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Theatre / The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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The 1999 German musical
The 2014 American musical

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (2014) and Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (1999) are stage musicals based on the Disney animated film adaptation of the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. The 1999 German-language production featured a book by James Lapine, and the 2014 English-language production, which debuted at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse, featured book by Peter Parnell. A cast recording has been made, but plans for a Broadway transfer were cancelled. Both musicals backtracked from Disney's take towards the original novel, and are thus Darker and Edgier, Parnell's version more so than Lapine's.

Not to be confused with Notre-Dame de Paris, the French and Québécois musical created in 1998, which is more directly based on the original novel.

In addition to the tropes of the novel and Disney film, these stage productions contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The show is an amalgam of Hugo's original novel and the Disney film. Phoebus is more of a womanizer here than in the film (although he's still a pretty good guy), Clopin's relationship with Esmeralda is more established, and the climax of the show mirrors that of the novel's rather than the film's (Esmeralda dies shortly after Quasimodo saves her, and Frollo is thrown off the roof by Quasi himself). The 2014 American production includes even more elements from the book: Frollo is once again an archdeacon rather than a judge, and the rewritten prologue focuses solely on his backstory and the relationship between him and his younger brother, Jehan.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Adds about five more songs and a couple of scenes. One new scene focuses on Esmeralda being taken in by Clopin and the Roma in the Court of Miracles (which was established in the novel but cut from the film).
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Played with in Quasimodo's case. In-universe, he's as ugly as ever, but this is represented highly metaphorically onstage, with the actor smearing a few abstract streaks of black paint on his face and tying on a pouch to be his hump in full view of the audience. (In a twist on the Time Passes Montage, the pouch and the makeup first show up swaddled into a baby-shaped bundle, used to represent the infant Quasimodo.)
    • The Hungarian production at the Budapest Operetta Theatre uses only a fraction of the already minimal face paint. Instead the actor straps on a leather headpiece that matches his hump... which he wears bare chested.
    • Der Glöckner portrays Loni (Laverne's counterpart) as a young angel-like gargoyle. In the film, she looks and acts like a snarky old woman.
  • Adaptational Badass: More of a Recursive Badass; Clopin is a much tougher character this time around (like his original novel counterpart), and in the German production's climax, he wields his signature scythe in battle.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Claude Frollo in relation to his Disney film counterpart, as the American production restores his original role as an Anti-Villain. He's much more sympathetic here than in the film, and while he's still very cruel and sinister, he's genuinely fatherly to Quasimodo, and is shown to have initially had a good relationship with his brother Jehan. His most evil deeds from the film are softened considerably:
      • He never kills Quasimodo's mother, although in a panic he does prepare to kill baby Quasimodo until he stops himself from doing so (as opposed to being threatened by the archdeacon) and decides this is a "test from God".
      • He does eventually order the crowd at the festival to stop bullying Quasimodo, though it takes him some time, and he doesn't try to stop Esmeralda from freeing him, which the crowd does instead.
      • His act of arson does not consist of trying to burn an innocent family to death locked in their home to "make an example" of them, but instead, trying to burn down a brothel to smoke out any gypsies hidden there, and locking the doors to call the owner's bluff that there is nobody there. These actions, while somewhat less evil than in the film, are still bad enough to prompt Phoebus' rebellion.
      • At the end of the story, he doesn't attempt to kill Quasimodo over Esmeralda's body, but instead tries to comfort him, saying that things can now return to how they used to be. Unfortunately for Frollo, however, Quasimodo isn't so ready to forgive him.
    • Despite the Adaptational Villainy stated below, Clopin relatively has this as well. At least as much heroism one can have when trying to lynch the heroes. In the movie, the lyrics to The Court of Miracles are very whimsical and Clopin is obviously enjoying himself with the kangaroo trial he's giving Quasimodo and Phoebus. In the stageplay, even though he is still comical about it, Clopin makes it clear they are being hanged for the safety of the Roma.
    • Jehan in the book was an unrepentant hedonist who cared little for anything but his own pleasure and didn't give two craps about Quasimodo. While he's still a hedonistic frat boy here, he's also depicted as Quasimodo's father and a genuinely good person at heart, expressing great sorrow over the death of his lover and pleading for Claude to take Quasimodo in and raise him as his own when his own life starts slipping.
