The Hippo


Jun 3, 2020








The Hunchback of Notre Dame 

Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord 
When: Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m. 
Cost: $18 for adults and $16 for youth and seniors 
More info:, 753-6653

Preaching to the choir
The Hunchback of Notre Dame makes NH debut

By Angie Sykeny

 The Community Players of Concord will give The Hunchback of Notre Dame its New Hampshire debut at the Concord City Auditorium Nov. 17 through Nov. 19. 

The musical combines the story from Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel of the same name with music from the 1996 Disney film. It premiered in California in 2014 and was made available to regional theaters in 2016. 
Director Bryan Halperin saw one of the first regional productions in Maine last year and knew it was something he wanted to bring to the New Hampshire stage. 
One of the most appealing things about the musical, he said, is its unique format in which the actors play people who are telling the story rather than the characters in the story themselves. 
“It gives the director a lot of freedom to use their own originality and come up with a unique way of telling the story,” he said. 
The musical’s use of a choir and the themes explored in The Hunchback story inspired Halperin to set the Players’ version in a 19th-century church, where the story of the Hunchback is told as a parable in the preacher’s sermon, and the church congregation and choir help bring the story to life. Actors will be dressed in simple religious robes that can be quickly removed to reveal costumes appropriate for the character whose story they are telling. 
“It has this recurring theme of, ‘What makes a monster or a man?’ and ‘Don’t be deceived by appearances,’ which seemed to me like a good parable that a minister might deliver,” he said. “Other versions just have storytellers telling the story, but I wanted to give it this framework where the choir on stage and the story being told made sense.” 
The cast consists of 51 people — 24 in the choir and 27 as storytellers. Auditions were held in June and regular rehearsals started in August. For Halperin and many of the cast and crew members, Halperin said, The Hunchback is the largest production they’ve ever been a part of. 
“It’s not an easy show to do. Every facet of it is huge,” he said. “That’s why we got started on it so early. Everything took a lot of thought and preparation, even before rehearsals started.” 
One of the biggest challenges is the score, which includes songs in Latin and songs with up to eight harmony parts. The songs will be accompanied by a 10-piece live orchestra, which Halperin said is highly ambitious for community theater; most community theater productions use a musical recording or an orchestra of four or five people at the most, but the large choir and the intensity of The Hunchback’s score led Halperin and musical director Troy Lucia to think bigger.  
“It has a huge amount of voices and a very epic and classical score that you don’t hear in many Broadway shows,” Lucia said. “It’s probably one of the toughest shows to do from a musical standpoint.” 
About half of the songs can be heard in the Disney film, and the other half are exclusive to the stage musical. Another reason Halperin and Lucia are devoting so much energy to the music, Lucia said, is that the music is an integral part of the storytelling and propelling the plot, even more so than the spoken dialogue. 
“This is not your Sound of Music-type musical where the song comes in and it’s nice, then it goes back to the story,” he said. “It’s more operatic in that the music really tells the story.” 
The most rewarding thing about taking on The Hunchback, Halperin said, is being the first to produce it in New Hampshire. 
“It’s always exciting to present something new that the audience won’t have preconceived notions about as far as how it should be done,” he said. “If you do a good job with it, the audience will walk away thinking that that is the way the show should be.”

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