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Great Lakes Theater’s production of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ rings true

The French have a word when something is extraordinary. That word is “magnifique”. If one were to use mere words to describe the grandeur of the Great Lakes Theater’s astounding production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame now on stage at the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square even this word pales by comparison.

The show with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Peter Parnell (based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney film) is an amazing spectacle of stage set, costumes, music, lights, acting, dancing and singing…in fact some of the most impressive singing ever brought to the live stage. Along with the splendid cast (all of whom are in fine voice) the company has added a dozen or so members of the Baldwin Wallace Choral Studies Program with director Marc Weagraff to add an even stronger vocal punch to the proceedings.

In 15th century Paris, Claude Frollo (Tom Ford*) is a young priest assigned to Notre Dame. His feckless brother, Jehan (Dan Hoy*) resides with him at the cathedral. During a drunken city wide escapade, Jehan meets and falls in love with a gypsy girl, Florica (Olivia Kaufman) but is caught when he tries to sneak her back to his church quarters. Because of this sin, Jehan is banished from the church.

He and his new love leave to begin a series of travels. Years later, Claude is called upon to visit his brother who is dying (the gypsy girl having died earlier). Before he passes, Jehan hands over his horribly deformed infant son to Claude to care for. At first Claude refuses but when his brother dies he finds that he has no choice.

It is years later and the day of “The Feast of Fools.” Claude is now Dom Claude Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame Cathedral and the deformed Quasimodo (Corey Mach*) whose name means “almost standard” has grown into a deformed yet powerfully built man who rings the massive bells of the cathedral. Throughout his life Quasimodo has never been allowed to leave the sanctuary of the church. Learning that his guardian plans to have the feast of fools cancelled forever, he ventures out into the city and joins the raucous revelry taking place.

In the meantime, a young soldier, Phoebus (Alex Syiek*) returns to Paris following a four year campaign in order to become Captain of the Cathedral’s Guard. After a night of carousing in the city with a band of gypsies he meets Esmeralda (Keri René Fuller*) and falls in love with her.

As the day’s celebrations go into the night, and due to his hideous nature, Quasimodo is elected “King of the Fools” but is soon humiliated and attacked by the crowd after Archdeacon Frollo’s guard incite a riot in order to clear the city of gypsies. Dom Claude arrives and refuses to help Quasimodo but Esmeralda takes pity as the two escape the crowd together to find safety in the bell tower of the cathedral.

Dom Frollo discovers the two and finds that he has strange physical yearnings for the young woman. After Esmeralda refuses his advances he sets his guards at the entrances to prevent her from leaving the cathedral. Quasimodo helps Esmeralda escape but before she leaves she gives him a pendant that has a secret map showing the location of the Court of Miracles that is the secret city home of the gypsy clan.

For this show Great Lakes Theater has assembled one of the most stellar casts ever brought together. Of note are Corey Mach* as Quasimodo who twists his fine physique into the deformed personage of his character right in front of our eyes. Add to this his fine tenor voice and physical adeptness and you have the complete package, Keri René Fuller* as Esmeralda completely captivates the audience through dance and song. Her wondrous voice fills the theater with joy, Tom Ford* as Dom Claude Frollo takes on the role of heavy and does a wonderful job at it as well as surprising us all with his powerful baritone voice. Alex Syiek* as Clopin Trouillefou, King of the Gypsies acts as the singing narrator helping us to be informed of the proceedings.

Special note must be made of the nine piece orchestra (playing 13 instruments) that is under the direction of Joel Mercier who does an amazing job of bringing a full symphonic sound to the theater, the Baldwin Wallace Choral Studies Program Members under the direction of Marc Weagraff who added an entirely new depth to the polyphonic work, the massive set by Jeff Herrman that comes complete with the centrally located huge bell and oversized wooden scaffolding and is left for the most part unchanged with minor additions of props and changes in lighting to set different locals. Lastly there is the costuming by Martha Broelmeier that has some interesting surprises.

Although there are some mildly adult themes there is no adult language thus a safe show to take the children who are mature enough to appreciate great live theater.

Somehow Great Lakes Theater manages to enlarge the stage in all directions for this phenomenal bigger than life rendering of the Victor Hugo classic. All of the elements of light, sound, voice and dance combine to totally captivate the audience in a production that can only be described as Magnifique. This is the high bar from which all other Playhouse Square shows will be measure to this season. See this show!

The Great Lakes Theater production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be on stage in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square through November 4, 2017. Tickets may be purchased online by going to, by phone by calling (216) 241-6000 or by stopping by the Playhouse Square Box Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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