A Reporter’s Unexpected Love Affair With ‘Notre Dame de Paris’

Nothing seemed to replace The Phantom of the Opera as the musical I saw the most.

And then “Notre Dame de Paris” happened.

Based on Victor Hugo’s epic 19th-century novel, the 1998 French musical (as well as Disney’s animated 1996 adaptation) premiered in New York last summer at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. rice field.

I saw it twice then, and two more times when I came back this summer. A fifth viewing is scheduled for Sunday’s closing performance in New York. This is not the end. While in Paris this fall, we will see his second performance of the production at its original theater, the Palais des Congrès, to mark its 25th anniversary.

As an avid theater fan, I rarely go to see the same production twice. (A recent exception was the Broadway revival of “A Doll’s House,” which starred Jessica Chastain as an enchanting, minimalist march of self-discovery.)

And after seeing “Notre Dame de Paris” the first time, a second viewing seemed unnecessary. Sung in French with English subtitles, the musical depicts the beautiful Esmeralda and three men who fight to win her love. Frollo, the twisted archbutler. and the selfish soldier Phoebus.

The production has plenty of ear-candy power ballads sprinkled in over 50 (!) songs, but it also has some cheesy bits.a A song discussing the advantages of the printing press At the beginning of Act 2 after Act 1 of the cliffhanger is over? (I think he should have left at least one trademark Hugo contact there.) Did Frollo get down on one knee, overwhelmed by his lust for Esmeralda?Gringoire, poet and storyteller Donny Osmond “Joseph” Hair And psychedelic pants?

Of course, those elements were meant to be creepy. And now they are just part of my love for the show.

But it’s the show’s unique rock-opera magic that invades and takes root in my mind.

Let me explain. About two-thirds of the way through the first act, Esmeralda enters a song for her three men in love. This is equivalent to the “music of the night” in “The Phantom of the Opera”. “Belle” (French for “beautiful”) was the best-selling single of 1998 in France.

a YouTube video An original production starring Daniel Lavoie as Frollo (Lavoie, now 74, is reprising in New York), Garou as Quasimodo, and Patrick Fiori as Phoebus, was played on loop in my apartment for a week.

Watching this show for the second time last summer was a revelation. I already knew the story, so I didn’t have to read too much into the super titles and got to really see the actors, especially the mesmerizing acrobatics. (What does a guy who spins heads for 20 seconds have to do to get a chance with Esmeralda?)

Then I learned that there are some die-hard fans who have watched the show 6, 10, and even 20 times. and they travel. (One of his treats to New York audiences is the orchestra. “Notre Dame” is usually played with recorded music.)

So how does it affect people?

Canadian director Jill Mahew, who oversaw the original Paris show and several subsequent tours, including this one, attributes the show’s longevity to its timeless themes and music.

“I wanted to do a show that didn’t follow current trends,” Maheu said in a recent video interview at his home in Freylisburg, Quebec, of the musical, which has retained its original staging.

“I think people can easily recognize the traditional storyline of three different people loving the same woman,” he added. “Not only ‘Belle’ but also the song is beautiful.”

Holly Thomas, 26, a Broadway ticket company guest service representative and stage director, saw her first show in New York last summer and plans to see 11 shows there before the show closes on Sunday. .

“The film deals with issues that we as a society are constantly grappling with: racism, misogyny, and corruption of power,” she said.

Boston-based IT consultant Michael Lewis, 52, attended one of the original productions in Paris 25 years ago and has seen musicals in London and New York. In addition to its timelessness, he said, “the theme of migrants seeking asylum still resonates today,” he said, “especially given what happened to Pakistani migrants on their way to Greece.” .

Here in New York, we’re facing an immigration crisis, but the show’s overtures to shelters and asylum are equally moving.

My boss at the New York Times recently watched the show with his daughters. And the next day I got the following message from him: this video I played ‘Belle’ on YouTube at least a dozen times today,” he wrote.

“Does it start like this?”

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