Depressing, fascinating, provoking, exhilarating: BC’s musical

Dark and heavy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame presents unique challenges


Bobbie Knopp

Left to right: Nishant Namboothiry (‘22), Jonah Morioka (‘20), Michael Long (‘22), and Natalie Lara (‘20) rehearse their parts for the future performance. The cast rehearses in the Black Box almost every day after school, singing tunes such as Topsy Turvy and The Bells of Notre Dame. The rehearsal schedule becomes more rigorous as the premier date nears.

Julianne Sun, Print Director

As of the day this issue is distributed, the cast, crew, and pit orchestra have 55 days until The Hunchback of Notre Dame opens November 15. All added up, that’s about 100 students** that need to have every line and lyric memorized, every beat of the soundtrack perfected, every setting and prop ready to go in less than eight weeks. And yet, most people only see the finished product. They don’t see what happens in the weeks before opening night, or the people that dedicate hours and hours to rehearsals and individual practices.

The five leads of the Hunchback – Natalie Lara (Esmerelda) (‘20), Jonah Morioka (Claude Frollo) (‘20), Will Purnell (Phoebus) (‘21), Nishant Namboothiry (Quasimodo) (‘22), and Michael Long (Clopin Trouillefou)(‘22) – talk about what it takes to build a musical and their personal takes on it. It might feel like every musical is hyped up to be different than all the rest, but all five leads agreed that the Hunchback is definitely not your average musical. Not to spoil anything, but the musical doesn’t have a Disney-patented happily-ever-after

“It’s very dark compared to shows that we’ve done recently,” said Long. “We’ve done Cinderella and that’s all fantasy and nice and we didNewsies and that was really uplifting.This is kind of a downer.” Lara brought up the last line, spoken by Long’s character, as the best way to summarize the musical’s feel. “‘And we wish we could leave you with a moral, like a trinket you hold in your palm, but here’s a riddle to guess if you can,’ sing the bells of Notre Dame. What makes a monster and what makes a man?”

“I mean, it’s always been going on, but this year especially with so much darkness happening in our world, I think it’s important to represent all that in a musical that gives you hidden messages for our modern day world.” Namboothiry said after some thought. “The themes relate to our current times.” Despite the dark themes in the musical, the characters themselves shine brightly. The character the show takes its name from is particularly unique. The movie only needed a few artists to draw a character with a hunched back. The musical needs an actor to imitate a hunchback and sing, all while in front of a live audience.“ The vocals for [the Hunchback] are extremely high,” Namboothiry said. “So I’m a little nervous about that, but I have been working on it, so hopefully it’ll run smoothly during the show.” It would, if there wasn’t a giant obstacle in the way: the Hunchback has a hunched back. “If I’m hunched over, it’ll be difficult for me to project my vocals for the entire show. So I’m thinking maybe bending the knees a little bit and we can make a hunch a little bit bigger.”

The other characters don’t face as many physical limitations. Instead, they face internal conflicts and societal pressures that feel strikingly realistic. Morioka plays Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, a character who lives by such rigid rules that he can’t tolerate anything different. “My character’s main conflict is pretty much shaped around religion and like adherence to religion. I believe myself to be very good, but that kind of means my vision is very, you know, unilateral while other characters have more of a gray area when it comes to morality.” Characters like Esmerelda, for example. “In the script it describes her as wild and fire and this tempting thing,” Lara explained, “but at heart she’s also just a kind person. I need to be this person that is confident and cool, but also kind and sweet when with Hunchback. Someone who’s flirty with Phoebus, but stands her ground with Frollo.”

Even though the spotlight may spend most of its time on the leads, all five acknowledged that the real stars of the show were the ensemble and everyone working off of the stage. “[The show’s] gonna be great because we have a really strong starring cast, choir, and gypsies,” said Namboothiry. “Everybody’s so extremely talented, including our director, Mr. Lueck, and our dance choreographer, Reggie. It’s just bound to be a really good show.” “There’s really good people singing this year. Everyone is just … ” Purnell paused and tried to find an adequate word. “It’s going to be a really good musical and you’d be missing out if you didn’t come.”