Paul VI Catholic High School
With a blend of music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, a book by Peter Parnell, a cast full of vocal powerhouses and the chilling setting of 1482 Paris, the Annandale Theatre Company's production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was emotionally captivating and held the audience attentive for its full length. Based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel under the same title, the story follows Quasimodo, a hunchbacked outcast who rings the bells of the Notre Dame cathedral, aspiring for a life outside the stone walls he calls home. When enchanting Esmeralda, a rule-breaking, passionate gypsy, saves him from social torment, Quasimodo's life is forever changed.
An unfortunate turn of events for the Annandale Theatre Company (ATC) occurred when star of the show Quasimodo (Kyle Dalsimer) broke his arm two days before opening night. As his character might, with pluck and determination, Dalsimer rearranged choreography and concealed his sling behind a costume, still delivering an unbelievably charming performance. Usually a tall and handsome junior at Annandale High School, Dalsimer was able to utilize drastic physicality to completely transform into the ugly, pained Quasimodo. His vocals added to the already stellar work, showing impressive range and emotion. With a hunched demeanor and often squatted stance, Dalsimer displayed his vocal talent and expertise with amazing breath support to reach notes that had the audience on their feet. His voice was especially impactful in songs "Made of Stone," and "Top of the World," a duet sung with his equally compelling costar, Esmeralda.
This moxie gypsy was played with grace by senior Holly Ramia. Donned in a dynamic costume, created by the ATC's own costume crew, Ramia's presence had the crowd hanging on her every word. Although seemingly fearless and bold, Ramia achieved a multi-faceted Esmeralda, a genuine, gentle side brought out in "God Help the Outcasts" and "Someday." Backing Quasimodo and Esmeralda was a choir of four girls, the Congregants (Elvera Miller, Claire Vaughn, Rediate Zewdu, and Savannah Gravitt), whose harmonies stunned the audience during their chanted narrations of the plot.
Equally impressive to the cast was the technical side of the production. Although often overlooked, the lighting design of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", designed and executed by Kataryna Vejcik and Elisabeth Platt, added to the chilling story. With unique shadows and colors, the lighting elevated characters and created a tone that brought Paris to life. Perfectly synchronized to the lighting cues, sound effects, and the characters themselves was the impeccable orchestra. Placed directly in front of the stage, the twenty-six-student orchestra was professional and sleek. Most impressive was the work done by the Marketing and Publicity crew (Hasan Royer and Diana Montano-Villarroel), allowing the show to be anticipated far before opening night. From a hand designed logo printed on posters, programs, and t-shirts, to a flash mob performed during lunch period for the school, the Annandale community was excited for the show far in advance.
Leaving the audience teary-eyed and empowered, Annandale Theatre Company's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was magical and entertaining. From lead to chorus to orchestra to crew, each aspect of the production came together to truly pull the audience into a completely different world.
W. T. Woodson High School
Most can identify with the feelings of being an outcast at some point in their lives, but few are isolated entirely from the society from which they've been outcast. The story of Quasimodo the Hunchback in Annandale High School's The Hunchback of Notre Dame beautifully encapsulates the anguish and hardships experienced by the downtrodden.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is based on a 1996 Disney film of the same name, with much of the same music and plot, but with decidedly darker themes. Said Disney film was based on a Victor Hugo novel of the same name and is the source of some of the stage adaptation's darker thematic elements. The story follows the intertwining stories of Quasimodo, a hunchback who rings the bells of Notre Dame, and Esmeralda, a gypsy girl who is tormented and pursued by Quasimodo's guardian, the Archdeacon Frollo. What follows is a parallel story of outcasts attempting to find solace in a world that does not care or want for them.
Vocally, Annandale's production was stunning. Frollo, played by John Lopez, stood out with a beautiful operatic bass-baritone voice uncharacteristic for that of a high schooler, culminating in his emotional performance of the number "Hellfire". Esmeralda, portrayed by Holly Ramia, showcased beautiful mezzo-soprano vocals alongside honest acting that made it hard not to love her portrayal. Quasimodo, played by Kyle Dalsimer, seemed to be perfectly cast. Dalsimer's wide range of acting ability made the audience feel an equally wide range of emotion, alongside a fantastic physicality and incredibly impressive tenor voice, made even more extraordinary by his broken elbow and his need to be hunched over for the role, making vocal support that much harder.
Vocal and instrumental backing for the show was impressive as well, with a choir in the background adding vocal depth and helpful exposition, and the Circle of Fifths orchestra providing rich instrumentation that fleshed out Menken and Schwartz's beautifully written music. For supporting ensembles, few could do better than the gargoyles surrounding Quasimodo, who brought moments of humor, as well as profound emotion, as evidenced in the number "Made of Stone".
Annandale's production was technically impressive, with costuming that accurately captured the vibrancy of the impoverished gypsies, as well as a costume for Quasimodo that helped portray his debilitated and pathetic form. Lighting made good use of practicals and cyclorama coloring, but at times the transitions were sudden and jarring, with few (if any) fades present throughout the show.
If anything, Annandale High School has only proved their prowess and potential for the theatrical arts, with a diverse and talented cast and crew that will undoubtedly carry their program far in the coming years. While Quasimodo may have been made of stone at one point, no one, not even the most hardened of audience members, could be left feeling anything but touched by the show's closing.