REVIEW: The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The Rose Theatre

The sentence 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz' immediately gives you an idea of the grandeur of the production.

When fifty percent of your show's structure is shared between a man who's won eight Academy Awards for writing some of Disney's most memorable scores and the musical theatre genius behind Godspell and WIcked, you could easily assume it has 'success' written all over it.

Adapted from the 1996 Disney animated film of the same name, which in turn was based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, Hunchback is set in 1542 and tells the story of Quasimodo, a young man who is both deformed and deaf. He escapes the tower his uncle has locked him in and meets Esmerelda - a young gypsy girl who he falls in love with.

Quasimodo never thought himself capable of love but he persists and ends up saving Esmerelda from being burnt alive - however she dies in his arms leaving him devastated.

This show brilliantly addresses a number of themes; from disability to minority groups and the overarching concept of stereotyping, through a stunning choral soundtrack and beautiful visuals. Set against a simple, but beautifully constructed backdrop, Hunchback is dark, foreboding and atmospheric from the first bar and really pushes the boundaries of what our local theatre groups can achieve.

Tom Paine takes on the role of Frollo; one of Disney's most hated villains. He plays the part in an almost creepy manner rather than outright 'evil' which adds an extra dimension to the character.

Josh Dibble is an outstanding Quasimodo. The Hunchback is a role which could so easily become a caricature, but Josh manages to stay on the right side of that line. With strong vocals and a stunning characterisation, there is so much to love about Dibble's interpretation. What should also be applauded is something that could easily be missed - Quasimodo's entrance.

Dibble arrives on stage as himself before putting Quasimodo's hunchback and costume on in front of the audience, an act which almost symbolises the start of his journey. As the performance is coming to an end, and Quasimodo's journey is complete, Dibble appears back on stage without the costume elements, symbolising his freedom from the perceived constraints of his life. A simple, but incredibly powerful decision by the creative team.

However, for me, the evening belonged to Ellisha Green as Esmerelda.

Green is an outstanding talent with sublime vocals, an engaging stage presence and the perfect amount of sass to allow her to stand out amongst the other gypsy women on stage. Her story arc was incredible and is something Green navigated with compassion and a like-ability that went before her.

It's clear she understood the character and was incredibly comfortable in Esmerelda's shoes meaning she could shine alongside Quasimodo which made for some incredibly tender moments.

A huge amount of kudos should also go to Chris and Jo who have both produced and directed the show and have created something incredibly special. I adore the tenacity to break from tradition and to jump in all-gun's blazing to revive a beautiful show like this. I also admire the sheer talent and focus of the duo who have developed something brilliant (again!).

Alongside a stunningly talented cast, this production showcases where our local (not amateur!) groups can take their repertoire.

Pre-Covid I was raving about groups taking the plunge and performing shows with professional sets in major theatres and Hunchback has started a new league of societies moving away from performing 'the norm' and performing 'the extraordinary' - and long may it continue.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame plays at The Rose Theatre until Saturday 23rd March 2024. For more information head to

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