Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Musical Theatre Southwest
Review by Carla Cafolla

Also see Carla's review of The Sweet Delilah Swim Club

Tasha Booth and Ryan Pennington
Photo by Ponic Photography
I was absolutely knocked sideways by the opening night performance of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Musical Theatre Southwest.

I'm not sure I'll do justice this insanely (beautiful may be the wrong word, honest, perhaps? I'm not sure) production by my review, and therefore approach this task with more reluctance than I have felt before with what I feel are now mere words as my medium.

In a nod to the original book by Victor Hugo, I will say c'est magnifique. And though you know the world he imagined is destined to break your heart, you will, as I was, be drawn inexorably and wholly into the anguish and mayhem of the late 15th century.

If you are lucky, very lucky, you may get the opportunity to witness Ryan Pennington's phenomenal interpretation of Quasimodo. His solo, a few minutes into Act I, is worthy of the international stage. Musical Theatre Southwest hired an ASL consultant to work with Ryan teaching him to coordinate signing with singing, a thoughtful gesture which enhances his already stellar performance. In fact, the Friday, August 12th show will have ASL interpretation throughout.

And that is where I stopped with my original review draft. If truth be told, what I really wanted to do was submit the picture you see above and the venue details you see at the end, with the words "C'est Magnifique" enclosed between, united alone on their stark white bed. But you probably want a few more details.

From the 1939 film version of Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame," starring Charles Laughton in what was to become one of his most acclaimed roles, to the 1996 Disney animated offering, I venture most are familiar with at least the broadest outline of the story: Quasimodo, a tragic, monstrosity of a man, hidden by his adoptive father in the belfry of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, manages to fall in love with a beautiful, kind-hearted gypsy girl known as Esmeralda. The subsequent portrayal of the ensuing chaos and tragic conclusion then varies, depending on the source. Here, the source material includes a score by Alan Menken (music) and Stephen Schwartz (lyrics) and book by Peter Parnell.

Under what can only be the loving guidance and extraordinary talents of director Robb Anthony Sisneros, music director Colin Burdge, and choreographer Wendy Barker–before the first note of what will be a magnificent crescendo fades, only to be joined by the next–the transformation to the Paris of 1482 is complete. Every moment is magical in its reality. Every interaction focused and purposeful. A celestial Cathedral choir above provides the perfect backdrop to the lives and lies of both the innocent and tormented below. Gypsies dance with wild abandon inches from the audience. The sudden cruelty of a crowd who moments earlier were feckless and gleeful are shocking in their sudden transformation to a mob. Lust and power, vile in denial, serves only, by virtue of of J.J Mancini's Cardinal Frollo, to leave a needless and agonizing destruction in its wake. The guileless innocence of Quasimodo has a contagious effect on some, only to become a miasma to others.

From Tasha Booth's lively, young, and kind Esmeralda–the catalyst who unintentionally awakens a melange of love in three disparate men–to anthropomorphic gargoyles giving loving encouragement and advice to the lovelorn young man rendered deaf by a lifetime of bell-ringing, this uniformly professional show has no business being confined to Albuquerque.

To everyone involved in the creation of this phenomena: You have achieved something I never thought I would experience in my life as a theatregoer, and I truly thank you for it.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame runs through August 14, 2022, at Musical Theater Southwest, 6320 Domingo Rd NE B, Albuquerque NM. Friday and Saturday evenings performances start at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General Admission $25, Discount $23 (seniors, students, ATG/TLC Members). Please note–American Sign Language interpretation on Friday, August 12th at 7:30 p.m. MTS highly encourages the use of masks for all patrons. For information and tickets, please call 505-265-9119 or visit