Tag Archives: Sydney Morton

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

An Epic Hit At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Quasimodo (F. Michael Haynie) Photo: Gary Ng
Quasimodo (F. Michael Haynie)
Photo: Gary Ng

As I waited for the curtain to rise for the opening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame I was fascinated by what I could see of the set for this production. I read in the program notes it was designed by Adam Koch exclusively for the Playhouse. I have seen Mr. Koch’s work before and have been impressed, but his work for this production was beyond impressive, it was positively breathtaking.

Ladders, a movable staircase, giant cathedral doors, five large bells, a choir loft, cauldron, revolving stage upon the stage, all appearing and disappearing seamlessly from scene to scene. This, combined with superb lighting, created a visual epic that held the audience spellbound during the entire performance.

But sets alone do not make for a hit play. While drinking in the creative genius of Mr. Koch, something else began to happen on stage. An incredible story, dark yet touching, unfolded. This story was told by actors with talent who were playing at the top of their game.

As the play opens we see the word “Fate” in large letters over the stage. This word would stay with us as we watch events unfold and it will haunt us with the question: How much do we control our own destinies? One that mankind has struggled with throughout the ages.

Theatre is illusion, and when F. Michael Haynie first appears on stage we see him transformed into the part of Quasimodo right before our eyes. It is a stunning moment when he turns to face the audience, his face with just the right lighting, no makeup, and he is suddenly in full character. It is one of those moments in theatre that is never forgotten. Mr. Haynie goes on to give a full and outstanding performance for the rest of the evening. In a stage populated with talent, he shines.

Quasimodo is the illegitimate nephew of Claude Frollo the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. He took in his brother’s out of wedlock child, and to shelter him from the world, confined him to the belfry of the church where he serves as bellringer.

Frollo (Bradley Dean) Photo: Gary Ng
Frollo (Bradley Dean)
Photo: Gary Ng

Frollo, powerfully portrayed by Bradley Dean, is tormented by his feelings of guilt when he begins to feel lust for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda portrayed by the very talented Sydney Morton. Mr. Dean takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster as he elicits feelings of warmth, pity, sadness, and anger in his descent into a darkness from within the soul of Frollo.

The magnificent score written by Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken was originally created for the Disney film. It has been since updated with some songs removed and others added. Many of the songs heard in Ogunquit are being performed on stage for the first time. Some high spots among the many are The Bells of Notre Dame, the touching Out There sung from the tower by Quasimodo, the beautiful duet Someday performed by Esmeralda and Captain Phoebus played by Christopher Johnstone who was last seen on the playhouse stage in South Pacific. His voice is as wonderful now as it was then.

Chopin (Paolo Montalban) Photo: Julia Russell
Chopin (Paolo Montalban)
Photo: Julia Russell

I also want to mention the very strong performance of Paolo Montalbano as Clopin, the king of the gypsies. He also plays the roll of narrator. Along with the gargoyles who come to life only to Quasimodo and serve as a sort of Greek Chorus, the story flows continually.

There is a thirty-two member chorus that occupies the choir loft that is perched high up and to the back of the stage. Their magnificent voices fill the theatre. The Playhouse recruited local talent for the chorus from such groups as the Seaglass Chorale, and they are all first class.

This production is something a bit different for the Playhouse as it has only been performed at two venues in the United States, and this run is being directed for the Ogunquit Playhouse by Shaun Kerrison. It is not a touring company show. Under the artistic direction of Brad Kenney, the Playhouse has become a major player in regional theatre. I believe there is a very strong likelihood this production will move on to Broadway. It is that strong. I hope Mr. Kerrison follows it there.

This play is dark in many parts. It will touch your emotions and make you think about how cruel humans can be to each other and wonder why. It will cause you to look at yourself and, perhaps, question some of the quick judgements we all make about people because they are different. The play does not answer these questions, but I believe it will open many eyes so that we all take the time to be more thoughtful before passing judgement on our fellow human beings.

We can take charge of our fate, but we must grasp our hopes and believe in the good we all have to offer.

See this play. You will be delighted by such a beautiful evening of theatre. You will also leave pondering so much more.

Through August 6th.
For information: OgunquitPlayhouse.org 207.646.5511

The Regional Premiere of the Epic New Musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Set to Open July 13 at the Ogunquit Playhouse


The Ogunquit Playhouse is proud to be the New England premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, on stage from July 13 to August 6, making the Playhouse one of the first regional theatres in the U.S. to stage this new musical. Victor Hugo’s epic tale of hope, love

Sydney Morton (Esmeralda)
Sydney Morton (Esmeralda)

and passion, with book by Peter Parnell (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Broadway revival) and music by composer Alan Menken (Newsies) and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), soars to life in this emotionally charged retelling of the celebrated classic. The love story of the beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda, the scorned bell-ringer Quasimodo and the dashing Captain Phoebus comes to glorious life in this powerful rendition of the timeless tale. The bold and dramatic theatrics, combined with the music’s orchestral power and choral beauty provided by a thirty-two member choir that accompanies the cast, promise to transport audiences back to fifteenth century Paris and inside the cathedral walls made famous by Victor Hugo’s novel.

