The world premiere of Lionel Bart’s musical at the Kings Head Theatre
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We’re all probably familiar with the Disney representation of a pug-eyed hunchback swinging around Notre Dame and falling in love with a pretty gypsy. But Lionel Bart strips the narrative of sentimentality, and TheatreUpClose make the most of an intimate setting with a production that is just the right side of sinister, filled with an unholy mix of lynch mobs and show tunes, true love and tragedy, pervy priests and bawdy peasants.
The title role is played by Steven Webb (you may remember him baring all behind a glass table in a previous naked issue of GT) and he carried the show, alongside another strong performance from Zoe George who played Esmeralda. Their collective bad fortune, scrapes and saviours were sound tracked with some solid West End songs, at times light, at others emotive. Our particular favourite was the one with the ‘I wish I was made of stone’ refrain, it struck a chord and stayed in our head all evening.
The staging was minimal and maximised the use of such a tight space, which worked best when Quasi-meralda were flinging themselves around the claustrophobic bell tower. The costumes were anachronistically strange, but you soon find yourself immersed in the captivating performances.
There were atleast two hairy men distracting us in the supporting cast, and we spied Helen Sheals, who we saw stealing the show in last year’s excellent revival of Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carre (produced by the same company no less).
We’re guessing the producers have their eye on a West End make over - and after the recent rumours about an X Factor musical and Viva (probably not) Forever - we’d make room for the doomed French bell ringer to land with a bigger bang on our doorstep sometime very soon.
Quasimodo runs at the Kings Head theatre until 13 April, tickets available here
Photo: Francis Loney