My London - Review - Notre Dame de Paris

  • Dominion Theatre
  • Tuesday, July 18th, 2000

I must admit that I did not know anything about this musical before I actually stepped into the theatre, only relying on a number of positive reviews I had seen and the massive advertising campaign that the promotors have been putting on.

Based upon the novel by Victor Hugo (shades of Les Miserables? – Hardly, no where near the depth of story and music) the story follows the life of the hunch-back bell ringer Quasimodo and his love for Esmeralda. There have been many bad articles in the press about this production which is an English translation of the original Canadian (Quebec) production since they have been accused of substituting the alternate principals and not informing the public (since the principals, noteably Tina Arena and Steve Balsamo, are very popular). The performance by Garou as Quasimodo was truly magnificant bringing an air of roughness to the character (in voice and appearance) very well suited to the role. It was a bit curious that the Feast of Fools featured only Quasimodo as the “fool” with every one else looking like they just stepped out of a modern artisitic dance class…

The set is quite modern, perhaps interfering slightly with the classical nature of the story centred about a massive backdrop of a wall of “stone” where various “stone blocks” shift in and out to serve as perches for the performers. It seems that they were trying to hard to be modern simply for the sake of being different at the sacrifice of the staging. The music is quite catchy though the pieces do not seem to blend well together, perhaps a symptom of the fact that some were written independant of the musical itself. The voices were very articulate and impressive, filling the confines of the small auditorium.

Due to the nature of the musical and the recent Hunchback of Notre Dame by Disney, there were a number of children in the audience but this is NOT a children's musical - the pieces are all involved and there is not a lot of action to attract their attention. Throughout the performance the constant chattering of children was easy to hear (though some seemed to simply choose sleep as an escape).

The effects used in the performance are minimal and basically limited to some minor acrobatics and smoke.

All in all, a light, if slow-paced, evening of entertainment. If you are looking for a concert in the disguise of a musical - go and see this show, if you are looking for a musical - try down the road closer to Leicester Square, perhaps with Les Mis or Phantom of the Opera.