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A CurtainUp Review

Redmoon Theater's Stunning Hunchback Returns to New York
A New 42nd Street presentation of Redmoon Theater's adaptation of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a not to be missed treat. It was, at least for me. the most memorable show of the Jim Hansen Puppet Festival in 2000 (an annual event unfortunately no longer with us). An exceptional theater piece and definitely not for children only.
—Elyse Sommer

Current Production Notes
Conceived and designed by Jim Lasko
Hunchback with spoken text by Mickle Maher
Directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig
Cast: Calvin Dutton (Pheobus), Mary Winn Heider (Recluse),Katie Rose McLaughlin (Esmeralda),Alden Moore (Quasimodo Puppet), Jeremy Sher (Author Victor Hugo), Samuel Taylor (Claude Frollo),Jay Torrence (Quasimodo) Costumes, Joel Klaff
Puppets, Laura Heit
Lighting, John Horan
Original music, Michael Zerang
Sound, Mikhail Fiksel
Choreography, Asimina Chremos
Fight direction, Mat Hawkins
Production stage manager, Denise Olivieri
New Victory Theater on 42nd Street
From 10/24/08 to 11/09/08
Running time: 1 hour, 25 min

—original review by
Clearly Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, has show biz legs. It's been made into a classic movie and a cartoon. Most recently it turned up on the London stage as a musical (see link below). This year's Henson International Puppet Theater Festival features the most unusual and brilliant adaptation of all.

The Chicago based Redmoon Theater Company has outdone itself in living up to its reputation for blending puppetry, mask theater, movement and fluctuating set design with vision and flair. Its staging of the tragedy of Quasimodo and the haunted and hunted gypsy girl Esmeralda provides ninety minutes of enthralling theater.

Hunchback's visual razzle dazzle defies description. The adaptation of Hugo's dark story fits beneath the broad umbrella of the Henson definition of puppet theater, probably coming closest in its overall execution to such works as Julie Taymor's The Green Bird (see link below). Yet it transcends labels. It is a play in which the actors are masked. The masked actors are also represented as marionettes and rod puppets. Other theatrical devices abound.

As for the story, while Hugo's novel is completely reimagined, with Hugo himself an important and humorous part of the proceedings, Redmoon's Hunchback is true to its source. The introduction of a Hugo stand-in works beautifully. It adds humor and serves to fill in plot details for anyone unfamiliar with the story. (There's also a scrolling banner at stage rear which synopsizes the key scenes). Initially this Hugo alter ego makes an "we interrupt this broadcast" appearance protesting the use of puppets and funky music as inappropriate to his story. Like the audience, he is quickly won over by the cleverness of this adaptation.

The scene that greets audiences entering the Newman Theater is an industrial type set, with nothing to suggest the book's background of medieval France or the imposing architecture of the cathedral in which the hunchback is the bell ringer. Yet, the darkness, the odd shaped and rather ominous looking boxes and a scaffolding arrangement of ladders evoke the mood of the play and soon become as real as a more realistic setting (the latter is shown as a diorama at one point). The ladders are the dark, winding stairs of the cathedral and the masked Quasimodo is as convincingly tragic as Charles Laughton ever was. Esmeralda too depicts her emotions through her mask and body movements.

The mysterious boxes turn out to be various rooms into which characters disappear only to peek forth and remerge. As a striking version of multiple casting àla puppet theater, the full-sized, masked characters often share the stage with marionette or rod puppet counterparts.

Stunning imagery follows more stunning imagery -- from the Esmeralda's dance up and down the ladder-steps of the cathedral into the arms of a handsome rescuer, to Quasimodo's desperate effort to snatch her from the hangman's noose, to the emergence of Claude the mad priest grown into a giant-sized figure of doom. Most memorable of all are a dream scene, with the dream images painted on glass panels projected behind a scrim and a giant pop-up book which is used to recount the priest's history.

The work of the ensemble is remarkable and the pulsing beat of the music, the mood-perfect lighting and costumes all contribute to the enjoyment. A caveat for parents. This is definitely adult theater. On the other hand, the show that precedes Hunchback at the Shiva Theater, Shadow Plays/Short Stories is perfect family fare.

Notre Dame de Paris
The Green Bird
Shadow Plays/Short Stories
Festival Overview and other links

>Redmoon Theater's HUNCHBACK
Based on the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Creator ( in collaboration with the company) / Co-Director / Co-Set and Mask Designer: Jim Lasko
Co-Director: Leslie Buxbaum
Ensemble: Adrian Danzig*,David Engel*, Sharon Gopfert,Culley Orion Johnson, Frank Maugeri, Sammy Porretta, Kristin Randall, Rebecca Tennison (* appearing with special permission of Actor's Equity Assn.)
Composer/Sound Designer: Michael Zerang
Lighting Designer: Chris Binder
Assistant Lighting Designer: Josh Benghiat
Puppet Designer: Laura Heit
Text: Mickle Maher
Assistant Director/Co-Set and Mask Designer/Graphic Artist: Shoshanna Utchenik
Technical Director: Dan Reilly
Costume Designer: Joel Klaff
Production and Stage Manager: W. Shane Oman
Technical Drawings: Jeff Petersen
Puppet and Set Builders: Cat Chow, B.J. Doring, John Fishback Jennifer Friedrich, Laura Heit, Ryan Mahoney, Frank Maugeri, Collette Pollard, Dan Reilly, Shoshanna Utchenik
Caricature Drawings: Spiro Dousias Carillon Music Performed by John Krenzer, Michael Zerang Recorded at Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago
Woodwinds Performed by Kyle Bruckmac
Running Time: 95 minutes, without intermission
Public Theater/Newman
425 Lafayette Street, NYC
Festival Hotline: (212) 279-4200
Performances through 9/17/2000

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 9/13 performance

The Broadway Theatre Archive

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