Theatre review: Quasimodo, A Musical Story is a gripping tale of the dangers of beauty, lust and love

Theatre review: Quasimodo, A Musical Story is a gripping tale of the dangers of beauty, lust and love
PHOTO: Instagram/singtheatre

The famed Notre Dame cathedral is on its way to returning to its previous glory three years after the French historical monument had gone up in flames and shocked the world. Celebrate the Notre Dame’s rebirth with Quasimodo, A Musical Story, Sing Theatre’s rendition of the iconic Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Based on Les Misérables author Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel Notre Dame de Paris, Quasimodo’s story is one rife with the sorrows of impossible love within the streets of Paris.

The year is 1482 and the audience is first introduced to poet and playwright Gringoire as well as Clopin, a street rat and self-proclaimed king of the court of miracles.

Gringoire and Clopin takes us to the streets of Paris, pulsing in revelry of the Festival of Fools – a face-pulling competition where Quasimodo, the disfigured yet kind bell ringer of Notre Dame cathedral, is crowned Pope of Fools for having the ugliest face in Paris and paraded to a jeering crowd.

Blaming beautiful bohemian woman, Esmeralda, for Quasimodo’s disobedience, archdeacon Claude Frollo orders him to capture her – only for the handsome Captain Phoebus to arrive and arrest Quasimodo. Unbeknownst to them, this collision of fate between Esmeralda and three men of disparate virtues was only the first domino to fall in a dangerous tale of lust, impossible loves and injustice.

Veteran performer Hossan Leong leads an ensemble of established theatre talents in George Chan and Vanessa Kee as well as theatre debuts in TJ Taylor, Joash Zheng, Preston Lim and Gabrielle Rae Sammy.

Under the masterful direction of Nathalie Ribette with choreography from George Chan, this rendition of Notre Dame de Paris is a heart-wrenching vocal masterpiece that will leave you at the edge of your seat and ready for more.

Joash Zheng delivers a tear-jerking theatrical debut performance as the titular Quasimodo, fully embodying the ostracised hunchback through his powerful, guttural vocal delivery. Artfully navigating the range between sensuality and vulnerability, Vanessa Kee steals the show as Esmeralda, enchanting the audience in dance and song before ripping our hearts out in the final act.

TJ Taylor’s Frollo paints a terrifying picture of a man of cloth in such fevered moral conflict that he is willing to commit despicable acts to get what he wants, each vocal showcase intense and captivating in an impressive theatrical debut. Frollo’s rival, Captain Phoebus, is portrayed by Preston Lim in his first ever performance with Sing Theatre. Lim hits every mark and note as the ambitious and unfaithful captain, delivering the audience a swoon-worthy performance.

The dichotomy of the Madonna and the whore features heavily throughout the play in the comparisons between Phoebus’ fiancé, Fleur de Lys, and Esmeralda.

Identified by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud as men’s perception that women’s nurture and sexuality are mutually exclusive, the Madonna-whore split identifies chaste women as respectable but not desirable while sensual women are desirable but not respectable.

In the play, Fleur de Lys’ purity, depicted in her light pink dress and simple makeup, is pitted against Esmeralda’s sensuality, shown in her deep red dress and lipstick, for Phoebus’ affections.

Similar themes highlighting misogyny towards women’s sensuality plague Esmeralda throughout the play, leading to peril and misery for the simple crime of possessing a “wild” beauty men could not find in the women they deemed socially respectable.

Phoebus and Frollo, unable to accept attraction to a woman both confident in her sensuality and beneath their social caste, condemn Esmeralda as a sorceress and seductress rather than see her for who she truly is: a compassionate free-spirit who, like Quasimodo, only longed for love.

The Notre Dame cathedral plays an integral role in French history and culture so, to celebrate its renaissance three years after being engulfed in flames, witness the phenomenal masterpiece it had inspired in the gripping and intoxicating production of Quasimodo, A Musical Story.

Quasimodo, A Musical Story runs from now till April 24, 2022 at Alliance Francaise Theatre 1 Sarkies Rd, Singapore 258130, Tue-Sun at various timings. Tickets are priced from $70 to $75.

This article was first published in City Nomads.

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