Notre Dame De Paris - 24 June 2000

Notre Dame de Paris cannot really be classified as a musical but more a staged concert version of the story. Expect nothing conventional from this show. It is sung through with the story only being told in song i.e. not sung dialogue. Depth of character and any emotional aspects of the story are not to be found here. The show has no pretence to be anything more than a couple hours of entertainment for which a thinking cap is not required.

The Dominion stage is huge and the back drop of the cathedral blocks give a sense of the size of the cathedral. The staging as a whole was not as spectacular as I had been led to believe with a minimum amount of set used.

Gringoire (the poet), an excellent Alexis James, acts as a narrator of the piece and opened the show with ‘The Age of the Cathedral’ describing the age within which this story is set. From there the next 2 and a half hours pass in a succession of songs and dance performed with nothing less than full energy and enthusiasm by the cast. There were some odd scenes which seemed to have no connection to the song being sung with the most ‘odd’ being during ‘Torn Apart when as Phoebus sings of his dilemma to his fellow soldiers, these soldiers are dancing around in the background with just their underpants on, bizarre !! The cast performed admirably although the piece was not demanding on any of the performers acting skills. They acted well with what the script required but the script didn’t require a lot.

Tina Arena was very good as Esmerelda singing and dancing her way into the hearts of Quasimodo, Phoebus and Frollo leading up to the big number ‘Live for the one I love’. Steve Balsamo and Daniel Lavoie provided strong support as Phoebus and Frollo ably conveying the dilemma each man faced because of his love for Esmerelda. Garou was very good as Quasimodo although in this version the central character was definitely Esmerelda with little interaction between them in Act 1 but more in act 2 leading up to his final song ‘Dance my Esmerelda’. We knew that he loved Esmerelda but there was no real indication of how she felt about him. Natalie St Pierre had little to do as Fleur de Lys but with the little stage time she had she managed to convey the workings of Fleur de Lys’ character. Carl Abraham Ellis was energetic as the Clopin, leader of the refugees although I didn’t always find it easy to understand what he was singing. This was a general criticism of the cast as the diction of the performers could be a lot clearer as with no strong narrative to the story you are reliant on the songs to tell the story.

The pre recorded music was not a distraction but at times the volume of the music tended to overwhelm the stage performers. The dancers performed energetic and original routines making full use of the stage and the cathedral wall and the ringing bells to perform the routines.

The english lyrics were pretty basic and some of the rhymes being very obvious and shallow.

Overall I enjoyed the show, I can’t say it kept my 100% interest as extended endings to songs lengthened many of them unnecessarily and slowed down the show. The story is told in tableau i.e. quickly moving from one location to another with no real explanation as to the events in between. The story is quite easy to follow although it is best to know the basic story beforehand.

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