Notre Dame de Paris is the new show at Le Theatre des Arts inside the Paris Hotel and Casino. It is a musical modern stylistic version of the Victor Hugo classic, The
Hunchback of Notre Dame. This productions seems to have all of the elements necessary for a smash hit production: a classically based plot, an incredible and artistic set,
spectacular and energetic dancers, and singers with voices to die for. The only problem with the production is that they forgot to tell the story. It is a shame that with
all of the amazing elements that have been brought together, one of the most basic elements seems to have been left out.
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One of the most notable and artistic aspects of the production is the set. At first, it appears to be simply a great stone facade, but as the production progresses, the
wall manages to transform itself time and time again. Its transformations always seem to serve the best interests of the play and effortlessly moves the production forward.
This set is truly a sight to behold. Additional pieces are brought in to help frame some of the scenes in the play, and with each addition and transformation, we feel
ourselves in a world askew.
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The whole style of this production is very intriguing. Trying to find a suitable description has eluded me. I have played with the ideas of: the cast of Rent does Victor
Hugo, or the Hunchback at Thunderdome. So far, though, no simple description has been adequate. There is a combination of classic, modern, and stylistic elements which make
for an engaging and exciting interpretation.
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The dancers and the acrobats of this show are really great. The dancing is both technical and complex, and the dancers handle their moves adeptly. Their performances are
full of energy. The acrobats do some incredible things--not only with the moves on the floor, but hanging from bells suspended over the stage, leaping across and around the
wall, and jumping from substantial heights. The production has been plagued with injuries--which is not a surprise with the extreme moves that these performers are doing.
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Then there are the singers--they are great, too. Each singer has a wonderful range and superior tone in their voice. The score allows these dynamic singers to show off the
power that each of them possess...but herein also lies the problem of the production. Each of the singers represents one of the principal characters in the story, and each
singer is definitely a "singer", and unfortunately, none of them seem to be either dancers or actors. No character relationships are either built or maintained. We not do
get to see the emotional content of the story. Characters tell us that they are in love, but they never show us. Each of the principle characters, in fact, has a song
telling us of their incredible love, torn emotions and passions, but we never see anyone fall in love, and we really don’t believe them when they tell us they are.
Esmeralda is suppose to be an incredible dancer (one of the reasons that everyone falls in love with her,) but we never see her dance. For the most part, we only watch as
each of the characters seem to walk stoically through their parts. We never see them feel or enact any of the torturous and torrid love they tell us they have. We never
really care about the characters because they never give us a reason to care about them. Toward the end of the show, we watch as Esmeralda gets hung...and we don’t care.
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The fault certainly also lies with the production itself. It seems as if there have been some key scenes and exposition left out. Quasimodo is arrested and chained to a big
wheel, and we don’t know why. The “Court of Miracles” production number is great, but why is it there? It doesn’t seem to serve to advance the plot. It is a great number,
but it is disconnected to anything in the story. We never get to see the scenes where the main characters fall in love. The production is an hour and forty-five minutes
long, and I would have been happy to stay a little longer if only I had been given all of the necessary elements of the story.
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It is a shame that this production is so uneven. It has all of the potential to be as successful and engaging as the another Hugo classic turned musical, Les Miserables.
There is a wonderful score, terrific singers, exciting dancers, and an engaging style and setting. Unfortunately, though, N otre Dame de Paris fails to tell us the story
and doesn’t show us the emotions in this tale about all of the different aspects of love.