Notre Dame de Paris is one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed musicals of all time and has been wowing audiences around the globe since its debut in 1998. Now, Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon’s stage production comes to Tokyo.
by Matthew Hernon
Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the show has been watched by more than 8 million people in 15 different countries and in late February it is finally set to arrive in Japan.
Bringing the tragic tale of the deformed yet kind-hearted hunchback, Quasimodo and his ill-fated love for gypsy girl, Esmeralda, to life, the play stays as loyal to the book as it can while also giving the story a modern twist. Unlike a Broadway musical this adaption has no spoken dialogue – everything is told by song.
There are more than 50 songs including arias, folk music and rock ‘n’ roll as well as dramatic dance and acrobatic routines. It will be performed in English with the lyrics translated by acclaimed songwriter Will Jennings (Writer of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’).
Record Ticket Sales
It proved an immediate hit in France, selling more tickets in its first year than any other musical in history. Before long it was selling out in international venues too as well as being translated into various languages.
Its success hasn’t just been restricted to theatre either. Combined DVD and CD sales have totaled more than 10 million, while the epic track ‘Belle’ became one of the biggest selling singles of all time in France, topping the charts there for an incredible 18 consecutive weeks. It was also voted as the best song of the 20th Century by French TV viewers.
As well as ‘Belle’, a number of other songs from the play have gone on to become classics in their own right. From the powerful opening number, ‘Les Temps Des Cathedrales’ to the somber yet beautiful finale of ‘Danse Mon Esmeralda’, it truly is a musical feast.
Making sure their songs are given the respect they deserve, Cocciante and Plamondon have assembled a diverse yet incredibly talented cast including one of Quebec’s most well known and respected entertainers, Matt Laurent as Quasimodo, the delightful Alessandra Ferrari as his love interest Esmeralda, star of ‘Les Miserables’ and the ‘Sound of Music’, Robert Marien as Frollo and Yvan Pedneault, a rock vocalist in shows like ‘Rent’, ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘The Queen Extravaganza Tour’, performing as Phoebus.
Weekender recently caught up with the four stars to hear what it is like to be part of such a unique production. We also wanted to hear their thoughts on coming to Japan and what it is that makes ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ so special?
Matt Laurent (Quasimodo): “We like to call it a musical spectacular. I think it is a majestic piece of art, a true masterpiece. The songs, the dancers, the acrobats, the set, there is so much to admire about it. It is amazing.
I remember being sat across from Luc Plamondon and him saying to me, “you could do Quasimodo,”, one week later I was playing him. It was the biggest and best thing around so I felt so privileged to get the role and I still love playing him.
The reaction we get is always so positive, even in countries where they don’t understand the words so well and I am sure it will be the same here in Japan.”
Alessandra Ferrari (Above, Esmeralda): I am so excited to be here. I love the atmosphere in Japan, it reminds me of where I am from. It is fantastic that I can visit places like this with my work. I just hope the audience enjoy my performance as Esmeralda.
I think it is one of the best roles out there for a female singer. There is an alluring quality to her songs, yet at the same time they have a lot of power. When I am on stage singing, my heart is just filled with joy.
There are so many great songs, picking a favourite is impossible. The lyrics and the music fit together so well to tell the story.
Robert Marien (Frollo): The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Victor Hugo’s darkest novels and what this production does is to adapt that story and give it a more contemporary feel with current issues like immigration. I think the audience can relate more to this than they would have if it was kept purely as a period piece.
The energy, intensity and emotion of the show is another reason why it has been so successful. Nothing is done casually, which is the way I like to work.
It is continuing to grow and this allows us as cast members to visit extraordinary cities like Tokyo and to be constantly experiencing premieres. It is great. I wasn’t available when the play first started as I was doing Les Miserables, but I am delighted to be a part of it now.
Yvan Pedneault (Phoebus): When you close your eyes, you can still follow what is happening, I think that is the mark of a truly great musical and I really believe that Notre Dame de Paris is in that category of true greats.
I remember when it first came out, everyone was talking about it, it was huge! There was no other show out there like it, so to get the role of Phoebus, it was a dream for me. Sometimes when I am off stage I sit back and watch it and feel so proud to be involved in this production.
I am positive the Japanese audience will love the show, just as much as we love being here. I’ve been so impressed with what I’ve seen of this country. Everything is so clean, the food is sensational, there is lots of energy and the people are so nice. It is like New York, just a little more polite.
Notre Dame de Paris Japan Tour 2013
When: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 – Sunday, March 17, 2013 (25 Shows)
Where: TOKYU THEATRE Orb (Shibuya Hikarie 11F)
When: Thursday, March 21, 2013 – Sunday, March 24, 2013 (6 Shows)
Where: Umeda Arts Theater Main Hall
When: Friday, April 5, 2013 – Sunday, April 7, 2013 (4 Shows)
Where: Aichi Prefectural Art Theater (The Concert Hall)
For more information see: www.harmonyjapan.com/ndp2013/english