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the 1999 German version, the gargoyles' names are changed from Hugo, Victor and Laverne to Charles, Antoine and Loni – a Shout-Out to Charles Laughton, Anthony Quinn and Lon Chaney, who played Quasimodo in the novel's three most famous live-action film adaptations.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Clopin acts a bit more like a crimelord in the stageplay. He demands a cut of Esmeralda's earnings from her dance at the Feast of Fools and when she balks at this he tells her she can either follow his rules or get out of town. Also in a deleted scene, after Quasimodo gets depressed seeing Esmeralda and Phoebus dancing together, Clopin cheers him up. The stage version seems unlikely to give a damn about anyone who isn't a fellow Romani. In fact in the equivalent song, he is mourning the fact that the Roma must flee Paris at the same time Quasimodo is sad.
    • Frollo in relation to his novel counterpart, thanks to the inspiration of the Disney film. For example, he does briefly contemplate killing baby Quasimodo at the beginning, before changing his mind when he feels that this is a "test from God".
    • Unlike his film counterpart, Quasimodo does indeed throw Frollo to his death in the fashion of the original novel. In the 1999 script it's partly self-defense, as Frollo's attempt to stab him is still included from the film, but in the 2014 script it's an act of pure rage.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Relative to the movie, this applies to Frollo, though much of it simply comes from him being less of a Card-Carrying Villain. In the ending of the movie, he tries to kill Quasimodo and Esmeralda himself, and the climax is them trying to escape him. The climax of the play however is him struggling to escape as Quasimodo drags him to the edge of Notre Dame before throwing him off. However in the play, Frollo displays no desire to hurt Quasimodo, so he was no doubt taken off guard by Quasimodo's actions. In the 1999 German version, he still tries to stab Quasimodo in the back as in the movie, but only after Quasimodo grabs him in rage first, and all subsequent productions have cut even that.
  • Adapted Out: Despite having appeared in the 1999 German version, the gargoyles do not appear in the 2014 production. Instead, Quasimodo's "friends" are embodied by the chorus of statues, who act as the voices in his head, and the show's lighthearted and comedic moments are provided by Phoebus. Djali is also absent in the 2014 production.
  • Age Lift: Esmeralda and Jehan were both only sixteen in the book. Here, they are not only adults, but belong to completely different generations due to Jehan being portrayed as Quasimodo's father.
  • Arc Words: "Sanctuary", even more so than the film.
    • "The wicked shall not go unpunished" (sometimes followed by "the heart of the wicked is of little worth") is repeated enough for it to be this as well.
  • The Artifact: In the German version of the play, Quasimodo's friends are 3 gargoyles just like in the Disney movie. For the English version of the play, the three gargoyles were turned into a a group of mostly nameless statues that are played by the ensemble. The biggest remnant of the original version is in "Made of Stone" where Quasimodo calls out the statues first for "lying" by trying to convince Quasimodo that it isn't his fault Esmeralda is about to die, then for giving "good advice" that hasn't been useful, and then finally for being "so nice" but filling his mind with hopeless dreams. In the German version, each barb is towards a specific gargoyle, but in the English version, they are just general jabs at swathes of the statues, since the statues as a crowd lack the specific traits the 3 gargoyles had.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Jehan delivers one when Frollo refuses to take Quasimodo in.
    Frollo: But he is a Gypsy child!
    Jehan: And mine.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A rare Latin example. If some of the melodies in the entr'acte sound familiar, that's for good reason. Parts of it are translated from the original English into Latin. For example, "Putabum me nunquam / Quod aurum calidum / Quamvis totis viribis vellem" translates roughly to "I swore I'd never know / That warm and loving glow / Though I might wish with all my might". (That said, there are still a few mistakes, like "viribis" instead of "viribus" in the above.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Frollo and Jehan, in the opening number—Frollo is right to scold his brother over his unhealthy lifestyle and disrespect toward the church that took him in when he had nowhere else to go. When he finally has enough and exposes Jehan's actions to the Archdeacon, however, Jehan rightly calls out Frollo for both his lack of loyalty (valuing the church over his own brother) and the stupidity of believing that the Archdeacon would even let him stay there after discovering what he's been doing. Plus, while he went too far to the other extreme, Jehan certainly had a point as to how repressive the church could be, as Frollo learns too late.
