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‘Hunchback’ may be Town Theatre’s most compelling performance in recent history

In what might be its most compelling, heart-wrenching production in recent history, the Town Theatre has kicked off its 99th season with an intense musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, utilizing familiar songs from the Disney animated feature.

The play begins with dimmed lights as the aisles between seats become filled with solemnly singing, cloaked actors bearing candles.  “The Bells of Notre Dame” has never sounded so serene and chilling, and it immediately sets the tone for a very mature adaptation of the beloved classic.

Without doubt, the musical has many thrilling moments, particularly those involving the Gypsy characters.  Esmeralda’s seductive “Rhythm of the Tambourine” is an enticing invitation to become smitten with her character, and “Topsy Turvy” stirs the entire audience into upbeat devilish glee.  The sweeping, seductive “Tavern Song (Thai Mol Piyas)” delivers strongly, feeling far too brief for the captivated theatre-goers.

Esmeralda (Sheldon Paschal) and Quasimodo (Jeremy Reasoner) leave audiences questioning the difference between “monster” and “man.” (Photo by Helen Hood Renew & Eye for Design.)

Seasoned theatre vet Will Moreau has performed at the Town Theatre since 1998.  In his role as Clopin or “king of the Gypsies,” is an underused asset for the play, supplying some of the production’s most comedic and entertaining moments.  “I did a little research on Gypsies, and the variety of different kinds of Gypsies, of course,” Moreau told Midlands Anchor in an exclusive group interview.  “I tried to sort of bring down some of the stereotypes we have about them, and found them just to be normal people that move around quite a bit.  They have a spirituality that’s their own, and so I tried to embrace some of that.”

Unquestionably, Jeremy Reasoner steals not only the show, but the heart of most audience members, in his role as Quasimoto.  His vocal abilities are unrivaled–theatre-goers are likely to prefer his soaring, emotion-packed serenading to any other rendition of Hunchback music.  Reasoner brings a sensitivity and depth to Quasimoto that will break the hearts of many audience members, who will find themselves aching terribly, feeling every bit of the character’s loneliness and desperation.  However, Reasoner is sharp; Quasimoto is not entirely pathetic in this performance, as the gifted actor is also able to draw out Quasimoto’s subtle humor and wisdom.  His performance may even be described as genius.

Jeremy Reasoner’s performance as Quasimodo garnered many tears, some laughter, and incessant cheering from audience members at recent Town Theatre performances. (Photo by Helen Hood Renew & Eye for Design.)

One of the production’s most endearing moments is the touching duet between Quasimoto and Esmerelda, “Top of the World.”  Audience members may notice the two characters using American Sign Language with one another.  That is a special addition the cast made for this production.  “With Quasimoto, he lives in the bell tower, ringing bells all the time, and so in Victor Hugo’s novel, he’s kind of characterized as partially deaf because of all the ringing,” explained Reasoner.  “I learned a little bit of sign language so I could sign things throughout the show.”

With angelic choral music accompanied by live instruments, feisty tavern dances, and heart-melting solos, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an unmistakably magnificent production that brought tears to the eyes of many of its audience members.  With only one week of performances left, time is running out to see one of the best shows Columbia, SC has hosted in years.

Final performances of The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be at 8 p.m. Thursday Oct. 5, Friday Oct. 6, and Saturday Oct. 7, and at 3 p.m. Sunday Oct. 8.  More information about the upcoming performances, including a link to purchase tickets, is available at http://towntheatre.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame/.

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