I was lucky enough to be able to attend Catalyst Theatre’s world premiere of Hunchback on Thursday at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. Hunchback is an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this play, as I’m not normally a fan of musical anything. I was quite pleased with the production. I have to admit, I’ve never read the novel, and I’ve never even watched the Disney version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, for what it’s worth.
It’s an adaptation, so I’m sure they must have taken some artistic license with it (I’m always fond of that), and the result was spectacular. I was particularly impressed with the minimalist set, which was formed by multiple sets of simply styled arches, which successfully evoked the gothic image of Notre Dame Cathedral.
One can’t help but be struck by the lighting of the play. The reflective arches are enhanced by the dramatic lighting of the minimalist set. I think my favourite part of the set was when they brought down the stylized, backlit bells of Notre Dame. It was a beautiful scene with Frodo and Esmeralda and I would love to have a picture of it.
The costumes were interesting. They were evocative of a sort of gothic/techno nightmare, and I got a sense of the Nightmare Before Christmas in some of the overall designs. The occasional narrator of the play had an urban guerrilla/SWAT team member look. He even did a bit of rapping.
The one thing that I thought would bother me about the play, the singing, was actually very good. I have an aversion to “show tunes” so before I attended the play I thought I might want to rip my ears off at times, but that was not the case. The songs were performed well and sounded great. I have no idea if they were original or not. I’m simply happy my ears remain attached to my head.
As it was my mother’s birthday last week, I invited her along to see the play with me, and she was quite impressed with the Citadel Theatre, and Catalyst Theatre’s performance of Hunchback. She has more of a classical education than I do, and when she attended high school in Quebec, I understand she used to attend quite a few plays.
I was glad to be able to bring her there and we had a good time at the play. It was a packed house and she was quite impressed with the number of young people in attendance. I hadn’t noticed it when I attended August: Osage County, but she was right. I suppose that was another stereotype I held about theatre in that I expected a bit of a snooty, Richie Rich type of crowd. It certainly is not the case, and while everyone was generally well-dressed, I even noticed some jeans in the crowd.
I’ve only been in Edmonton a few years, but I’ve heard a number of times that Edmonton has a healthy and vibrant theatre community. If Catalyst Theatre’s production of Hunchback is any indication, Edmonton will continue to have a strong future with a supportive theatre community, creative producers and talented actors.