The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Where are those sophisticated, provocative, compassionate folks from Disney Theatricals when you really need them? Surely if they took their 10,000-smiles, Mickey-Mousified screen treatment of Victor Hugo’s 1831 tragic novel and gave it the 10,000-watt, Rudy-Giulianified Broadway treatment they’ve inflicted on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hans Christian Andersen and Mary Poppins, the results would still have more soul and style than the latest monstrosity the Bailiwick hath wrought. DeYoung (late of Styx) and Zak (who demonstrated just last year with his accomplished American premiere of Jerry Springer—The Opera he doesn’t have to stoop this low) have whipped up a garish, unholy creation that may be faithful to its source material in plot but commits public infidelity in terms of taste.
Creatively derivative from start to finish, Hunchback curiously feels like a parody of a satire of a spoof of this kind of ill-advised page-to-stage theater. The musical half-lives of composers Jim Steinman and Frank Wildhorn—who have similarly adapted gothic, prosaic literature all too enthusiastically to the musical stage—continue to decay here. DeYoung’s piercing, screechingly inappropriate synth score manages a few pop hooks, but the melody and lyrics tend toward the generic, so the power ballads could easily be from a rock-musical version of Pride and Prejudice or Jude the Obscure. Meanwhile, the scarved-and-bathrobed ensemble gets caught in the undertow of Zak’s waterlogged staging. Only the diminutive but meaty Dana Tretta, guileless and humane as Esmeralda, emerges unscathed. Other than that: unredeemable.