F. Michael Haynie (Quasimodo)
F. Michael Haynie (Quasimodo)

The stellar cast is led by F. Michael Haynie who is making his Ogunquit debut as Quasimodo. On Broadway he performed in Wicked and Holler If Ya Hear Me, on television in Peter Pan Live for NBC, and the film Not Fade Away for Paramount. The beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda is played by Sydney Morton who has performed as part of the original Broadway casts of Memphis, Evita, Motown and American Psycho, the National Tours of Flashdance and Jersey Boys, and appeared in The Sound of Music Live broadcast on NBC. Christopher Johnstone returns to the Playhouse as Captain Phoebus after playing Lt. Cable in the award-winning production of South Pacific (Best Actor nominee Broadway World). His many theatre credits include the National Tours of the recent revival of Evita, Lincoln Center’s production of South Pacific and regional productions of Fiddler on the Roof, A Little Night Music, and Pirates of Penzance, among many others.

Bradley Dean (Frollo)
Bradley Dean (Frollo)

Bradley Dean joins the cast as Claude Frollo. Mr. Dean is also making his Ogunquit debut and has appeared on Broadway in A Little Night Music, The Last Ship, Company, Doctor Zhivago, Spamalot, The Story of My Life, Evita, Jane Eyre, Man of La Mancha as well as many Off-Broadway, National Tours and regional theatre productions. Paolo Montalban joins the cast as Clopin. He was last seen at the Ogunquit Playhouse in The King and I (Lun Tha) and Cinderella (Prince Christopher). On Broadway he appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Pacific Overtures and Off-Broadway in Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Romance of Magno Rubio, as well as many regional theatres across the nation. On television Montalban is most recognized as the Prince in the ethnically diverse ABC production of “Cinderella.”

Shaun Kerrison returns from England to direct this epic production for the Ogunquit Playhouse. He has directed many Ogunquit productions, receiving many IRNE and BroadwayWorld nominations for Best Director. Mr. Kerrison was last in Ogunquit in 2014 to direct Mary Poppins the Broadway Musical and The Witches of Eastwick and in 2012 he directed the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic South Pacific. He also directed the U.S. regional premiere of Sunset Boulevard at the Ogunquit Playhouse starring Stephanie Powers, as well as Les Miserables and My Fair Lady for the Ogunquit stage. On Broadway, Mr. Kerrison was the Resident Director of Mary Poppins and was the Associate Director for the Broadway revival of Les Miserables and he redirected the National Theatres production of My Fair Lady for its 50th Anniversary U.S. National Tour. He recently reunited with conductor John Wilson to direct Kiss Me Kate for the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

Choreographer for the Ogunquit production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Connor Gallagher who recently received an Astaire Award for his work on The Robber Bridegroom at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City. His many show credits include the world-premiere stage adaptation of Disney’s Tangled with director Gordon Greenberg; Robert Schenkkan and Neil Berg’s The Twelve at Denver Center; The Fabulous Lipitones for Goodspeed; and Perez Hilton at Lincoln Center. Mr. Gallagher will next choreograph the Broadway-bound musical FOUND for the Philadelphia Theatre Company and as a director, a new musical with Disney Creative Entertainment for fall of 2017.

Fight Director Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum joins the creative team to direct the fight scenes in the show. He has worked on many Broadway productions including Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher, Cyrano de Bergerac, and On the Twentieth Century as well as many Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions and the television production of Peter Pan Live for NBC/Universal.

Brent-Alan Huffman returns to Ogunquit Playhouse as Conductor/Music Director after having conducted last year’s Playhouse hit Sister Act. Mr. Huffman conducted the recent Billboard number 1 cast recording of Hunchback of Notre Dame, and was Conductor/Music Director for the original U.S. companies in 2014-15. His Broadway credits include Leap of Faith, Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, and National Tours include Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors and Beauty and the Beast. For television he served as Production Music Coordinator on ABC’s The Music Man starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth, and as Associate Music Producer on NBC/Hallmark’s A Christmas Carol starring Kelsey Grammer. Assisting Mr. Huffman is Associate Music Director Jeffrey Campos and Chorus Master Wendell Scott Purrington.

An all new set has been designed by Adam Koch exclusively for the Ogunquit stage that reaches out over the audience complete with areas for Quasimodo to venture. Mr. Koch previously designed sets for the Ogunquit Playhouse productions of Sister Act and Saturday Night Fever. He has designed sets for theatres across the nation, including the landmark outdoor production of Carousel and The Sleepy Hollow Experience for Serenbe Playhouse; the original Chicago production of Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo Theatre; Hello, Dolly! for Ford’s Theater; Miss Saigon, Dreamgirls, Kiss of the Spiderwoman (2008 Helen Hayes nomination), and See What I Wanna See for Signature Theatre; and Bat Boy for 1st Stage for which he received a 2015 Helen Hayes nomination. His Off-Broadway credits include Rooms: A Rock Romance, Loaded, We the People, Pinkalicious and Freckleface Strawberry. Associate Scenic Designer Steven Royal, who has collaborated with Adam Koch on over thirty musicals, plays and live events including Miss Saigon (Signature Theatre), Carousel (Serenbe Playhouse) and Hairspray (Syracuse Stage) also joins the creative team for the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Also joining the creative team for Ogunquit Playhouse is Costume Designer Martha Bromelmeier who designed costumes for hundreds of theatrical productions including The Kennedy Center Honors, The New Victory Theatre, The Cocteau Rep, The Lucille Lortel Theatre, and Primary Stages among many others. Martha has worked with leading ladies including Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Audra McDonald, Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, Jessie Mueller, Laura Benanti, Laura Osnes, Patina Miller and Anna Kendrick.

Visit OgunquitPlayhouse.org or call the box office at 207-646-5511 for tickets.