The Hunchback of Notre Dame Studio Cast Recording
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a dramatic telling of the famous love story on a grand scale, with a lush, emotionally rich score featuring music by Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast) and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin). The only stage collaboration from two masters of the American musical, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. This first ever recording of the acclaimed American stage score based on the Academy Award-nominated 1996 film brings together a 25 piece orchestra, a choir of 28 and some of Broadway s most formidable talent: Michael Arden (Big River) as Quasimodo, Patrick Page (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Dom Claude Frollo, Ciara Renée (Pippin) as Esmeralda, Andrew Samonsky (Lincoln Center s South Pacific) as Captain Phoebus de Martin and Erik Liberman (Lovemusik) as Clopin Trouillefou. The cast heard on this album performed the show s US Premiere productions at La Jolla Playhouse and Paper Mill Playhouse during their 2014-15 seasons.
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The Disney movie soundtrack has long been available. This new version of the well-known story of Quasimodo and Esmeralda uses 9 of the songs that Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz wrote for the 1995 movie, essentially all of the vocal music from the movie. There are 23 tracks on the recording, which runs almost 80 minutes, so this is a much different piece of music. It is a substantial and marvelous effort at providing a soundscape worthy of its grand cathedral setting. Nearly all of the tracks use a considerable number of choral voices at some point along the way. By the standards of current recordings of musicals, it uses a large orchestra. Among Menken’s many fine shows, this one will sound most similar to “King David”, an oratorio-like musical that can be found nearly complete track-by-track on YouTube too. Both of these shows emanate from the grand literary musicals of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the sounds of “Les Miserables” or “Phantom of the Opera”
Purchase this music. You will enjoy it if you loved that era and style musicals. Perhaps good sales will encourage Ghostlight to record “King David” similarly.
I've been waiting for this recording basically for the last decade, ever since I heard that it was being developed for the stage in Germany (I *needed* to hear Someday in context and as a duet, but I also needed to hear it in English), so it was a long time coming, and in many ways it was worth the wait. There are some odd things about it (like how it pretends to detach itself from the Disney film in its branding and design and even the text right on the cover, but then it's almost exactly based on it, with a few minor story and character adjustments, and how it changed some musical cues and lyrics seemingly for no reason), but it has a lot of good about it too (I like some of the story changes.
The cast is mostly good -- Michael Arden, when he actually sings and doesn't awkwardly try to work Quasimodo's deafness into his speaking parts, is a pretty good lead with a nice belt; Ciara Renee is a fiery enough Esmeralda, impressive to me since the only place I'd heard her previously was a bit part in Big Fish; Andrew Samonsky sounds a bit smarmy as Phoebus, but I guess that's a character decision and he sounds fine; and Patrick Page, who I know as the Grinch in the so-so seasonal Dr. Seuss offering, is a pretty good and nuanced Frollo, whose character I feel actually changed the most, almost like they were trying to somehow make him more sympathetic, which I'm not sure how I feel about. The biggest issue I have with this recording is how they handled the ensemble. Take out the gargoyles if you must and replace them with various architectural and design elements of the cathedral interacting with Quasimodo, and I get that most people will never get to see it live, at least not in this incarnation, but, even for the sake of a studio recording, spare us the play-by-play narration. Even a lot of the dialogue seemed unnecessary and distracting. Just put it all in the liner notes and we can figure out the rest.
The new songs fit in well enough, and have a very Menken and/or Schwartz feel about them, though when I listen sometimes it seems like they're shoehorned in and make the story feel a little bloated and meandering (and with lots and lot of Big Finishes). Apparently they were also trying to make it a little edgier for a more adult audience? That doesn't really come across, but some of the story changes are harmless.
Anyway, it's a good representation of a project that a lot of people were clearly passionate about, and I'm glad that it finally happened so I could experience it, even just as a studio cast recording. It's nice to finally have it to add to my Disney Broadway playlist.
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Saw her in Hunchback twice locally! Baldwin Wallace sure does turn out performance-ready musical theater grads😊.Read more