Last Thursday night, Pacific Conservatory Theatre or PCPA opened its 2018 summer season with a production of Peter Parnell’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. For his rendering, which had its premiere in 2014, Parnell combined Victor Hugo’s original Gothic story of the humpbacked bell ringer Quasimodo with Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s musical score written for Disney’s 1996 animated film. Meshing the two versions may seem a clever idea, yet the end result is a play that struggles for cohesion.
While the script itself may leave the audience wanting, the PCPA cast and crew do not. Nick Tubbs is excellent as Quasimodo, conveying with grace the intact innocence of the cloistered outcast despite his savage mistreatment at the hands of his guardian, archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, and the outside world. Erik Stein does a wonderful turn as the reprehensible Frollo, and George Walker is wickedly charming as Clopin, King of the Gypsies. Several of the cast members play myriad roles to great effect, and when the ensemble combines their voices for the choral numbers, the result is spine-tingling. Despite this particular version’s pitfalls, the essence of Hugo’s story remains unblemished and is one worth knowing. And what better way to learn the classic tale than under the stars with the talented PCPA team as your tutor.