My love of deaf talent and traveling took me to Seattle Washington. The 5th Avenue Theatre is producing ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. Recently creative teams have decided to use an actor who is Deaf for the character of ‘Quasimodo’ since he is described as deaf in the original Victor Hugo classic novel. This reaction is what I am hoping for in casting rooms all over the country, and this production is a perfect example of how great it can work.
The cast is full of powerhouse performers. From the operatic songs to the fast pace dance numbers, the whole stage is full of energy from the amazing ensemble. A standout moment for me is ‘Topsy Tervy’. The set design (Stephen Gifford) and lighting (Jared A Sayeg) are stunning with the detailed look that transforms the audience to Pairs, quickly transitioning from the courtyard to the bell tower to winding streets with easy. Ensemble members changed from ‘chorus bells/monks’ to ‘gypsy’ to ‘gargoyle’ with beautiful costumes (Marcy Froehlich) that polished and added perfectly to the staging creating breathtaking moments that are so picturesque they could be meant for postcards. The choir standing ready in the ‘loft’ filled out the sounds of the score and added to some ominous scenes.
Returning to the stage is Broadway actor Joshua Castille. Making his debut in the Tony Award nominated revival of Spring Awakening by the Deaf West theatre company, he has been busy with other duties recently; Assistant Directing for New York Deaf Theatre, ASL captain with Deaf West, and a few short film projects like ‘reverse polarity’ on dpan.tv . I am glad to see him back, and this is a perfect role to showcase his talent. Castille owns the stage from his entrance to the final moments. He plays ‘Quasimodo’ with charm and innocence, which creates a powerful arc for the character over the show. I sat near the back of the Orchestra and could clearly understand most of the signs. Seeing the show and knowing the two languages it’s being presented in adds so much to the story. Warning for those who need interpreted performances, many of the scenes have ASL, but there are entire songs and parts that are not clearly interpreted. Please check with the theatre for interpreted nights, there are many to choose.
It is a joy to watch Castille and EJ Cardona team to create ‘ Quasimodo’. Cardona’s voice flys high and rings clearly, like the bells of the show. ‘Out There’ is a standout moment with these two seamlessly displaying the desire of ‘Quasimodo’ to belong. Brandon O’Neill plays Captain Phoebus de Martin and has chemistry with everyone on stage. He hits the comedy mark with Castille and the romance and heartbreak with Dan’yelle Williamson and her character Esmeralda. Williamson stole the show with her song ‘Rhythm of the Tambourine’ and enticed the audience for the rest of the show. Allen Fitzpatrick gives a powerhouse performance as Dom Claude Frollo. Keeping the villainous pain and hate just visible to the audience.
This is not the safe ‘Disney’ version. While not full of ‘adult themes’ it does have some dark moments. The music is similar, but the plot follows closely to the classic Victor Hugo novel. The music is written by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and book by Peter Parnell. I would recommend this production for lovers of death talent, fans of epic theater, and those people who enjoyed literature class in high school.
Check out ticket and show information at 5thaveanue.org, also to confirm the ASL interpreted and descriptive interpreted performances. ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ runs until June 24th. Get your tickets soon and enjoy this fantastic production.