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Review by Vince Mediaa

Quasimodo has climbed to the top of the Montgomery Theatre to ring in the summer. The bells are ringing at CMT’s wonderful production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME that is was on stage only through August 6th. This spellbinding Disney musical honors the 55th season of CMT bringing together a first rate team of youth players. Headed by Managing Director Dana Zell, Artistic Director Kevin Hauge and Musical Director Amie Jan, who brought together a stunning cast of 57 players to tell the story of Quasimodo. “Whether you’re familiar with the story itself or with Disney's successful 1996 adaptation, I will give you fair warning (this) production swings like our title character in his tower back and forth between the two” says Director Kevin Hauge. This is CMT’s second time staging this musical - Zell says “This production holds extra meaning as we have received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts (this) national recognition is an honor/ being one the few youth theater companies acknowledged at this level.”

This is the summer of Quasimodo in the greater Bay Area - with three productions almost crossing the same dates. I want to acknowledge Cabrillo Summer Fest featuring local favorite Juan Castro as the icon bell ringer. A company similar to CMT in the East Bay YMTC also presented a youth tuition based production that did well. This beautiful production at the Montgomery Theatre that closed was the final production that rung its bells in the greater Bay Area and a must see.

I have covered a few THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME reviews in the past so I am going to keep the story brief and focus on the players and craft team. I have seen a number of Quasimodos on Bay stages and this HUNCHBACK delivers soaring vocals as big as its epic themes. Director Hauge has cast a huge diverse company divided into two casts including a 40 member chorus to ring out Stephen Schwartz’ and Alan Menken’s words and music. I saw the Victor cast with Jonah Horowitz cast as the tortured Quasimodo, creating a keen performance as he transforms himself into the Hunchback. Horowitz has a standout voice as he sings "Bells of Notre Dame” and later the passionate “Heaven's Light” Horowitz's tormented voice he chose distracted his performance and much of his important dialog was missed. Milo Mee played the bell ringer at the final performance August 6th.

As I entered the gothic Montgomery Theatre many of the cast members were on stage costumed in their black robes and having a great time - As I waited for the performance to begin I realized this company was in party mode - waving to the audience and appearing to be on their cells, but I am sure they weren’t and as the performance began they were back in character. This set up the wrong mood for the two and half hours to follow. Set in Paris in 1492, a gypsy named Clopin, played by the charismatic Alexa Gabrielle Cruz, begins to spin the famous tale of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hauge also spreads the dialogue to other company members or story tellers.

The villain Archdeacon Frollo of the church of Notre Dame played by the polished Ethan Le who returned to a Bay stage from his lawyer studies to really delight our theater community. Le opens the first act with “Sanctuary” and fills the Montgomery stage with his gifted voice. Later in the story he stops the show with “Hellfire” and his passionate “The Assault”. This is one production of HUNCHBACK where the villain steals the show from Quasimodo. We all hope to see this talent return to Bay stages after he passes the BAR.

Frollo develops a romantic fixation for the gorgeous Esmeralda played by the dynamic Maya Drake. Esmeralda’s celebration of life, in many of her numbers, including the sinuously sexy dance number “Rhythm of the Tambourine” rests any doubt that Drake is sizzling as the Gypsy. She is sure to go far in her career and alongside Le they bring a rich reality to this dark musical. Bella Rae Villasis plays the role at the closing performance this weekend. The company is on fire during a celebration as the revelers sing and dance “Topsy Turvy” with more than 55 cast members on stage the number does get a bit clumsy. Later mixed with the 14 live statues it's a bit overwhelming. Choreographed by Sarah Bylsma and Rudy Fuentes they do have their skills tested with so many players on stage. “Topsy Turvy” and “Rhythm of the Tambourine” are colorful romps featuring some terrific dancers, yet it the energy gets lost with so many actors on stage.

The craft team includes a multilevel Cathedral with rich levels for the Saints and Statues and the iconic bells designed by Jim Culley. Gothic lighting and hell fire designed by Edward Hunter alongside effective projections created by Chai Kohen and Josh Miyaji. The authentic make up for the statues and Saints created by Marci Nemhauser and Nicole Hoke. Costumes designed by Suzie Brown included a simple on stage transformation for Quasimodo, classic goth robes for the choir and a colorful mix for the citizens. Frollo is always dressed in red robes and elegant vests and was always easy to spot as he hid in the shadows stalking the beautifully dressed Esmeralda.

Impressive music director Amie Jan conducted the thirteen piece orchestra and Vocal Director Catherine Bardy conducted the stellar choir. The Montgomery theater was filled with a grand and glorious sound. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME’S lush score is stunning, and the melodies are memorable. The complicated arrangements, harmonies, and melody lines make this diverse ensemble busy but impressive. This CMT production is grand and Quasimodo ends the show with Menkin's poignant lyrics, "Someday Life will be Kinder ''. This production of HUNCHBACK features many young talents we will see in the future. Don’t miss Quasimodo climb to the top of the Montgomery in San Jose --

CMT Mainstage Presents


Music by Alan Menken and Lyrics Stephen Schwartz, book by Peter Parnell

Based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney animated feature

Directed by Kevin R. Hauge

Managing Director Dana Zell

Musical Director Amie Jan

Choreographers Sarah Bylsma and Rudy Fuentes

Vocal Director Catherine Brady


Montgomery Theater (CMT)

271 S. Market St, San Jose, CA 95113

Two and Half Hours with a 15 min intermission

Photos by Martin Baynes


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