Review: Upper Darby Summer Stage showcases talented cast in the regional premiere of ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’

Delco Culture Vultures

Sierra Wilson as Esmeralda with the ensemble of gypsies performing “The Tavern Song” in the musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Upper Darby Summer Stage. Photo by Rachael Lombardo

By Amy A. Winnemore

The epic tale of love, jealously, acceptance and perseverance takes the stage amongst a three-story cathedral, stained glass windows and tolling bells in Upper Darby Summer Stage’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the 1996 Disney animated feature, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” showcases the film’s memorable score, as well as new songs by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz.

Making its regional premiere this Mainstage show, which is a darker themed musical than prior Summer Stage productions, showcases a wide range of talents to close out the 42nd season.

The musical tells the story of Quasimodo (Patrick J. Walsh), who is adopted as a baby by Dom Claude Frollo (Chris Monaco) and held in the bell tower at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer, observes the city while kept locked away for his safety, according to Frollo.  One day, while watching the boisterous gypsy crowd celebrating the Feast of Fools, Quasimodo decides to venture beyond the marble walls and meets the gorgeous and kind Esmeralda (Sierra Wilson) and Captain Phoebus De Martin (Tristan Horan).

Monaco has an impressive wide acting range, from playing the serious Mr. Andrews in “Titanic” to the hilarious Lord Farquaad in “Shrek.”  As the misguided and tyrannical Frollo, Monaco again proves why he is such a Summer Stage treasure.

As the ostracized Quasimodo, Walsh is amazing when he sings “Out There.”  You almost wish his character would stay in the sanctuary of the bell tower, instead of taking the risk of venturing in an often unforgivable world.  The scenes between Walsh and Monaco highlight the remarkable energy between the two actors, who previously worked together when Walsh portrayed the title character in “Shrek.”  Perfectly embodying his character’s mannerisms and voice, Walsh makes the role his own.

Full of swagger and confidence at the opening, Captain Phoebus begins to doubt Frollo’s motivation once he meets the gypsy Esmeralda.  Horan and Wilson are impressive as they sing their duet “Top of the World.”  A Summer Stage regular, Horan was last onstage as Sen. Max Evergreen in last year’s comedy “Nice Work if You Can Get it.”  Wilson, a musical theater major at Temple University student, nearly steals the show with her exquisite singing and dancing.

Longtime Summer Stager Jeff Dietzler directs the extensive cast of over 70 actors.  The set, designed by Martin Dallago, features a massive Notre Dame façade with remarkable archways and an imposing bell.  On the third story, a 27-person choir sings to the chaotic world below.  The heavenly music of the 17-piece orchestra was piped in from the band room. Mary Folino’s costume design emphasizes the subdued brown cloaks of the peasants, and highlights the colorful jeweled tone costumes of the gypsies.

Upper Darby Summer Stage’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is a timeless story of the importance to treat others with respect and dignity.

If you go: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Upper Darby Summer Stage, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave. in Upper Darby, continues Friday, Aug. 4 and Saturday, Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m.  There is an afternoon shows on Sunday, Aug. 5 at 1:30 p.m.  Tickets are between $13-$16. Running time is two and a half hours with an intermission.  This production is darker than the Disney movie and is not recommended for children 11 and under.