‘Hunchback’ delivers a winning performance

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Gypsies dance in a scene from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    In this scene from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alex Dubey, top left, plays Quasimodo, while Micah Miller, center, plays Frollo.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Esmeralda, played by Mahina Olores, is to be burned at the stake in a scene from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

This weekend is your last chance to see the Kauai Performing Arts Center’s production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

We have one word of advice for you: “Go.”

This two-hour musical directed by Cher Ellwood is everything you might hope for. It has song, dance and energy, and showcases some extremely talented youth. It’s creative, colorful and courageous. It also ventures into issues this country has been dealing with since it was born — anger, hatred, hostility, intolerance and narrow viewpoints that separate people. So it delivers a message we need to hear.

Based on the 1831 classic novel by Victor Hugo, the setting of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is the Notre Dame Cathedral that was recently badly damaged in a fire.

The story is set in 15th-century Paris. Quasimodo is the deformed cathedral bell ringer — despised, jeered, and even beaten — who falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda when she protects him from an angry mob.

The villain, the archdeacon Frollo, is obsessed with Esmeralda, who has feelings for the soldier Phoebus, who falls in love with her, too. Later, Quasimodo attempts to rescue Esmeralda when she is about to be put to death, accused of a crime she didn’t commit orchestrated by the evil Frollo, and hide her in the cathedral, long his sanctuary. When she dies in his arms, Quasimodo, in his grief and anger, picks up Frollo, his master, and tosses him from the cathedral tower.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” starts a little slowly as it sets the stage for the story and its characters. But don’t lose your focus. And, we should add, the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall is air conditioned and they seem to have it set on high, so you might want to bring an extra sweater.

As the story develops, the audience is treated to some fine music and movements. Rebecca Hanson did a brilliant job with the choreography, and the dance numbers are mesmerizing, fun and light.

The gypsies are a delight. The soldiers are serious. The gargoyles are cool.

There are four main characters: Isaac Dubey as Quasimodo, Micah Miller as Frollo, Mahina Olores as Esmeralda, and Preston Hayden as Phoebus.

Dubey is excellent as the deformed Quasimodo. He doesn’t overplay this key role. You can sense his joy at times, his despair, his anger in the end. Would love to see more stage time for him. He is on the outside, by society’s standards, ugly. On the inside, beautiful

He is overshadowed a bit by the performance of Miller as the evil Frollo. Miller is a commanding stage presence. He has a deep, booming voice that’s perfect for his menacing character. He comes across as someone who on the surface is supposed to be an agent of good, but inside, is caught up in his own evil thoughts that guide his actions that lead to his demise.

Hayden is convincing as the soldier who disobeys Frollo because he refuses to harm people who have done nothing wrong. He is at first arrogant and sure of himself but, as the story unfolds, is torn by feelings of right and wrong, of love, and of duty.

“Hunchback” is really a showcase for Olores, who can sing with the best of them. Her voice is strong and sure. The success of this musical rests with Olores, and she delivers a first-class performance, whether singing, dancing, about to be burned at the stake or anguishing over harm that has come to others. Her character is pure and kind, feisty and resolute. She holds nothing back and lifts this play along with her.

The two-hour musical features about 20 songs, 25 soldiers, gypsies, monks, and gargoyles, a choir of about 15 and a production crew of eight.

It runs tonight at 7 at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $12 general admission, $8 students and $10 seniors at kauaiperformingarts.org. At the door, tickets are $15 GA, $10 students and $12 seniors.

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