Buena Vista Pictures
Victor Hugo’s epic novel wasn’t the most likely source material for Disney romp. Despite a gorgeous score, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was hobbled by its subject matter. Too dark for kids, too sanitized for adults who know what really happens to Esmeralda in the end, Hunchback is a strange beast in studio’s animated tradition.
Now it will receive new life in a stage production at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the musical features tunes both from the movie and written specifically for the stage. This staging may be brand new, but the musical actually has a long history. Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame ran for three years in Berlin, where everyone is pretty okay with dark and depressing. Esmeralda and Frollo both bit it in the German production, deviating from the Disney rewrite.
The King’s Academy in Florida was the first theater to mount an English adaptation of the German show, cutting a few deaths, however. (Watch a clip from that production below.) Still, the stage show was reviewed as much more solemn than the animated film. With the new La Jolla production, presented in “special arrangement” with Disney, the work might find new balance between honoring its source material and pleasing theater-going families.