It had the weight of past success as Scarborough Musicals and Scarborough and District Light Opera Society on its shoulders as it looked to be the new broom and move forward.
The choice of show would also set the tone, mood and expectation for now and the future – The Hunchback of Notre of Dame, based on the Disney film and Victor Hugo’s novel, was brave.
Most people know of it are bad impressions of Charles Laughton, who starred as Quasimodo in the film version, chanting ‘the bells, the bells’. Few can whistle a tune from the Disney film let alone sing a verse.
IN PICTURES: The Huncback of Notre Dame here
Director and founder of the company Alex Weatherhill also chose to stage the show away from its usual venue, the YMCA theatre. The setting, instead, was Queen Street Methodist Central Hall.
The intent was clear: big, bold, ambitious and change. Did he pull it off? With a huge dose of chutzpah, hard work, dedication and belief the answer would be: yes, indeed.
The medieval story is about the deformed, deaf and gentle soul Quasimodo hidden away in the belfry of Notre Dame by his corrupt clergyman uncle Frollo was perfect.
He falls in love with the beautiful gipsy woman Esmeralda – desired and despised by Frollo in equal measure – who falls in love with army captain Phoebus.
The story of corruption in the church, love, loss, prejudice, persecution, outcasts and zealots is dark and gripping.
It was set in the perfect arena – the choral music of the score rang out against a backdrop of religious symbols, stained glass and organ pipes.
The church also allowed for theatre-in-the-round which brings the audience closer to the action making it a more immersive experience.
As the audience walked in they were greeted by residents of a romany camp. As people took their seats and the lights dimmed, the cast changed into the costumes of the characters they were to play – to let us know we were in for storytelling. The actors and singers were stretched and asked to deliver performances in a big arena – and each and every one of them delivered.
Kian Moore was achingly naive and gentle as Quasimodo, the tortured, strong young man whose appearance meant he was hidden in the cathedral rafters from the rest of the world and has to confront ihis fears to rescue the woman he has come to revere as his friend.
In contrast was Connor Canvass, who embodied the fearless, handsome, charming Phoebus.
Nicola Wade swirled, swished, stamped and sang her way through the role of the feisty Esmeralda. Towering over the tale of doomed love was Martin Richardson as the menacing, corrupt Frollo.
Amy Hunter as Clopin drove the narrative and led the Greek-like chorus.
Much of the score is inspired by church choral music peppered with Broadway-style showstoppers including Topsy Turvy and ballads Out There and Top of the World.
The production was epic in its proportions and themes – which ranged from love to searching for the hero inside – magnificent and marvellous to witness.
There were tears, laughter and heartbreak – especially from the interaction between Esmeralda and Quasimodo and Phoebus and Esmeralda which were moving.
At the final curtain of the tragic tale there were cheers, tears and a well-deserved, standing ovation.
On this showing,there are exciting times ahead for musical theatre in the town with the new company at its forefront.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is on at Queen Street Methodist Central Hall, Scarborough, on Thursday May 19, Friday May 20 and Saturday May 21, daily at 7.30pm.
Tickets: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ALL performances are signed by Paul Whittaker
Director Alex Weatherhill.
Signer: Paul Whittaker.
Martin Richardson, Frollo; Kian Moore, Quasimodo; Nicola Wade, Esmeralda; Connor Canvess, Phoebus; Amy Hunter, Clopin.
Paul Buttner; Flynn Denton, Neisha Kellett, Tilly Jackson, Erin Russ, Alex Asquith, Andrew Chidwick, Lauren MacDonald; Louise Stanway, Pauline Newman, Richard Milburn, Matt Stradling.
Martin Richardson, choirmaster; Andrew Davison, choir conductor; Amanda Bond, Kathryn Irwin, Julia McEvilly, Janet Thompson, Tim Tubbs, Lynne Boyes, Winnie Foxton, Marian Grindrod, Rob Buckley, Beverley Fieldhouse, Myrrhine Taylor, Chris Jackson, Chris Blogg, Catherine Ebert and Rebecca Leeson.
Saints and Gargoyles:
Archie Floyd, Liam Farricker, Heather Taylor, Josh Simpson, Selwyn Peterken and Crystal Jackson.
Costume and makers:
Betty Melbourne, Alison Robertshaw, June Wademan, Sarah Buckle, Lesley Machen and Stephanie Kirke.
Set and props:
Jo Humphriss and Kieran Grzesiowski, Hayley Burn and Jackie Hunter.