The Hunchback of Notre Dame is chosen as the annual musical to showcase talent
The curtains open as the white light rises and shines on the extravagant set. Senior Hunter Hurt stands in the center. He looks into the sea of over 100 people, eyes wide in anticipation. He has practiced his lines every afternoon, perfected the choreography and memorized every line of the songs. Yet, his nerves are still present. He knows then the show will be good; you perform best when nervous.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” originally a book written by Victor Hugo in 1831, is also a Disney film and is believed to have one of the best opening scores in musical theater according to BroadwayWorld.com and upper school acting teacher and Director of Performances Lauren Redmond. Redmond has wanted to put on the play for a while and decided now was the right time.
“The music has always called to me,” Redmond said. “‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ was one of my favorite Disney movies because it’s one of Disney’s darker movies, and any student will tell you that if there is not something dark in my shows, there is something wrong with me. I have always enjoyed that story, so I have been looking for a time to do it. The time seems to be right now.”
The play follows the story of a French Romani girl named Esmeralda who is loved by three men: Archdeacon Frollo who lusts after her, his adoptive son Quasimodo, a hunchbacked bell-ringer for the Notre Dame Cathedral and Captain Phoebus. She is falsely accused of trying to murder Phoebus and witchcraft and is sent to death. Quasimodo rescues her from the gallows but things do not go as planned.
In the beginning stages of a musical, rehearsal consists of practicing music in the choir room and some on stage practice. Eventually, the cast stays on stage for entire rehearsals as the show date grows closer. Actors, tech students and those who are helping build the set all work together to make the production as perfect as possible.
“We have the element of the alumni choir that is a part of this show… so [the audience] can expect a melding of generations,” Redmond said. “My expectations, in general, are that I think people are going to see a pretty spectacular set, and I think they can expect to see really good talent on stage as we have really good talent both in the leads and the ensemble.”
Hurt, cast as Quasimodo, has to focus on both rehearsal as well as college applications and auditions for performing arts universities. Although he has many things on his plate, he enjoys remaining busy.
“College auditions and the play kind of cancel each other out,” Hurt said. “I always stay busy if I can help it. Nothing consumes me completely because if I am only focused on college auditions, then I can’t focus on the stress from the play and vice versa. If you have two things going on, you can’t be 100 percent stressed about one thing.”
Hurt is not the only one, as senior Liam Pham, cast as Frollo, is also auditioning for college. Redmond must work around both Hurt’s and Liam’s scheduling conflicts.
“We are dealing with two of our leads auditioning for colleges right now on top of everything else, so it really is a scheduling nightmare,” Redmond said. “But it’s working out so far, and I think it will work out. College auditions are a newer element for us because the two boys are having so many external auditions. Hunter and Liam have a lot on their plates right now, and I knew this going into casting them, but I also know if anyone can handle it, it’s the two of them.”
Not only are Pham and Hurt busy with auditions, but other cast members also seem to be engaged in other activities. Rehearsals have to constantly work around other student commitments like sports.
“It’s really hard to find that balance between when [students] need to come to rehearsal and when they need to be at sports practices or preseason or whatever,” Redmond said. “Every single student really wants to be a part of it, and they are finding a way around it. It’s just us kind of having to be more flexible around it, but I think that’s just kind of the nature of the beast. It is becoming that way every single year because scheduling is becoming tighter. [Students] want to do a little bit of everything.”
Hurt has performed in a large variety of musicals and plays. He feels most alive when he is on stage. Although he has much experience, he is nervous before each show. This serves as a good sign for him that he is doing the right thing.
“Being nervous is good,” Hurt said. “You should always be nervous because when you are not nervous you probably shouldn’t be doing it anymore. I get nervous for every play in a good way, but not because I am one of the main actors.”
Senior Amber Donahue, playing Esmeralda, is excited to showcase her improvement in performing arts through the play, as she has been taking advanced acting and choir classes in school alongside rehearsal. Although elated to perform, this will be her second to last performance. Her last performance will be the advanced acting play in the spring.
“It is bittersweet because I am growing up, and this is my last hurrah,” Donahue said. “I get to do one last show with my fellow cast members before college, and I am going to go out with a bang. This is the most work I am going to have to put into being a character too, and I am excited to show my improvement and my growth throughout the years in performing arts. A lot has changed from playing Mary Poppins in eighth grade to now.”
Donahue will not be continuing performing arts in college but considers it a great hobby and way to express herself. She finds rehearsal to be a calming way to end her school day.
“Performing arts is a stress reliever,” Donahue said. “I absolutely love doing it. Some kids like to end their day doing sports or painting, but for me, I love rehearsals and constantly getting better. It’s all about the journey and those late nights memorizing lines.”
Donahue believes it is going to be a strong musical and urges everyone not to just take her word for it, but to see it for themselves.
“The musical is going to be great,” Donahue said. “There are going to be moments where you laugh, when you’re on the edge of your seat, moments where you feel like you’re in the show itself. We have some really, really strong talent in this musical, especially my fellow seniors. You are going to have to see it to believe it. The musical will speak for itself.”
The play will feature 16 students and an alumni choir of 11. It will be performed in the Bray Theater on the nights of Feb. 23 to 25 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available at esdallas.seatyourself.biz in advance or through the student’s Eagles Nest account at the door. It is reserved seating, so advanced purchase is recommended.