Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse

Note: I am a season subscriber at the Paper Mill Playhouse. I was not compensated for this review, nor was I given tickets in exchange for this review.

In 2010, my husband and I visited the Paper Mill Playhouse for the first time. My husband loved the play "Lost in Yonkers" and I bought him tickets, expecting a second rate production on a similar level to a local theater. Instead, what we saw was a Broadway-caliber production for a quarter of the price. The following year we decided to take the plunge and become seasons subscribers and we have renewed each and every year since.

It was purely by chance that Newsies premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse the following season. It was so well received that it ended up on Broadway and won multiple Tony awards. Since then, Disney Theatrical Productions and the Paper Mill Playhouse entered into a special arrangement for their up-in-coming shows. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Disney Theatrical Production's next project, and it seems that it will be following in Newsies footsteps.




The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Matthew Murphy; Michael Arden (Quasimodo) and the company of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
We attended the Saturday, March 28 show at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Prior to the show beginning, we noticed the vast, breathtaking set because there wasn't a curtain. To be honest, I wasn't as excited about this show as I had been about previous Disney Theatrical Productions shows. I wasn't a huge fan of the animated film, but within the first few minutes of the stage production I was amazed by the haunting score and story. The music, written by Disney legend Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz were emotional, smart and compelling.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Jerry Dalia; Left to right: Michael Arden (Quasimodo) and Ciara Renée (Esmeralda)
My husband and I attended the Book of Mormon on Broadway two nights prior to seeing this show, and I can confidently say that the individual performances in The Hunchback of Notre Dame were comparable, if not better than that award-winning Broadway show. Michael Arden gives a breathtaking performance as the tragic Quasimodo and Ciara Renée shines as Esmeralda. 



The show was terrific from start to finish. You could hear a pin drop from the sold out audience and there were several tears shed from where I was sitting in the balcony. You most certainly don't get that warm and fuzzy Disney feeling at the end of the show, but that make it all the more powerful in my opinion.

I expect to see this one day reach the stages of Broadway. Until then, I highly suggest you take in a show at the Paper Mill Playhouse. If you're reading this review, you are too late to see Hunchback; however, Disney fans, you may be happy to hear that the next show on the docket is Ever After, the world premiere of a new musical based on the 1998 Drew Barrymore film.

Do you want to see Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame head to Broadway? Let me know in the comments section below.

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