A raunchy tail of the Archdeacon of Notre Dame Cathedral (John O’Mahony) who falls in love with a gypsy girl Esmerelda (Ciara Louise Baxter) and if he can’t have her then no one will, he decrees she will die for her folly of rejecting his romantic passes. However, as she says herself, ‘you’re old you’re ugly’, her heart is set on the Captain of the Guard Captain Phoebus (Julius Metson Scott). But Captain Phoebus is fickle, cares more for his men than any mere woman.
But to start at the beginning. The scene is set by the Three Belles, sparkly hip swinging nuns with a twinkle in their eyes and a song in their hearts. They guide us through the story in which each of these actresses plays a major role, Ciara Loiuse goes from nun to gypsy girl stolen when she was a baby, Kate England is the scarlet femme fatale La Tortura and Roxanne Saili becomes the glorious gap toothed Clopina, Queen of the Gipsies with her colourful community played by two dozen children from Stagecoach Belfast and believe me, there is some talent there, not a foot wrong and living their parts.
As the music builds we’re outside the Cathedral 20 years ago. A baby is left on the steps, it is ugly, hairy and misshapen – a monkey gone wrong says one passersby.
Now it’s 20 years later and baby Quasimodo (Christopher Finn) has grown up, still a distorted figure of a man living in the bell tower of the Cathedral. The gypsies have gathered in Paris to hold the Fools Parade and amongst them is a lovely young woman, Esmeralda, spirited away years before by the Queen.
Certainly wheels within wheels! A mother looking for her stolen daughter, a man of the cloth pressurising the same young woman, Queen of the gipsies trying to save her and Quasimodo breaking his heart over his love for Esmaralda yet knowing she will have nothing to do with such a freak of a man. But he’s clever, he has mastered the difficult art of aerial ribbons and he climbs high above the stage on the lengths of red silk to look down on Paris from the bell tower – skillful and impressive staging.
Writer, composer and director Paul Boyd and producer Bernard Clarkson have created something special, we were held in the grip of the story as it swung between actors and children.
Congratulations to Sarah Johnston choreographer and a special word for Matthew Reeve the music director. The band were fantastic, I can’t believe there were only four musicians, Andrew Lavery, David Mayes, Michael Currie and Joel Murphy. The zingy base notes made the seats vibrate.
There are shades of Cabaret in this production, hints of Oliver and reminiscent of a Parisian Review so it can’t go wrong.
A very impressive show, I hope people will make a point of going to the Theatre at the Mill to enjoy an excellent evening’s entertainment.
Review by: ANNE HAILES
Hunchback – the Musical
Theatre at the Mill
Check all Anne Hailes Belfast Times reviews here.