  • Canon Foreigner: Saint Aphrodisius and Lieutenant Frederic Charlus in the American production.
  • Canon Immigrant: Jehan Frollo (Claude's younger brother) plays a pivotal role in the prologue as Quasimodo's father. King Louis XI also appears to grant Frollo permission to search the town for Esmeralda (this eliminates Frollo's seemingly tyrannical rule in the film).
  • The Casanova: Phoebus regains some of his womanizing traits, but he still genuinely loves Esmeralda.
  • Cassandra Truth: In the Berlin version, Quasimodo's mother tries to explain she's holding her baby. Frollo doesn't believe her and chases her down.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The hot lead used to mend the bells that Quasimodo mentions early in the show becomes important during the finale, as he pours it on the guards who are coming to get him and Esmeralda.
  • Composite Character: The musical effectively reverses the film's Decomposite Character treatment of Frollo, recombining him with the good archdeacon.
  • Darker and Edgier: The play is darker than the Disney film it is based on, but it is still Lighter and Softer than the novel. Esmeralda dies and Quasimodo deliberately kills Frollo, for one. Much more jokes for the benefit of the adults were added, along with sexual innuendo, and Esmeralda's hideout being a tavern and her protector being the madam of the whorehouse (who was specifically referred to in the lyrics as "the madam, that whore".)
    • The new Berlin cast recording is darker than the New Jersey one, being recorded live onstage and therefore retaining all of the elements left out of the American album. For example, in the Finale Ultimo, the sound of Frollo hitting the ground can be heard, as well as Quasimodo's anguished line of "There lies... all that I have ever loved."
  • Dark Reprise: A couple new ones from the movie.
    • Quasimodo first sings "Heaven's Light" about how he has found someone who might actually love him as ugly as he is. During "In A Place of Miracles", Phoebus and Esmeralda's love duet, Quasimodo, watching from a distance, reprises the aforementioned song confirming to himself that nobody could ever love him.
    • Though it wasn't exactly a happy song, musically the song "Esmeralda" is up tempo and bright sounding as the city searches for Esmeralda for various reasons. At the end of the story, it is reprised by Frollo celebrating Esmeralda's death in a slow and ominous tone.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Unlike the Disney film, where Esmeralda is Spared by the Adaptation, here, she dies just like in the novel – although instead of being hanged, she succumbs to smoke inhalation shortly after Quasi saves her.
    • In some versions of the American and the new German production, Quasimodo dies too, having spent the rest of his life with Esmeralda's corpse until they both rotted away into skeletons. This ending is taken straight from the original novel.
    • Played with in regards to Jehan. He dies near the very end of the book (and at the hands of Quasimodo of all people), but here, he dies in the opening number.
  • Decomposite Character: The American production replaces the three gargoyles with an entire ensemble of "voices" within Quasi's mind. They are made up of talking statues (that of saints) and gargoyles.
    "For Quasimodo, the cathedral was not only his home, but his universe. It was people with figures of marble, with kings and saints, monsters and demons. The saints blessed him, and the monsters protected him."
  • Demoted to Extra: Clopin in the 2014 American production. While he still has a very sizable role in the show, he no longer serves as the narrator. Instead, the ensemble narrates much of the story in a way similar to that of a Greek Chorus.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Esmeralda dies in Quasimodo's arms.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jehan Frollo, who is Quasimodo's father in the stage adaptation, dies in the story's prologue, leaving Quasimodo for his brother Claude Frollo to raise.
  • Disney Villain Death: Frollo still falls to his death in the show, but this time, Quasi is the one that throws him off the building, like in the original novel.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    Frollo: Quasimodo, please, you don't want to hurt me!
    Chorus: Yes you do...
