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Notre Dame de Paris at the London Coliseum | Review

Cast of Notre Dame de Paris on the London Coliseum Roof. (L-R) Hiba Tawaji (Esmerelda), Daniel Lavoie (Frollo) and Angelo Del Vecchio (Quasimodo). Photo Credit - Piers Foley.
Cast of Notre Dame de Paris on the London Coliseum Roof. (L-R) Hiba Tawaji (Esmerelda), Daniel Lavoie (Frollo) and Angelo Del Vecchio (Quasimodo). Photo Credit – Piers Foley.

There are fifty musical numbers listed in the show programme for this production of Notre Dame De Paris, an entirely sung-through show. As an adaptation of a novel, the storyline may be a little complex for someone who hasn’t read the book, while those who have may find that this musical rather glosses over some of the finer details, which may have helped to gain a deeper understanding of the main characters. I consider a subplot first, mostly because of its direct relevance to contemporary establishment and government attitudes and sentiments towards asylum seekers. Set in 1482, the production includes several scenes involving a mixture of beggars and immigrants who have requested assistance from Notre Dame, Paris’ cathedral. Frollo (Daniel Lavoie), the priest in charge, is having none of it.

Summarising topics explored in some depth in Victor Hugo’s novel, Act One begins with ‘Les Temps Des Cathédrales’ (yes, it’s performed entirely in French, with English surtitles), and Act Two with ‘Florence’. The former acclaims cathedrals as supreme works of architecture that the general population looked up to, while in the latter, amongst other things, the printing press is heralded as something that people will draw inspiration from instead of beautiful buildings (in the form of works of literature). This in itself is a topic that could be explored in some depth, and here serves as an example of how multi-layered the source material is.

The choreography (Martino Müller) is spirited and lively but doesn’t always fit the narrative or the musical number being performed. It, therefore, borders on being rather irritating at times, or otherwise distracting. There is appreciably a need to do something with the relatively large stage space in a venue like the London Coliseum, but a focus on fewer people (that is, the actual named characters in a given scene) through better use of lighting (Alain Lortie) would have just as, if not more, effective. In the final number, Quasimodo (Angelo Del Vecchio) and Esmeralda (Hiba Tawaji) are accompanied in what is supposed to be an intimate and poignant scene by at least half a dozen others, all twirling and twisting about. The skill of the dancers is clearly evident, but I remain unsure as to what real purpose all that movement served in terms of advancing the plot. Likewise, the walls of the cathedral (hardly, as it is portrayed here, an example of fine French architecture) are scaled up and down with such openness and regularity that one wonders the acrobats might as well use the front doors.

Del Vecchio’s Quasimodo started out in fine form but became over-expressive in the second half. This might have been quite deliberate, as though, for instance, to demonstrate an increasing sense of helplessness, but paradoxically, the louder he got, the less emotion was being expressed. The costumes (Caroline Van Assche), especially given the fifteenth-century setting, were well-designed but did not suit the period being portrayed. Matthew Brind ably conducts a live orchestra, assuaging some concerns about the use of backing tracks during this production’s Paris run.

The use of not very well concealed radio microphones (bearing in mind the show is set in 1482), coupled with a general tendency to belt songs with little attention to the art of nuance, left me wondering if I was watching the Eurovision Song Contest on stage. The second half flowed better than the first. The habit of characters directly addressing the audience is a departure from the usual practice in musicals of characters addressing one another. There is much to admire in the dancing that ranges from breakdancing to ballet, and the show certainly has its fans, who rose to join the reprise of ‘Les Temps Des Cathédrales’ at curtain call. A passionate if resolutely unsubtle production.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Based on the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris tells the story of the cathedral bell-ringer Quasimodo and his tragic love for the beautiful gypsy dancer Esmeralda.

This stage spectacular features an international ensemble internationally acclaimed cast of singers, dancers, acrobats and a live orchestra, as well as unforgettable music composed by Richard Cocciante, with lyrics by Luc Plamondon.

The original French production will be performed in London with English surtitles.
Presented by Nicolas Talar for Enzo Products Ltd and Adam Blanshay Productions.

This is the original French production, composed by Richard Cocciante with lyrics by Luc Plamondon, directed by Gilles Maheu and choreographed by Martino Müller.

The production stars Angelo Del Vecchio, Hiba Tawaji, Daniel Lavoie, Richard Charest, Alyzée Lalande, Martin Giroux and Jay, who are all members of the principal cast in the current world tour. The producers are also thrilled to confirm that the singers are accompanied by the stunning ENO Orchestra with Matthew Brind conducting.

London Coliseum
33 St Martin’s Lane
London, WC2N 4ES

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