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By Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News 

A bittersweet romance plays out at the Moonlight Amphitheatre

 

Last updated 8/17/2018 at 3:36pm

Adriana Zuniga

Captain de Martin (Patrick Cummings), Esmerelda (Janaya Mahealani Jones), Quasimodo (David Burnham), Clopin Trouillefou (Richard Bermudez) and Dom Claude Frollo (Lance Arthur Smith) with the company preparing for the curtain.

Just a scant 10 years before Columbus discovered America, this story unfolds high above ground on the Ille de Cite.

Lifted from the pages of Victor Hugo's acclaimed novel (ca 1831) about a deformed man and his love for a beautiful gypsy woman, the classic tale of bittersweet romance is brought to life by the players at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is riveting. Masterfully staged and passionately directed by Steven Glaudini, this is this season's "must see" show.

Originally developed by Disney Theatrical Productions for an animated film, the play opened to an extended run in Germany followed by the English debut at the LaJolla Playhouse in 2014. Through clever projection sequences, the audience is drawn into the action which in this instance is enhanced by the outdoor stage.

The operetta is introduced by the gypsy prince, Clopin Trouillefou (Richard Bermudez), as he steps across the footlights and introduces this tragic account of what happens when prejudice goes unchecked. Bermudez is perfectly cast, he exudes swagger with a touch of venom, making him a compelling protagonist.

It's Feast of Fool's Day, January 6, 1482,and everyone in Paris is celebrating including the gypsies. Watching from above in the protection of his tower, the cathedral's bell ringer dreams of joining in the merriment.

Quasimodo's (David Burnham) intense longing to be "Out There" lures him from his sanctuary high above in the Cathedral's bell tower. Anxiously Quasimodo leaves his perch to join the revelry in the street. But all too soon discovers that he is the stooge that is being mocked and mistreated by the revelers. Burnham demonstrates his vulnerability with his vocals and sparkling performance to give credence to his character.

Were it not for the beautiful Esmeralda (Janaya Mahealani Jones) saving Quasimodo from the drunken crowds, he could have perished. Ms. Jones gives a remarkable performance as the enchantingly beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda. She sings with clarity and purpose as we follow her tragic journey to be with Captain Phoebus de Martin (Patrick Cummings).

Cummings hits the mark as the gallant Captain in deed and voice. Handsome and flirtatious, his chivalry is indicative of the Romantic Era as he pursues and captures Esmeralda's heart.

Also vying for the beautiful gypsy is Dom Claude Frollo (Lance Arthur Smith). As the self-aggrandizing Bishop of Notre Dame, he is powerless to his growing affection for the gypsy girl. A hallmark performance by Smith supported by the timbre of his amazing voice, this is his premier performance to date.

And while this huge cast offers many fine performances, space cannot applaud each one individually; however, one highlight cannot go with out mention. Scott Arnold pops into the story as King Louis XI. He plays the perfect fop in what is no doubt one of the briefest on-stage appearances by an actor.

What cannot be overlooked is the music. The original score by Alan Menken with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz was developed for the animated film, no doubt for a full orchestra.

Adriana Zuniga

Gypsy prince, Clopin Trouillefou (Richard Bermudez) prepares for their escape from Paris into the Court of Miracles.

Yet, let it be said musical director Elan McMahan raises the bar for perfection with her 16 musicians and chorus of singers. Once again, she has conducted her way through a maze to tell a story of love and loss. Tragic as it may be, this telling is a work of genius.

Every detail of this production is a master work beginning with the director. Choreographer. Sound. Lighting. Make up. Hair. Costumes. Sets. Besides every character is captured in minute detail.

Come see for yourself. Ideal for ages 15 and older, it continues at the Moonlight Amphitheatre only until September 1, 2018 with plenty of free parking. Seats start at only $17. Room for outdoor dining, great for picnics and wine sold on sight.

Coming next is "Chicago" Sept. 12 – 29. Guaranteed to be a sellout. Box Office: (760) 724-2110 or http://www.moonlightstage.com. "Hunchback of Notre Dame" is rated 10 out of 10.

The writer can be contacted at eyoungman@reedermedia.com

 

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