Just because “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was a Disney-animated feature, don’t think you know what you’re going to get with Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s production of the stage musical that opens this weekend.
This is not a musical comedy — although there are a few laughs. This version promises to be a richly thought-out musical retelling of Victor Hugo’s tragic novel in the same way that “Les Miserables,” another Hugo work, became a musical.
On the surface, it’s the story of the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral Quasimodo, played by New York actor Corey Mach, who falls in love with the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, played by Keri Rene Fuller, who played Eponine in ISF’s 2014 production of “Les Miserables.” But it’s the deeper elements of social persecution and cruelty that pack the emotional punch, says director Victoria Bussert.
“It’s such a humanistic piece,” she says. “Hugo takes on everything: society and the class system, immigration, racism and hatred. It’s interesting that he was dealing with the real issues of the gypsies being locked out of the city. It seems very timely.”
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The producers of the feature-length Disney cartoon went through some creative gymnastics to make the 1996 film. They changed the story’s antagonist Frollo from a priest to a judge so as not to offend religious sensibilities, and gave it a happy ending so it could appeal to kids.
The musical-theater A-team of Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken wrote songs for the film, but most of them were cut for various reasons, making the film a non-musical. In 2013, the duo revisited the story, freshened up with a new book by Peter Parnel based on the novel and wrote a host of new songs.
Most of the previous productions — and there have only been a handful so far — turn to the film for inspiration.
“I went right back to the novel,” Bussert says. “That always grounds me in the story.”
This show has the largest cast of any Idaho Shakespeare Festival production, with more than 30 cast and crew, including a 16-voice community choir that sings throughout the show, adding a whole other level of power to the music.
Read a story about the volunteer choir in Sunday’s Idaho Statesman.
Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’
8 p.m. Friday, June 30 (preview) and Saturday, July 1 (opening, hillside seating only), and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 2, (Family Night, sold out with a wait list) and dates through Friday, Sept. 1, ISF Amphitheater, 5657 Warm Springs Ave., Boise. The Greenshow mini-concert is at 7:20 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. $22-$50 adults, $13 children 6-17 on Family night only. Students with valid ID are $20 any show. 336-9221, IdahoShakespeare.org.
July First Thursday
First Thursday, July 6, runs from 5 to 9 p.m., unless otherwise noted. Get more details at DowntownBoise.org.
▪ At Art Source Gallery, 1015 W. Main St., you can check out the 15th Annual Juried Art Show, with 38 works chosen by this year’s juror artist Anne Peterson from submissions by artists throughout the western U.S. and Canada. Enjoy music by Wayne White and wine tasting from Indian Creek Winery.
▪ Stop in at The Mode Lounge, 800 W. Idaho St., to meet folks from Ballet Idaho, see mixed-media origami sculpture by ZenFire Design, sample Sugar Whipped baked goods, NorthStar Spirits and Bitters from Ione and others.
▪ Check out Abandoned Fashion’s Summer Pop-up Sale at Crazy Neighbor, 1415 W. Grove St., in Boise’s Linen District. You’ll find vintage fashion, cowboy boots and more from noon to 8 p.m. Plus find special First Thursday discounts inside the store.