  • Downer Ending: Esmeralda dies of smoke inhalation, despite Quasimodo saving her. After Quasi throws Frollo to his death, he then sings a Dark Reprise of "Out There", in which he realizes that while the world is ugly and cruel, it is the only world we have, and there will always be a glimmer of light that sheds through all the darkness (like Esmeralda). The show wraps up with a Dark Reprise of "The Bells of Notre Dame", led by a mourning Clopin.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: In the stage show, Quasimodo's voice is hoarse and raspy with simple sentences and occasional grammar mistakes when he speaks aloud, but smoother and nearly flawless when he's expressing his thoughts in song. (In the original novel, Quasimodo became deaf due to his ringing of the bells. He is at least hard-of-hearing in this version. This acting choice might be deliberate, as Michael Arden (the New Jersey Quasimodo) has previously worked with Deaf West Theatre and knows American Sign Language.)
    • Some productions have taken this a step futher and cast deaf actors as Quasimodo, having them speak while reciting their dialogue in sign language (they also cast a second actor to sing the songs while the main actor acts and signs the lyrics).
  • Establishing Character Moment: While more subtle than in the movie, Frollo's Condescending Compassion towards baby Quasimodo in the prologue establishes his conflicted nature in just a few choice words.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Played with Frollo. Unlike the movie, he is genuinely fatherly to Quasimodo even if he is a cruel man. However at the end when Quasimodo angrily asks him who he has ever loved, he is unable to bring himself to say Quasimodo, he can only say he loved his brother.
  • Evil Uncle: Frollo is Quasimodo's uncle who gradually becomes evil over the course of the story.
  • Freudian Excuse: Frollo has a reason for his hatred of Roma in the stage version. He watched his brother descend into hedonism with a Roma woman and eventually die of the pox years later. Frollo blames the Roma for all of this.
  • Hollywood Fire: Averted; it's not the fire that kills Esmeralda but the smoke she inhaled.
  • Honor Before Reason: This is a bit of an issue with Esmeralda and the main reason why Clopin is a bit weary of her as well. She has a tendency to always do what's right, always speaking her mind and to value her independence and freedom above all else. When told that something isn't her business her usual response will be "Someone has to make it their business." Following rules and keeping a low profile isn't exactly her forte.
  • Hope Spot:
    • In-Universe; Quasimodo thinks Esmeralda, the first person to not be frightened away by his deformity, might fall in love with him, something he thought impossible. But then he sees her with Phoebus and realizes she’s fallen for the Captain instead, and sings about giving up any future hope for love, as he believes that her not loving him is a sign that no one will ever fall for him the way he is.
    • Quasimodo gets Esmeralda off the stake before she's burned, and places her in the safety of the cathedral. She still dies from smoke inhalation.
  • In Name Only: Although the USA production is still advertised as "Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame", the show itself can best be described as an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel with songs from the Disney film. It borrows several elements from the book, Downer Ending included, the characters are much closer to their novel counterparts, and as a whole, the show lacks the lighthearted tone of the Disney film.
  • Ironic Echo: "The wicked shall not go unpunished." Said multiple times by Frollo throughout the show before being thrown back in his face by Quasimodo moments before Quasimodo throws him off the top of Notre Dame.
  • Jealous Romantic Witness: Quasimodo becomes this in the song "In A Place Of Miracles", as he sees Esmeralda and Phoebus share a loving duet together, and Quasi realizes that Esmeralda, while not frightened by his appearance, does not love him as any more than a friend, and adds his own verses in the song about giving up any hope of finding True Love.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Phoebus toward Esmeralda, Jehan toward Florika.
  • Mad Dreamer: Quasimodo. Here it's made explicit the gargoyles are in his imagination to help him cope with his loneliness.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The cathedral itself and the gargoyles may be directly talking to the characters, or it may be imagined. Frollo is inspired by them to spare and look after Quasimodo at the beginning of the story, and Quasimodo is inspired by them to kill Frollo at the end of it.
  • Meaningful Echo: "The wicked shall not go unpunished." First said by Claude to Jehan Frollo, and last said by Quasimodo (and the choir echoing) as Frollo is thrown to his death.
