CENTERVILLE — If you haven’t had the privilege of being a patron at the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre in Davis County, you are missing out. Audience members are greeted by a grand stage with a beautiful, gargantuan red curtain that sits and guards the surprises that await on the stage behind.
This venue was the perfect location for community theatre to meet high budgets and a large pool of incredible talent. Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with by Peter Parnell (based on the novel by Victor Hugo), music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, showcases the theatrical aptitudes of many Utah locals.
Behind the shiny red curtains laid one of the most ingenious sets I have ever seen. Set designer Scott Van Dyke seemed to have created countless large set pieces, almost all of which were on wheels and rotated throughout the play to create different settings for the story to be told. One moment the sets would be the obvious interior of Notre Dame’s bell tower, and the next these same set pieces would become the public square outside the grand cathedral, and the next it would be the hidden court of miracles. Kudos also to stage manager Marinda Maxfield who helped make these transitions smooth and an attractive part of the performance, rather than scene changes the audience endured until another scene began.
Because the set was so large, many of the actors and actresses performed from the second level of Van Dyke’s set. The only criticism I might give is that this second level created a lot of distracting noise when performers would walk across (and I was definitely scared for Quasimodo’s life more than once when he ran across the railings). That aside, the set was spectacular, no detail being overlooked. My favorite set pieces were the three giant golden bells that hung from the top of the stage in the very center, that would move back and forth as though ringing when the bells in the soundtrack rang. Van Dyke’s work helped to create this extraordinary spectacle that dropped my jaw on more than one occasion.
Directed by Alane Schultz, the whole performance was one to behold. The entirety of the stage was used and the variety in the blocking of characters and their movements never left me tired of what I was seeing. At the start of the second act, Schultz placed ensemble actors in the balconies of the theatre, providing real surround sound for the production. Schultz sprinkled in stilt walkers, carnivalesque magic tricks, and little comical movements throughout the play — all small details that were diverting and captivating. Even the stage fighting was impressively realistic for a non-Equity theatre.
Mark Rencher’s light design complemented both the set and theatrical direction, emphasizing the emotions being portrayed in certain moments of the story. During Frollo’s song “Hellfire,” for example, the stage became darker and more red the louder the notes were belt — until finally every light in the entire theatre became a deep, hellish red. Lights were even built into the moving set pieces that dissolved into varying colors depending on the scene. On many occasions, the lights seemed to colorfully dance alongside the gypsies when they were the center of attention. Every part of the light design was well thought through, and for that I am grateful.
I was astounded at the amount of talent that was stockpiled into the cast of the The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The opening number that included monk-like chanting sent chills down my spine — chills that I would feel again and again as the ensemble sung rich harmonies to Menken’s music. I wish that I could applaud within this review each performer individually, but I shall just name a few.
Quasimodo, the title “hunchback,” was played brilliantly by Christian Lackman. Lackman was able to portray a character with disabilities, convincingly giving Quasimodo a loving heart and a desire to do what is right. Lackman danced around the stage in happy moments, but also knew when and how to be afraid or anxious or upset, using his entire body to reveal these inner feelings. This acting expertise was only strengthened by Lackman’s remarkable vocal abilities, harmonizing with other characters and belting notes perfectly on pitch throughout the show.
Becca Burdick’s role as Esmeralda was not as convincing or strong, though she played her part well. Burdick was able to sing beautifully, but was not quite up to par in her dancing. For example, in “Rhythm of the Tambourine,” it felt as though she had a difficult time singing and moving her body to the music simultaneously. Nevertheless, Burdick showed the love and rebelliousness characteristic of Esmerelda, and interacted with the other performers professionally as they retold this charming story.
Dom Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, was portrayed by the unbelievably talented Daniel Frederickson. As Frollo developed and grew, Fredrickson was able to convey a wide range of emotions, from love and pity to anger and power-lust. His vocals were also fantastic, and when paired with Lackman during songs such as during their Sanctuary numbers, the theatre seemed to shake with the might of their combined voices.
Finally, Dan Call was mostly a part of the ensemble, but he also played the brief but important role of the beheaded Saint Aphrodisius. He hilariously went from being a statue to a person who interacted with Quasimodo up in the bell towers of Notre Dame, and was absolutely hilarious as he strutted back and forth along the way, often dropping his own head — you would have to see it to believe it.
This underrated story of bravery, self-image, forgiveness, and seeing the good in others, accompanied with the unmatched music of Alan Menken, makes CentrerPoint Theatre’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame a musical performance that local audiences will not want to miss.