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A Modern Zest in Notre Dame De Paris!

By InCinemas  /  26 Dec 2013 (Thursday)

The classic French musical Notre Dame De Paris is back to charm viewers with its romantic love story, but this time, performed in English.

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, the musical first opened in Paris in 1998 and has become a phenomenon around the world, having staged over 4000 times in 20 countries and surpassed 10 million spectators overall. In addition, the English lyrics were written by Will Jennings, Oscar-winner for ‘My Heart Will Go On’, from the classic film Titanic.

Notre Dame De Paris
tells a story of Quasimodo the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Esmeralda the Gypsy girl, in their unrequited love story for each other.

(Purchase your tickets here!)

“It’s a big opportunity to discover something and getting different roles in your life. To get this role (Esmeralda), is one of the best things that happened to me,” said Alessandra Ferrari, who plays Esmeralda, in an interview with InCinemas last week.

Playing the lead character Quasimodo is Canadian singer-actor Matt Laurent who put on a stunning performance as the ‘hideous monster’ of Notre Dame. As his role required him to arch his back throughout the musical, Laurent revealed that it doesn’t affect his voice and could ‘walk like Quasimodo the entire day’.

“You just have to play with it and I’ve done it so many times that I can spend the whole day walking like Quasimodo. Yes the back will suffer a lot but we have therapists and physiotherapists... so I do I feel secured.”

Apart from the seven principal artistes (we will go there later), this production adds a contemporary acrobatic twist to it. Featuring 24 dancers and acrobats, expect to see them twirl, climb and tumble throughout the musical, performing demanding choreography as part of the show’s unique facet. The topless dancers received one of the loudest applause from the audience which they truly deserved.

While I applaud the director’s effort in giving this classic tale a somewhat modern twist, some of the fanfare didn’t quite accentuate the musical’s treatment. There were parts where I felt that dancers were highlights of the scenes as they break-danced, exhibiting ambitious stunts, which definitely took my attention off the lead character’s solo. As much as I would like to absorb all that is happening at the background, it’s rather hard not to deviate from enjoying the vocals from the principal cast, to an extent I felt was more of a distraction than complement to its story. Having said that, no doubt there were parts that the acrobats brought momentous, powerful depth into the scenes, it was beautiful sight I could never forget.

Laurent and Ferrari are great actors with impressive vocals, belting out high-octave songs and pulled long, perfect notes with its accompanied music. Esmeralda’s heartfelt ‘Live For The One I Love’ number at the end was beautiful and indeed mesmerising. But the one that stole the show was Robert Marien who plays priest Frollo. His ground-breaking voice was a clear winner the moment he sang his first tune. That low, deep vocals easily overpowers his other cast members. Marien played Jean Valjean in the West End and Broadway’s “Les Miserables” (we can totally see why) and definitely gave what audience were looking for in this English production of Notre Dame De Paris. A great addition to the team.

On the other hand, I thought Gringoire (narrator) and Phoebus performances were rather inconsistent, nailing the notes for some songs and yet sounded shrilling at times. Don’t get me wrong, they are great singers and stage actors who can, without a doubt, pull high notes that few of us are able to, but it just somehow didn’t harmonise well with the ensemble. In addition, Gringoire had too much animated actions for his solos and duets, it didn’t flow well with the musical approach. It felt like a storytelling narration (but with good diction compared to the rest) to a group of young audience, but words were sung in diverse tunes. Then again, it all boils down to the direction of the director’s call, who had indeed that it’s a ‘musical spectacular’ (than a musical) and that it will be ‘different’.

Notre Dame De Paris is after all, a tragic love tale that brings lots of emotions as the story unfolds. The high production value musical sees a spectacular set design, stage direction and a talented ensemble.

Notre Dame De Paris opened on Dec 17 and will be showing till January 12 2014 at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands.
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