Notre Dame de Paris at the London Coliseum 23/1/19 (londoncoliseum.org)
The classic 1831 tale by Victor Hugo brought to life by Luc Plamondon’s lyircs and Richard Cocciante’s music, Notre Dame de Paris played last night, Wednesday 23rdJanuary 2019, at the London Coliseum to a well-deserved packed house. The original French production showed today twenty years after its Parisian debut, and having received international critical acclaim, this short London run will culminate in its 5000th performance, star studded with members of the current world tour and accompanied by the ever-stunning ENO Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Brind. 

The narrative begins in Paris 1482, as told by the poet Gringoire, skilfully championed by Richard Charest, the multi-talented musician, writer and director, who tells of a “story of love and desire”, although this production shows to be far more than a love story. Charest works Gringoire’s character as the fated poet with dexterity, his silken tones working in harmony with his storytelling tendencies. 
Angelo del Vecchio as the deformed Quasimodo and Hiba Tawaji as enchanting Esmerelda both captivate and enthral their audience as their intriguing relationship develops. With vocals that soar across the magnificent London Coliseum, it’s the perfect casting; Tawaji’s captivatingly pure performance of “Vivre” leaves the audience enthralled, whilst del Vecchio’s heart-wrenching “Donnez-la Moi” and “Danse mon Esmerelda” creates a stunning finale. Their turmoil is fuelled by Frollo, the archdeacon of the Notre Dame, played by the award-winning Daniel Lavoie, who’s love and lust for Esmerelda turns him to attempted murder. Martin Giroux as the dashing Phoebus, Jay as Clopin, the leader of the Court of Miracles and Alyzee Lalande as the beautiful Fleur-de-lys also give strong and distinguished performances, creating a diverse and contrasting selection of principal characters. 

The backbone of this production is certainly the dancers, who’s strength, versatility and skill is put to good use. They portray a wide range of characters as Martino Muller’s exceptional choreography changes style from scene to scene, matching the moods and nature of the moments. The dancer’s acrobatic and specialised dance skills are demonstrated throughout, as nineteenth century Paris meets modern day breakdancing to astonishing effect. Muller’s choreography is interwoven with Christian Ratz’s set design, with dancers often scaling the immense stone wall that commands the back of the stage, or dancing in and around modern style metal barriers, creating a relationship with the people of Paris. Carloline Van Assche’s costumes accentuate the moving figures, using a range of different colours, textures and shapes to demonstrate the unity but individualism of the asylum seekers of Paris, but contrasting this by taking away their individualism as they become prisoners. The stony colours of the prisoner’s costumes replicates the stoney set, alongside the lighting design by Alain Lortie to reflect the prison of the cathedral, with very regular use of a church window gobo reinforcing the cathedral’s presence within the story.

The direction, by Giles Maheu, uses the dancers to create relationships between Quasimodo and the bells, as the giant metal domes swing from the flys with dancers hanging and performing within them. This is cleverly recreated as a finale with three Esmerelda duplicates find life again as they join the swinging bells, uniting Quasimodo’s two true loves, and giving Esmerelda a way to always be a part of the thriving Parisian lifestyle she has taken to be her own. 
A story centuries away from modern climates, the direction cleverly gives nod to the current refugee situation, both through some modern costumes and set, and general direction. This subtle nod helps to bring this momentous tale of the world-famous cathedral to epic life, creating a relatable and relevant undertone. 

This phenomenal production of Notre Dame de Paris is running at the London Coliseum until Sunday 27th January 2019.