By Ed Mickens
Prescott Center for the Arts will close out its 2018-19 season with a blockbuster: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The show runs from May 30 to June 16 on the PCA main stage, which is, perhaps appropriately, a converted church.
Don Langford, whose previous credits include Les Miserable and Sweeney Todd, directs a cast of 36 in this beautiful production based on Victor Hugo’s classic 1831 tale. This stage version is adapted from the 1996 Disney animated film, with its Academy Award-nominated score, and includes new songs with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
What makes a monster and what makes a man? How do each of us address the inner struggles that are common to all mankind? Questions like these are posed throughout the story of Hunchback. They are what drew Langford to the show, along with an operatic score that combines beautifully with the grand themes of the story. Langford says, “Menken and Schwartz’s songs and lyrics are delivered in a classical style that will appeal to both Broadway musical buffs and fans of the classics alike.”
The show features 14 Congregants who play multiple roles, plus six principals, including the very talented Jeremy Zuhlke as Quasimodo, Leah Morales as Esmeralda, and Darrell Rowader as Claude Frolo, along with a 17-member choir. One of those choir members, Linda Rowader is a veteran of over a dozen musical productions. She received her first college degree in musical performance and has sung locally for many years with Prescott Pops Symphony and Prescott Chorale. Linda says, “the arrangements are some of the most beautiful she has ever heard. The composers have two chorale groups–the choir and the congregants–that sing along together and behind the soloists creating a magical sound for audiences.”
In addition to some of the returning stars of the PCA stage, there are new faces in this show as well. Greg James is performing in his first production at PCA as Father Dupin. He has lived all over the country and is a veteran of many community theater productions. He is thrilled to be surrounded by such “high quality voices,” and notes that “even though the songs come from the Disney animated film, they are far richer and more robust than most Disney film songs. It’s more like opera.”
Gina Steverson is the show’s musical director and will also be seen on stage. She is a lifetime student of music with training in piano, voice, and professional experience with the clarinet. Some recent acting credits include Fantine from Les Miz, Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol, and Brooke in Noises Off.
“The greatest musical challenge in this show,” says Gina, “is the intricate timing. I do not know of a score as difficult as this. The writing bounces back and forth within the entire cast, sometimes after just three or four notes. We all depend on each other for cues to maintain the necessary flow. I think of myself as holding a lot of balloons together, all at the same time. It is vitally important to keep them in a bundle for the story to be told as it was designed. The music is beautifully melodic and the lyrics are inspired. You will be deeply moved by the power of this emotionally rich score.”
Karen Murphy, the costume designer, is excited to dress this show. “Hunchback is a period show, set in medieval France,” she explains. “That’s always fun, for both the costumer and the audience, to be taken to another time and another place. And there are such a variety of specialty characters in Hunchback, such as medieval townspeople, gypsies, soldiers, monks and priests, plus gargoyles and statues that come to life on stage, that appeal to my creative senses as a costumer. “The gargoyles were the ones that made me think, Oooh, this one could be an artistically fun show.”
Hunchback also offers some unusual opportunities for dance. Ashley Fine will be adding to the magic with her uniquely creative choreography, which will include the re-creation of a beautiful and energetic medieval gypsy celebration on a grand scale.
Director Don Langford and set designer David Solomon will be working with PCA technical director Stan Reed, builder Ed Gates, and set artist Noelene Patterson to create a multi-level set that will bring the gothic beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral to life.
“Something that’s classic withstands the test of time,” says Langford. “The music is timeless and Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is a classic piece of literature. Together, they tell a beautiful, moving story: migrants looking for acceptance, people with disabilities seeking connection, religious oppression, struggles with sexual urges, and a nation in upheaval.
“These issues are as relevant now as they were in the 14th century,” he observes. “Above all, there are the themes of love, loss, and life as it moves on. Not everything is resolved, but hopefully your theatre experience will create a greater connection, understanding, and love and tolerance of one another.”
This article was written prior to the fire at Notre Dame, after reaching out to Ms. Allen for a comment she stated “Our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out to France as they rebuild this religious and artistic treasure.”
IMAGES: Photos By Joseph Hough
The entertainment at PCA doesn’t end after Hunchback. Keep your eyes peeled for these summer performances.
Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End
A loving tribute to Ohio wife and mother turned longtime Arizona resident. She made herself into a national superstar as a best-selling author and syndicated journalist, lauded for opening up the secret world of the mother and housewife. From her troubled childhood, where she found comfort in the words of Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, through her rise to fame as a journalist and public figure, discover the story behind America’s beloved humorist who championed women’s lives with wit that sprang from the most unexpected place of all – the truth.
Kiss Me Kate
From area youth participating in PCA’s Teen Summer Stock Program, A Year of Frog and Toad from junior youth participating in the Summer Stock Jr. Program, and A Fragmented Fairytale from youth in the Theatre Adventurers Program.
For more information about The Hunchback of Notre Dame, youth programs, and other events, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.pca-az.net or call the Box Office at (928) 445-3286
Tags: Ashley Fine, Daniel Cadena, Darrell Rowader, Don Langford, Ed Mickens, Gina Steverson, Jeremy Zuhlke, Joseph Hough, Karen Murphy, Leah Morales, Linda Rowader, Prescott Center for the Arts, Quasimodo, Robyn Allen, The Hunchback of Notre Dame