Notre Dame De Paris

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Notre Dame De Paris is the musical based on the book by Victor Hugo. This production is the original French version that premiered 20 years ago and tells the story of a bohemian Esmeralda who falls in love with Phoebus, the captain of the Kings cavalry. Phoebus is however engages to Fleur-de-Lys but despite this he becomes torn between the two women. It is not just Phoebus that Esmeralda has attracted the attention of Quasimodo is the bell ringer of Notre Dame but is also a hunchback but an unlikely friendship develops between them.  Quasimodo is also duty bound to Frollo who is the archdeacon of Notre Dame. He too longs for Esmeralda and this longing drives him mad.

The show is told with English ‘surtitles’ which allowed the show to stay true to it’s original language but also opened it up for an English audience. The balance in the surtitles is struck wonderfully with enough translation to ensure that I could easily follow the plot but not so much that I found myself watching those rather than the stage.

This is a production where more is more! The set is the perfect example of this.  A climbing wall encompasses the rear of the stage where dancers and acrobats scamper up and acrossand huge gargiols on plints are moved to symbolise the cathedral. This set may not have worked if the rest of the production hadn’t followed in scale. The dancing was huge and energetic, the music was loud and passionate and the costumes colourful and attention grabbing. This is not a show for subtlety but the brashness of it all won me over.

Photo by Patrick Carpentier

The score itself is almost like a rock concert rather than a musical and the 16 piece strong orchestra from the ENO help ensure that it sounds every but as epic as the rest of the show.

The cast themselves kept up with the vast show. With the score being one of the shows major pulls there was an expectation on all of them to do it justice. Their voices were all wonderfully suited to the role. The combination of Hiba Tawaji’s (Esmerelda) mesmerising voice, her stunning beauty and her alluring manner of moving meant that she was Esemerelda personified. Her interpretation of ‘Vivre,’ the moment that she realises that it is her destiny to live or die for her life was one of the highlights of the show.

Angelo De Vecchio gave a tortured performance of Quasimodo although at times I would have liked there to have been a few more subtleties in his performance rather than consistently being loud and pained. The ensemble cast also deserve plaudits as their acrobatics and climbing abilities often defy gravity and produced spontaneous applause on many occasions.

The story itself focuses on lust of a woman and it’s destructive force. The concept itself is now slightly jarring with men swooning at Esmeralda’s feet however an interesting angle was the exile of the undocumented immigrants and their struggle to find asylum. It seems as if this topic is now more relevant than ever and it is a shame that this wasn’t developed further.

Notre Dame De Paris is a show of epic proportions on all front lacking in all subtlety. Did this matter….well not to me. It was great entertainment made up of world class performers.

Notre Dame De Paris is on at the London Coliseum until 27th January. If you liked this review you might also like Musical Theatre Musings review of Thriller Live 10th anniversary show, Six and Bat Out of Hell.

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