dumps hot lead into the streets below moments after Frollo manages to bust down the doors and make it into the cathedral. He confronts Quasimodo at the tower as Esmeralda dies in his arms. Overcome with rage and grief, he throws Frollo over the edge of the tower to his death. Quasimodo then goes into the streets with Esmerelda where the people who once wanted her to die realize their mistake and paint their faces and distort themselves in order to sympathize with the poor boy. The cast then delivers the final epilogue that Quasimodo would go to die with Esmeralda before closing the show with the question they asked in the beginning, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”

Now, I absolutely love Hunchback. I mean, makes sense really, I wouldn’t be covering it if I didn’t. I had the chance to see it at Thesfest 2 years ago and I have had the pleasure of being a part of it. The music is incredible and serves to drive forward the message and the overall dark tone of the story. It covers a variety of topics such as racism, disabilities, and class without ever focusing on one specifically.  It covers the age old theme of accepting and embracing others differences in a very meaningful and impactful way. And oh my god did I mention the music. It is absolutely amazing, I mean I love everything Alan Menken, but this is spot on. The lyrics are written by Stephen Schwartz and this duo is absolutely incredible. It leads to already amazing songs like “God Help the Outcasts” and “Out There” being outranked by songs like “Made Of Stone” and the incredible show stopping Act 1 Finale, “Esmeralda”. I mean the soundtrack absolutely deserves a listen and the story as you just saw is compelling, interesting, and very engaging.

So I love it, it’s gained quite a sense of popularity in community theatres and high school, and its many people's favorite musical despite never going on Broadway. So why didn’t it? Well a lot of people would think it’s because of its dark theme. I mean three of the five main characters die by the end so… but actually, it’s an entirely different reason. See, just about every musical has a gimmick and while most are visual, Hunchback’s is an entire choir of 15-30 people who provide background vocals to the songs. Believe me when I say the choir is what makes the show different from any other musical, and Disney said they just simply could not make the show work with the cast and that large of a choir. It’s a shame, but for very reason Hunchback is one of the coolest recent musicals is the same reason we may never see it on Broadway and subsequently never tour, but it, as I mentioned, found success regionally, and recently had a critically acclaimed deaf west version.

I would highly encourage you if you haven’t seen or listened to Hunchback before to give it a try. It is one of my favorite musicals I’ve seen and one of my favorites I have been a part of. This show is truly incredible and I encourage you to see for yourself exactly what makes a monster and what makes a man…

And you can, because once again it’s The Upcoming Production Segment, where I show you where in the world Hunchback is currently or about to play so you have the chance to see the show for yourself…

Stage Door Repertory Theatre in California from August 25th to September 22nd http://www.stagedoorrep.org

The New Paradigm Theatre Company in Connecticut from August 18th to August 19th http://nptheatre.org

Music Theatre of Denton in Texas from October 19th to October 28th http://www.musictheatreofdenton.com

And I am starting a new thing this go around, if I missed any local production you would like to list go to this spreadsheet- https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LRfWXoigYMOL03ZlNH5rw9xffaOzgMMIdZOj0RQ1wNg/edit?usp=sharing and add your own. You can also view this list to find a production that may be closer to you!

....And that is all I have for you today. Thank out for reading and please keep checking back in on the blog. We release a new article every Monday and Thursday and they are all just as, if not more entertaining than this one. I hope you enjoyed reading and until next time, have a great week everyone and I will see you later in the month. Goodbye

Top 9 Disney Movies that Should Get a Stage Adaptation

Taylor Lockhart


Photo by xiaomingphotography/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by xiaomingphotography/iStock / Getty Images

Disney has become a household name in books, video games, theme parks, and in the cinema,  it seems to go unrivaled having released 5 out of the 10 highest grossing movies of last year. Their presence in the world of theatre and on Broadway is also something to behold. The Lion King is the third longest running Broadway musical of all time and the pro shot of Newsies is one of the highest grossing Fathom events of all time. Disney Theatricals is constantly brainstorming new ideas and movies to bring to the stage from obvious choices like smash hit Frozen to their latest addition to the catalog, Freaky Friday. Today however, I want to brainstorm my own ideas as I went through every Disney movie ever made and here are the top 9 Disney movies that I think should have a stage adaptation. Movies that already have a current musical adaptation even if it’s not on Broadway or in the Theatrical catalog do not count, so no Tangled or Toy Story or etc. However, musicals that currently only have junior version do… so with that all said. My name is Taylor and let’s begin.

9. Enchanted (2007)
My first choice and the number 9 spot is the 2007 movie Enchanted. It’s such an underrated Disney movie as is, and while I don’t think a musical version would be a huge hit on Broadway, I could see the story along with new and engaging songs from renowned composer Alan Menken who composed the original soundtrack making a popular licensing choice for high schools and community theatres.

