Article

Backstage at Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

posted on 1/6/2019

As you may know I grew up with musicals, and I still love them. We currently host “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” musical in Germany I wanted to see quite a while but I never managed to visit it. We finally made it on Saturday, 01/05/2019. 

I’m familiar with the story, not the biggest fan, but still found it to be a cute story. They offer a backstage tour before the actual show and I HAD to do this. 

I didn’t think we would go too deep into the backstage area, just some sort of museum like “Here’s a duplicate of Esmeralda’s costume. Here’s a wig. Now you can go.” But we were actually behind the stage AND even more exciting – we were ON stage. 

When we first got in they handed us a backstage pass and led us to the wings (the side of the stage). They then allowed us to go on the actual stage. Our guide, Julia, gave us some interesting facts. Did you know that the bell-ringing in the musical is the actual sound of the bells of Notre Dame? Also there’s a trap door on the stage and at some point during the show Esmeralda has exactly 28 seconds to run the stairs up, behind the stage down again, through the whole backstage area, down to the understage just to get out of that fall door? There was a pew and Julia told us we should check how heavy it was, Quasimodo would run with it over his head at the stage later on.  If I only would have seen it during the show I would have never believed how heavy the pew actually was.

When we got to the costumes we were able to see how the actor turns into the Hunchback and experienced the 5kg (around 11lb) heavy Kings cloak or Esmeraldas heavy but beautiful corsage. When you know how heavy the costume is or how much the actor is currently wearing while dancing in the hot headlights you really feel sorry for them. I love to sew and seeing all those costume just took my breath. I loved it!

When we were done (it was the most interesting hour in my whole life) it was time to watch the actual show. When you enter the stage area you’d expect a curtain like in every musical, but not this time. As you walk in it feels like you’re walking into Notre Dame. They record your voices and let it echo it back to you like in an actual cathedral.

The show started and already the first two songs and scenes took my breath. The songs gave me chills and I’ve never seen a musical with a cast like this. The Hunchback, Jonas Hein, was unbelievable. He was so authentic and I really felt sorry for him. Claude Frollo (Felix Martin) was just perfect. You really felt his inner conflict between holding on to his brother by his baby and not wanting to raise a child like Quasimodo. Not only is it the Baby of a Gypsy, but a handicapped one. Back then a disabled baby was seen as a punishment of god. 

The production scenes were pretty simple but SO detailed. In the backstage tour they would show us coins underneath the pew. They somehow managed to never really move the production scene but make it clear that you’re not in the cathedral any longer.

The story was not quite like the Disney movie even though it’s a Disney musical but I loved that it was different. Spoiler Alert: They just let Quasimodo and Esmeralda die at the end. I was like “Oh common. I’ve seen the movie. I know she’s not dead.” When she was officially announced dead I was shook. This is nothing I expected. 

During the break I called my mother and told her that I just bought tickets for a second time but this time I also got her a ticket. She HAS to see it. She will love it.

The whole thing, the music, the cast, the production scenes, the backstage tour was practically perfect in every way. I had so much fun and I heard the album the whole ride home. I can’t wait to watch it a second time. This was the first time I did a backstage tour but definitely not the last time. 

I heard only great things about it and my expectations were high. They topped it. I really hope that I get some time the chance to watch it in English and I wish every one of you could experience a musical like this. Quasimodo and Esmeralda touch you on a personal level. No musical ever touched me like this one did. 

The scene images were kindly provided by Stage Entertainment (© Stage Entertainment).