  • Mood Whiplash: A very sobering one. Quasimodo manages to pull Esmeralda from the stake before she's even singed. She's unconscious from the smoke but he gets her to a room in the tower and lets her rest while he fights off the invaders. Quasi is even thrilled when telling her they won, seeing she's awake. Unfortunately, without medical treatment she revives long enough to thank Quasimodo and call him a good friend, before dying from smoke inhalation.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Quasimodo's mother is named Florika in the American production.
  • Oddball in the Series: Whereas other shows by Disney Theatrical Productions are near-identical adaptations of their respective films, this show is a compromise between the Disney film and the original Victor Hugo novel, to the point of most ad copy for it framing it as an adaptation of the novel using songs from the film rather than an adaptation of the film at all.
  • Parental Abandonment: Jehan Frollo and Quasimodo's mother Florika to Quasimodo due to the both of them dying from an unknown sickness.
  • Pet the Dog: Instead of saying Quasi would be "of use to him" when he takes him in an act of guilt because of killing his mother (in the film), Frollo says he will take him in as a son. However, Frollo still only visits Quasi in the bell tower to bully him, telling him that he should stay in "sanctuary" in the bell tower because he is "ugly" and "deformed", and it's clear that he sees Quasimodo less like a son or a person, but as a means to redeem himself for failing with Jehan by raising him to be the same repressed sort of person as himself.
  • Please Wake Up: Quasimodo's reaction to Esmeralda's death. He doesn't realize at first, shaking her body and calling her name. When she doesn't respond, he breaks down.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The Disney film explicitly confirms that the gargoyles are indeed alive. In the stage version, Quasi's "friends" are immediately established as figments of his imagination.
  • Race Lift: Like the Disney adaptation, the musical omits Esmerelda being biologically white. Also a Downplayed version with Quasi; in both the book and Disney film, the hunchback is of Romani descent (though not raised in the culture), while in the musical he's only half-Roma; with his father being the white Jehan Frollo.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the American production, Frollo is Quasimodo's uncle (his brother, Jehan Frollo, is Quasi's birth father).
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Based on the Disney animated film, but with additional elements taken from the original novel.
  • Secondary Adaptation: Both productions specifically adapt the 1996 Disney film of the same name, an adaptation of Victor Hugo's original novel from 1831.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Averted unlike the movie version and like pretty much every other Disney production. Instead of Frollo falling to his death while trying to kill Quasimodo and Esmeralda, Quasimodo drags him to the edge of Notre Dame and throws him to his death while he begs for Quasimodo to let him go.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Quasimodo is the son of Claude Frollo's dead brother Jehan.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Parts of "Esmeralda" were oddly cheerful for a song about hunting down and burning an innocent woman.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In a direct English translation of the German version that was skewed more family-friendly, both Esmeralda and Frollo survive in the end: Esmeralda's survival is taken straight from the Disney movie, while after Quasimodo spares Frollo's life and is willing to give his own to protect Esmeralda, Frollo actually has a Heel Realization, pulls a Heel–Face Turn and, following one final show of parental affection for Quasimodo, retreats from the church.
  • Take Care of the Kids: The last request of the dying Jehan is for Claude to adopt his son Quasimodo.
  • A Taste of the Lash: In the American production, Quasimodo is publicly whipped during the Feast of Fools.
  • Truer to the Text: Both productions are much closer to Victor Hugo’s book than the Disney film, though the American version is the closest as it restores even more of the original elements (the German production still kept some of Disney’s additions like the gargoyle trio, Clopin as narrator, and Frollo as a judge).
  • Villain Song: Most of “Esmeralda” could be seen as this with most of it being sung by Frollo and the church hunting for Esmeralda.
  • War Is Hell: Phoebus' intro song indicates he suffers from PTSD as a result of four years of harsh fighting in the crusades, complete with grisly lyrics reflecting the harsh conditions of being a soldier. He ends up fighting a different kind of war in the course of the play.
  • White Stallion: Captain Phoebus rides a white horse because he's the captain.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Frollo is much closer to his book incarnation in this version, being a man who was once genuinely good, until a crisis of faith drives him mad.

"Morning in Paris; a new day appears, sing the bells of Notre Dame.
Ending the tale of your poor balladeers and the bells of Notre Dame..."
Clopin, "Finale Ultimo"

Alternative Title(s): Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Der Gloeckner Von Notre Dame