Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Great Lakes Theater
Review by David Ritchey

Also see Mark's reviews of Well and Waiting for Godot

Corey Mach
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has taken the stage of the Hanna Theatre, for Great Lakes Theater, in a wonderful marriage of romance, battles and, perhaps, theology. The story brings together Quasimodo (Corey Mach), the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame, and Esmeralda (Keri Rene Fuller), a beautiful free-spirited gypsy. Victor Hugo wrote the original story, and the adapted book for the musical is by Peter Parnell.

Dom Claude Frollo (Tom Ford), Archdeacon of Notre Dame Cathedral, supervises Quasimodo, providing him with work assignments. Frollo attempts to provide Quasimodo with theological training and assigns him a job ringing the bell in the nave of the church. Unfortunately, the Archdeacon forgets his vow of celibacy and indicates to Esmeralda his sexual interest in her. He sends Quasimodo away from Notre Dame in order to have time alone with Esmerelda. What follows is a violent attempt at rape. Because Esmerelda will not submit to his lust, the Archbishop sentences her to be burned at the stake, and Quasimodo attempts to rescue her.

As Quasimodo, Corey Mach plays a man held down by his physical deformity. However, as he falls in love with Esmeralda, he slowly displays his body and spirit undergoing a change, to a man capable of love. Mach is a handsome man who has matinee idol good looks and a body capable of playing strong, romantic leads. He lets his character modulate from a helpless deformed man to a strong man capable of romance, love and personal, physical battles.

As Esmeralda slowly releases her distance from Quasimodo, she opens herself to the possibility of romance and love with a kind man who is physically imperfect. She is beautiful and has been pursued by many men, yet she is capable of finding love in the arms of this man who loves her. She would kill the archdeacon to protect the man she loves and the love they share.

There is also a cast of 14 playing the congregation. These storytellers play bit parts: gypsies, gargoyles, statues, soldiers, revelers, parishioners, priests, prostitutes, and citizens of Paris. The production is also accompanied by the choir of the Baldwin Wallace University Choral Studies Program.

The score, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, supports the vocals and the story and is performed by a nine-piece orchestra. The instrumentalists are solemn and perform appropriate music for a quiet, serious mood. Consequently, the music establishes the mood for Jaclyn Miller's choreography. Usually a musical has some bright songs and fast paced numbers; this production has quiet music.

Victoria Bussert does a superb job directing the show. The technical aspects are suitable and the cast brings to life on the stage the story of a love destined for failure.

Jeff Herrmann devised a set that represents the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The appropriate church represents the congregation, the city of Paris, and the young lovers. In one of the final scenes, stakes are set on fire to kill certain characters. The flames are not large, but the smoke makes the church seem to be burning. Martha Bromelmeier has designed religious garments for many of the characters. These costumes have few bright spots. Esmerelda wears the brightest costumes on the stage. She and the other women who hang out with Madame, owner of a brothel and safe haven for gypsies, brighten the stage with the sexiest costumes. The lighting design by Mary Jo Dondlinger is subtle, calm and has the quiet look of Notre Dame as I remember it from the last time I was in Paris.

Great Lakes Theater's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a bold, superior production, one of the best productions to face an audience from the Hanna Theatre stage.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame will play in repertory with A Midsummer Night's Dream through November 4, 2017. For ticket information, telephone 330-640-8869 or visit

Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Book: Peter Parnell
Based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney film
Dom Claude Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame Cathedral: Tom Ford
Jehan Frollo: Dan Hoy
Florika: Olivia Kaufmann
Father Dupin: Aled Davies
Quasimodo: Corey Mach
Clopin Touillefou: Alex Syiek
Phoebus De Martin: Jon Loya
Frederic Charlus: Mack Shirilla
Esmerelda: Keri Rene Fuller
King Louis the XI: M. A. Taylor
Official: Derrick Cobey
Madame: Jillian Kates
Saint Aphrodisius: Dan Hoy
Congregation: Derrick Cobey, Aled Davies, Jodi Dominick, Day Hoy, Jillian Kates, Olivia Kaufmann, Andrew Kotzen, Michelle Pauker, Mickey Patrick Ryan, Mack Shirilla, David Anthony Smith, Nick Steen, M. A. Taylor, MacKenzie Wright
Choir: Courtesy of Baldwin Wallace Choral Studies Program
Choir Director: Marc Weagraff
Conductor/Keyboard: Joel Mercier
Violin: Callista Koh
Cello: Linda Atherton
Flute/Piccolo: Kyra Kester
Oboe/English Horn: Cynthia Warren
Clarinet/ Bass Clarinet/ Alto Sax: Bettyjeane Quimby
French Horn: Sean Yancer
Trumpet: Joe Miller
Percussion: Andrew Pongracz
Choreographer: Jaclyn Miller
Scenic Designer: Jeff Hermann
Costume Designer: Martha Bromelmeier
Lighting Designer: Mary Jo Dondlinger
Sound Designer: David Gotwald
Director: Victoria Bussert

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