ARCHBOLD, Ohio — Archbold Community Theatre will perform their production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," one of Disney's perhaps lesser-known screen-to-stage adaptations, this weekend.
Lesser-known, of course, does not mean less impressive.
Archbold's entire theatrical team consists of around 60 people, 35 of whom are in the cast, an impressive number for small-town Archbold, which sports a population of just over 4,300 people. The cast includes actor Wes Grudizen, who will play leading role Quasimodo this weekend.
"It sort of employs a Greek chorus-style, where there's not really one narrator for the show," Grudizen said. "Each individual in the chorus has multiple lines that act as narration and move the story along. So it's really interactive."
In addition to its theatrical complexities, "Hunchback" is also a vocally challenging musical. The opening number, "The Bells of Notre Dame," is led vocally by the character Clopin, who ends the song on a whopping D5, or the second "D" note above middle C. Belting a note this high in Clopin's traditionally tenor range is exceptionally impressive.
Though the musical Archbold is staging is technically an adaptation of the 1996 Disney film, it is by no means a carbon copy. Rather, the musical takes significant inspiration from its source text: a 940 page novel published in 1831 by French author Victor Hugo.
In both the original novel, the '96 movie and the 2014 musical, "Hunchback" is the story of hunchbacked Notre Dame bell-ringer Quasimodo (in the words of the opening number, a "cruel name that means 'half-formed'"). Quasimodo is resigned to the tower by his guardian, Archdeacon Claude Frollo, whose lust for Romani dancer Esmerelda is contrasted by Quasimodo's innocent love for her.
With Hugo's reputation for dire-filled dramas like the novel Les Misérables, it is no surprise the Disney version is somewhat more lighthearted (and sporting a lower body-count) than the original.
The more complex themes are nonetheless not absent from modern adaptations, both film and stage. During infamous song "Hellfire," sung in this staging by Toledo Opera performer Kris Krotzer, Frollo is torn between his lust for Esmerelda and his religious obligations.
It isn't as light-hearted as "Frozen," but its rich material and themes are sure to prove an engaging and thrilling performance, perhaps surprising many viewers with its intensity and depth.
Performances will be held Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the 600-seat Archbold High School auditorium. Tickets are $14 and can be reserved over the phone from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. each night, or purchased at the door.
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