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The Hunchback of Notre Dame invades Ashmore Auditorium

The actors take the stage to bring “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to life. “The Hunchback,” also known as “Quasimodo,” ends up in a love triangle regarding a gypsy known as Esmeralda. (Photo by Sparrow Butler)

By Sparrow Butler

    PSC’s Summer High School Onstage Workshop (SHOW) musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, took audience members deep into the heart of Paris, France, where characters of all kinds took on various personal transformations.
     The musical, directed by Laura Sebastian, one of PSC’s theatre apperception teachers, was held in the Ashmore Fine Arts Auditorium July 20-22nd and July 27-29th.
     Every year PSC takes on a SHOW performance to give young inspiring actors the chance to learn more about their craft and show the world what they are capable of.
     The cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, made up of more than 30 local high school students, took the stage with candles in hand and voices of angels. The opening scene, dark and ominous, set the stage for what was sure to be a memorable musical performance for PSC.
    Eighteen-year-old Mateus Cardoso played the lead role of Quasimodo. With a melting eye and a hunch in his back, he brought the character to life. One could often find Quasimodo being at the center of the performance as he spent a lot of his time leaning over the railings of the set and climbing up and down pillars, representing that he was “stuck” in the bell tower as the rest of the world was living in the open.
     Cardoso’s commitment to the character propelled the performance forward as he transforms from a helpless “monster” who follows his master’s orders to a grown man who is willing to push his master, Frollo, into damnation and remove himself from the life he had always known.
     “Quasi [Quasimodo]… he’s timid, but then he breaks out and is willing to be on his own. He’s willing to let go of all of the statues who were his only friends,” said Sebastian.
     The ending of the show takes a very dramatic turn of events as prominent characters die and Quasimodo is left to take on the weight of the world by himself. Cardoso said, “It was hard to tap into that [grieving] because I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. It has been interesting to go into that part of the human psyche. I was very proud to be able to show the world such a vulnerable moment.”
Daisy Talbert, who played Esmeralda, embraced her character’s journey with every spunky jump and dance. Esmeralda, who was caught in a love square, yes, square, not triangle, deals gracefully with the ordeal even when being sexually assaulted and chastised by Frollo, an obsessive lover.

Daisy Talbert captured the essence of Esmeralda, a gypsy girl who is wild and free, when she took the stage dancing in Act I. Throughout the performance, Esmeralda’s alluring personality helped unite characters that wouldn’t usually associate with one another. (Photo by Sparrow Butler)

     The young performers had to tackle a number of various adult situations. When Quasimodo, Frollo, and Phoebus, played by Clay Knighten, were all involved in a love square with Esmeralda, it was up to the cast to be able to put themselves in their characters’ shoes to let the message resonate.
“Handling the mature themes in this production was a challenge. Looking at the disability Quasimodo lives with, the assault of Esmeralda, racism, religious hypocrisy–all these things had to be handled with sensitivity and care with people ranging in age from 13 to 18. The scenes including those issues could look laughable and uncomfortable if not done well,” said Sebastian.
     When asked about what it was like having to kiss his fellow classmate, Daisy Talbert, in front of a crowd, Knighten said, “I’ve known Daisy for three or four years now, so when we first had to kiss each other, it was really, really bad. We both pulled back like, ‘what are we doing’? But now, it’s just normal, in a weird way.”

Quasimodo’s love for Esmeralda grows as she gives him what was intended to be a friendly kiss. This was just one of the moments that fueled the love triangle throughout the musical. (Photo by Sparrow Butler)

     “It wasn’t as difficult to yell at people and participate in fight scenes as it was to be deep with Phoebes, but I’m happy with how it turned out,” said Talbert.
     The crew worked diligently to prepare these young performers for what was some of their first times on stage. “I haven’t been in theatre much at all, let alone had a lead, so I found that it takes time to memorize the lines and get into the character. There’s so much more to it than you’d expect being a newcomer… it’s difficult,” said Nathaniel Holzknecht, who plays Frollo in the show.
     On top of having a full cast, the show also had a live orchestra directed by Tina Buran, which played throughout the performance. “The team is like a dream,” said Sebastian. “There is even a full orchestra, and she [Tina Buran, Musical Director] has done a wonderful job with them.”
     “This cast did a wonderful job articulating the message of the program. The way they [the cast] pay attention to the little moments, the way they are really taking on the little moments, makes me so proud,” said Sebastian.
     The show was a well-balanced experience that exposed how sometimes, you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself. With moments of comic relief, intense fight scenes and romantic moments, this performance was powerful.
This year’s SHOW cast and crew did an outstanding job of portraying the innate traits of both good and evil in the human heart.
     For more information about upcoming Lyceum shows, you can call 850-484-1847. Auditions for the fall production, “Funny Girl,” will be taking place on September 17th and 18th in the Ashmore Fine Arts Auditorium.

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