To remain stone no longer

I go to a lot of opening night performances and the most common thing said to me by a producer or director is “Oh, I wish you could have come another night besides opening cause it would have been so much better!” And typically, they are right; it will be a much better show in a few more performances. I’ve gotten good at watching a show, and projecting in my mind what it will be like in a few days time and then I write my review based off of that assessment. However, tonight was different. It was like it was performance #4 at Alexander Showcase Theatre‘s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Everything was so tight and smooth. So if today was like Day #4, can you imagine what their actual 4th performance will be like? OMG, I am so jealous of everyone who will be at that show!

The show begins with a transformation. We see Mike Buchanan walk out on stage and in moments is transformed into the deformed and hideously ugly, Quasimodo. The physical elements that are added onto him are not much (some facial makeup and a hunch) but the real transformation comes from the way he walks, drags his hands, hits himself when he does something wrong, and uses partial sign language (because apparently Quasimodo is partially deaf, which I did not know before tonight). As if Mike’s immense physicality of the role is not enough to make you feel such affection for this poor human, he is able to serenade the heck out of some absolutely beautiful songs and show such affection for Esmeralda that gave me all the feels!!! And if you are worried that this show might bring a tear to your eye, well get ready because the last words that Mike says at the end of the show are the ones that are gonna bring on the water works!

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There are some really great dance numbers in this show and AST was lucky to bring on board Christine Lindo as choreographer! And get this folks, this was her choreographing debut! There were a lot of people up on stage and they were all moving around like crazy in songs like Topsy Turvey and Tavern Song. She had some really innovative and modern ideas that she incorporated into a classic style show. And best of all, they were all dance moves that these community theatre participants could actually DO! (Believe it or not, that is sometimes the biggest challenge I see.) I foresee many more companies vying for Christine’s dance skills in the future!

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Conviction and commitment, those are the two words I would use to describe the outstanding performance by Mathew Chiappetta, of Dom Claude Frollo. Mathew’s chilling portrayal brought back the nightmares from my youth (that Disney once created), with a new adult lens. Although originally written by Victor Hugo in 1831, Frollo’s journey touches on so many important, yet horrific themes that are being discussed in society today: sexual harassment, abuse and a struggle with faith. It was incredible for me to see an actor give such a convincing representation of the tortured/conflicted soul of Frollo, especially when many of the character’s beliefs directly contradict the societal mass opinion. Although he played the “bad guy”, I was impressed with the drama and attention Mathew commanded while acting through those many topical themes. Congratulations and I can’t wait to see you in another production, Mathew!

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I love being completely surprised by someone! Tonight, that honour goes to Matthew Payne, who brought the character of Phoebus de Martin to life. My shock came as I’ve only ever seen Matthew in plays and I had no idea he could sing…. and sing he could! His strength of character, powerful voice and lush locks of hair will win your heart every time 🙂

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Kate Nicole Hoffman for her lovely portrayal of one of the Saints of Notre Dame and for always bringing such wonderful animation to ensemble numbers.
  2. To Charlotte Ferrarei for her conviction and power as the gypsy, Esmeralda. Top of the World was by far my most favourite song/scene in the entire show!
  3. To Beth Roher for outdoing herself, yet again, as Head Scenic Painter. The floor alone is worth the price of admission folks!
  4. To Vincenzo Sestito for his creative directorial ideas when challenged with deaths, heights and the dousing of the city with hot lead.

If you can’t tell already, this show is a good one folks, and I encourage you ALL to go grab some tickets before they are sold out! Visit www.alexandershowcasetheatre.com to get your tickets for performances on April 6-14 at Fairview Library Theatre.

Photography by Vincenzo Sestito

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