The musical version of the Victor Hugo classic "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is coming to the historic Monticello Opera House starting this weekend. Audiences may find this performance more than most as being relevant to the present day.
The tragic tale of the misshapened bell ringer in the great Paris cathedral has been a 1939 movie, a Disney feature length cartoon and also on hundreds, if not thousands, of stages from Broadway to community theatre groups. In this latest local iteration of the tale, Rhiannon Karp holds down the role of "Esmerelda." She noted this is the first area performance since the horrific Notre Dame fire this past April.
“The tragedy really brings to light our need as a culture and society to be prepared to preserve our culture and history,” she remarked. “And I think it’s really cool that we’re doing ‘Hunchback’ at Monticello because that is such a historic location.”
But Karp insisted that's not the only aspect of this staging that will resonate with today's audiences. She cited the central premise of Hugo's work that the characters who are perceived as "dangerous" or even "evil" because of their differences and disabilities are actually the most virtuous people in the story.
“I think it’s all about not looking at the face value of things and looking beyond aesthetics and (surface) beauty. To go beyond and into the beauty of the mind, body and soul on the inside instead of just the face value. And I believe that our production team and two directors have done a really good job of helping us tie this into modern day cultural references.”
Karp said that idea even carries into the production's casting.
“Something I found super interesting that we’re doing is actually one of our five lead characters is played by a non-binary actor,” she said. “To have that aspect and bringing that to light is interesting and changes the dynamic of the show and the idea of sexual and gender fluidity in a time such as the Fifteenth Century."
That's something that is also resonant in the Twenty-first Century. Karp said opening night is this week.
“November 8th, this Friday (is opening night.) The show runs from this weekend, next weekend and the third weekend after that. The dates are Nov. 8-10, 15-17 and then 22-24. We do Friday and Saturday night shows at 8 p.m. and then 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays.”
And let us not forget, this Hunchback of Notre Dame performance takes place in the crystal-clear acoustics and near perfect sight lines of the venerable Monticello Opera House.