8. Fantasia (1940)
So, hear me out on this...clearly a Fantasia musical isn’t a great idea, but a highly theatrical concert may be. The concert would feature tons of dance specifically ballet and large movements in time with the music to tell the story all the while playing instruments. Think similarly to what we saw in the 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd, of course no singing just the instruments. I mean there are a ton of cool ideas that could come out of turning classical music into a live visual event on stage and at the very least if not finding a place on Broadway the concert would be a huge hit in high schools and other venues. To me personally, Fantasia would allow Disney to reach into a more highbrow area they haven’t explored before and create a really cool and entertaining stage production that people would love for all the same reasons the movie was initially a hit.

7. Tall Tale (1995)
I remember watching Tall Tale in 8th grade and the story is essentially a super cool western that involves a young boy meeting Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan and saving the old west or maybe the world...I honestly don’t remember but the movie is one I’d definitely recommend, and as you watch it pay attention to just how cool of a country style musical it would make. Its obscurity could cause it to do poor on Broadway if it even found itself there at all but as far as I know a musical based on America’s old Tall Tales has never been done before and has quite a lot of potential especially in community theatres and high schools.

6. Mulan (1998)
Mulan already has a strong powerful song that would make an incredible showstopper and maybe even the Act 1 Finale. There already is a Mulan Jr. and while we may never see it on Broadway, I hope at least to see a full length version in the future. There really isn’t much more to say here. Mulan would make a good musical for all the same reasons Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast have.

5. Iron Will (1994)
Iron Will is an unknown Disney movie but has the ability to be an incredibly interesting show on stage. The dog sledding story features a young boy who is put against the toughest and most grueling environments in order to win a bobsledding race and save his family's farm. The movie is actually incredibly down to earth for Disney and could allow a nice realistic musical that strays from many of Disney’s clichés in similar ways to the hit Newsies. Imagine a bobsled in the middle of the stage with fierce snow blowing around it and you have what would turn out to be a very visually engaging musical that would only also need some great music to match the tone of the story to make it what I think would be an unexpected hit.

4. Moana (2016)
One of Disney’s latest musical, Moana, already has the musical backbone of Broadway’s most popular man, Lin Manuel Miranda. With great music and an engaging story, I would say it’s pretty unlikely we won’t see a stage adaptation soon, I just hope it doesn’t get the immediate Frozen treatment and a few other older Disney properties have the time to shine first.

3. Coco (2017)
Coco is incredible, and “Remember Me” is one of the best songs I have ever heard in my life. The background of the land of the dead would come to life beautifully on stage and with a bit more songs and figuring out how to make people look like skeletons in charming and non-frightening ways, Coco on stage and on Broadway would be stunning and I really hope something or another is currently in the works already after the films massive success

2. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Honestly, why hasn’t Hocus Pocus had a musical adaptation yet? The movie is a cult classic and is as popular now as it was when it was released. It would quickly become a favorite for the Halloween season and probably top Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd for the most common musicals done in October. The few songs in the movie are already extremely well known and just, watch Hocus Pocus and tell me it is not the perfect storm for a Broadway smash hit, from costumes, scenery, music, and well everything. It’s already one that people constantly clamor for an adaptation. I mean the only other musical Disney movie without a stage adaptation more fit for one is...

1. Hercules (1997)
I got to talk to a representative of Disney Theatricals while at ThesFest last month and I asked him, “Is there ever talk of a Hercules Musical”. He responded by telling me that it is brought up at every single meeting. Alan Menken wants Hercules, every friend I know when I asked them what Disney movie should get a musical almost immediately say Hercules. There are hundreds of articles talking about a Hercules musical. Everybody and their mother wants Hercules on Broadway and for good reason. “Zero to Hero” would be an incredible Act 1 Finale and “Go the Distance” is one of Menken’s very best “I want” songs, if maybe just a notch below “Out There” from Hunchback. Imagine show stopping Hades number, I am breaking into a sweat just thinking of everything this musical could pull off and do extremely well. Its popularity is still as you can see through the roof and a Hercules musical at this point isn’t a matter of if, but when. One could hope that it’s the next project after Frozen begins its tour, but who really knows.

Into the Woods (2014)
Just a bit of an extra really quick, remember that 2014 movie, Into the Woods. Yeah, the music is a bit weird and a little unknown, but the story is pretty cool and I just have a feeling it would be a hit on Broadway…

This joke was terrible and I’m sorry.


Did you agree with my list? Perhaps you have a musical you think is more destined then any of these, feel free to comment down below and I am trying a new thing with this top 10’s please let me know what you think. I promise you I won’t do these too terribly often. Anyways, thank you for reading and make check back every Monday and Thursday for new theatre related posts and especially make sure to check back this Thursday because I can assure you something very exciting and you will just have to wait to find out what that is… See you in a few weeks and thank you for reading.