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Presenting "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

Circle Players is proud to present the epic musical based on Victor Hugo’s tale of hope, love and passion, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, on stage from October 27 through November 12 at Looby Theater in Nashville. Circle’s production features a stellar cast of area singer/actors who bring the emotionally-charged story to life and transport audiences back to medieval France.

The beautiful musical score was written by award-winning veterans Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote songs for the animated Disney movie. Many of those songs are included in the stage version (as well as new ones), but the script by Peter Parnell is dark, moody and more akin to the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo than the Disney film.

Tim Larson directs Circle’s production and draws on his well-known passion and talent for staging sweeping, period musicals on smaller community stages.

“Our cast of 28 has some of Nashville’s finest stage voices,” says Larson. “Typically, Hunchback the musical has an additional choir to help with background singing. But due to the size of the venue and the caliber of vocal talent, I decided to have the cast perform as both characters and the congregants (choir) of Notre Dame. I think people will find this group of singers and actors astounding.”

Circle’s production includes artists who have performed with the Nashville Opera, Vanderbilt Community Chorus and Fisk Jubilee Singers. Three cast members also sang on the professional cast recording for Disney/MTI licensing of Hunchback: Brian Jones, Tyler Samuel and Tyler Evick, who performs Quasimodo for both Circle’s show and the licensing track.

“Having recorded the role of Quasimodo for the Disney/MTI licensing recording, I am extremely excited to be able to put the performance on stage,” says Evick. “Getting to be a Disney ‘Prince’ is such a cool opportunity! “

Evick’s role as Quasimodo is complex, multi-faceted and demanding.

“This is by far one of the most challenging roles I have ever played,” says Evick. “From the vocal range, to the emotional scale, to being deaf and hoarse to clear and hearing inside my own mind, this role is a workout from the very start to the very end of the show. Being trusted with that responsibility is not something I take lightly. And showing the audience that, no matter your station in life, you can change the world is something that I take very seriously.”

Hunchback is filled with emotional intensity, mostly centered around the relationship between the deformed Quasimodo (Tyler Evick) and the beautiful Gypsy Esmeralda (Courtney Harkins), who has also caught the attention of Captain Phoebus de Martin (Dwayne Mitchell) and the devious Claude Frollo (Brian Jones).

“Esmeralda is sassy and smart while also being kind and loving,” says Harkins. “In one of her songs she says ‘I ask for nothing I can get by, but I know so many less lucky than I.’ She puts others before herself and … that's the type of person I want to be too. I can't wait to share her story with the audience.”

Other featured actors are: Trey Palmer (Jehan Frollo), Toryn Aáubrey (Lt. Frederic Charlus), Jacob Dingle (Clopin Trouillefou), Joshua Waldrep (Saint Aphrodisius), Zach Williams (Father Dupin), Henry Harrington (Tribunal) and Laura Amond (Madam).

The ensemble of congregants, Gypsies, guards and statues includes: Charlotte Myhre

Elena Giordano, Elena Reinert, George Hardimon, GilliÕn Welsh, Kamryn Boyd, Kiana Gonzalez, Jeremiah Bender, Lauren Case, Michael Tajalle, Sammie Purcell, Susan Wood, Tyler Samuel and

Victoria Saunders.

While many of the songs were also featured in the Disney movie, the stage musical of Hunchback is probably too dark for very young audiences. But middle-school and older audiences will appreciate the story, the historical scenes and costumes and themes that remain relevant today.

According to Larson, “The written word was heavily censored in that day and, according to Hugo, whoever became a poet became an architect. In Hugo’s words: ‘There exists in this era, for thoughts written in stone, a privilege absolutely comparable to our current freedom of the press. It is the freedom of architecture.’ It is important to note that authors and poets such as Hugo, are the reason we have freedom of the press and speech today,” Larson states. “Without them we may all still be living in the dark ages.”

Because Hunchback on stage returns the story to its darker literary roots, there isn’t a happy, Disney-like ending. The wicked are punished and some beloved characters sadly die. Audiences will probably leave the performance with various feelings, but love and understanding are the goals for many involved in Circle’s production.

“This story shows us that persecution and misunderstanding between groups of peoples has happened since the beginning of time,” says Evick (Quasimodo). “Any time you can present a message to someone that opens hearts and minds to the truth that we should always consider someone else's point of view, even if we disagree, and see them as an equal human, it is an important moment for all involved.”

Harkins (Esmeralda) states it more simply: “I think everyone at any point in time can relate to this story. If a soldier can love a gypsy and a city can love a "monster" then why can't we all love one another?”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical premiered in 1999 in Germany. The English-language version debuted in 2014 at La Jolla Playhouse (California), then opened at Papermill Playhouse (New Jersey) in 2015. The show was never presented on Broadway.

Circle’s production is a Nashville theatre premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with performances October 27 through November 12 at Looby Theater; 2301 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard (featuring a newly-remodeled auditorium, now with assigned seating). Thursday, Friday and Saturday show times are 7:30 pm; Sunday shows are at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $20 except on Thursdays (Nov. 2 & 9), when tickets are $10. Group rates are available for 10 or more.

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