top of page

REVIEW: 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' by Beenleigh Theatre Group

A Disney musical?! Well get ready, because I have plenty to say about this one!

I had the privilege of witnessing The Hunchback of Notre Dame come to life on stage by the talented Beenleigh Theatre Group. This production truly does justice to the grandeur of Victor Hugo’s novel and the emotional depth of the Disney film, combining a heart-wrenching narrative with breathtaking music and outstanding performances. Featuring the film’s Academy Award-nominated score and new songs by the legendary Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, this is a must-see for theatre enthusiasts and Disney fans alike.


A Grand and Gothic Tale:

From the moment the bells of Notre Dame ring, you are transported to fifteenth-century Paris, where Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer, watches as Paris celebrates the Feast of Fools. Held captive by his sinister caretaker, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, Quasimodo escapes for the day to join the lively crowd, only to be treated harshly by everyone except the kind-hearted Esmeralda. The handsome Captain Phoebus and Frollo are also entranced by her free spirit and beauty. As the three compete for her attention, Frollo sets out on a mission to eliminate the gypsies – and it falls to Quasimodo to save them all.



The cast of lead actors absolutely shines with their stellar performances. Michael Ware, as Quasimodo, doesn't just portray the endearing character - he embodies him with a deep sense of heart and soul. His rendition of the much-loved "Out There" is both heartfelt and technically impressive; filled with genuine emotion and remarkable belting capabilities. Quasimodo is both physically and vocally demanding, yet Ware delivers with a steady and powerful sound. His voice choice for Quasimodo is well-suited, completely distinguishing the character from the actor. Quasimodo’s second solo, "Heaven’s Light," is short and sweet, tugging on the heartstrings with its tender melody and poignant lyrics. The lighting is perfect, and Ware's vocal sustains are incredibly impressive.

Reagan Warner’s portrayal of Dom Claude Frollo is spectacularly chilling. Known for his voice acting, Warner brings a menacing presence to the stage with his deep tone, intense expressions, and a piercing gaze that truly embodies the formidable presence of the archdeacon. The musical begins with the powerful and haunting "The Bells of Notre Dame," that provides insight into Frollo’s backstory — a detail omitted from the Disney film but essential to understanding his complex character.

Nykita O’Keeffe as Esmeralda is a stunning leading lady who captivates the audience with her vocal ability and spirited portrayal. Her performance is both strong and compassionate, perfectly balancing the character’s resilience and vulnerability. Her stage entrance with "Rhythm of the Tambourine" is entracing, and her rendition of "God Help the Outcasts" is profoundly moving, enhanced by an ethereal reverb effect and the choir’s haunting harmonies that transports the audience inside the grand cathedral. The added scene that precedes “God Help the Outcasts” provides an intimate and poignant moment between Frollo and Esmeralda that enhances the emotional impact of the song.


Adam Goodall as Captain Phoebus exudes charm and charisma. His confident and engaging performance, along with his strong voice, is perfectly befitting a Disney lead. Harrison Port is appropriately cast as Clopin Trouillefou, the jester of the gypsies. His main number, "Topsy Turvy," is upbeat and fun, capturing the festive spirit of the Feast of Fools and engaging the audience with lively choreography and infectious energy. Aidan Cobb as Frederic Charlus impresses with his powerful voice, conveying the soldier’s anguish poignantly. Rhea Basha as Florika delivers a memorable performance, singing with the warmth and voice of an angel that adds a rich, ethereal layer to the beginning and end of the production. The physicality and design of the gargoyle and statue characters adds a layer of fantastical realism, with Hannah Collins and Alana Ellison's portrayal of the two gargoyles eliciting audible gasps from the audience when they emerged.



Under the musical direction of Jade Enright, the choir serves as the heart of this production. Described as the ‘spirit’ of Notre Dame, their vocal performances are stunning, bringing the cathedral to life with their constant presence and powerful harmonies. During the opening number, "The Bells of Notre Dame," they set the stage ablaze with their collective vocal power. The Act 1 finale, “Esmeralda,” and Latin chants in the Entr’acte resonate powerfully, adding to the overall grandeur of the score that would not be complete without the choir.


The traditional and new musical numbers truly shine in this production. "Top of the World," a beautiful addition to the score, had me believing that Esmeralda and Quasimodo were truly overlooking Paris. "Hellfire," performed by Warner, is a standout moment, complete with haze and haunting harmonies - 24 voices strong - to depict Frollo’s inner turmoil flawlessly. Warner completely embodies the character to deliver this incredible villainous song, as if Frollo has leapt right off the screen and onto the stage. The trio’s rendition of "In a Place of Miracles" is another goosebump-inducing moment, showcasing the beautiful vocal chemistry between the leads. Nykita’s rendition of "Someday" is the emotional pinnacle of the show, stirring tears and eliciting audible sniffles from the audience. Her performance, coupled with Goodall, encapsulates the epitome of Disney magic. Quasimodo’s poignant solo, "Made of Stone," in Act 2, is brimming with anguish as he grapples with self-torment and revelation. Ware's emotional depth and vocal range are on full display, making this one of the most powerful moments of the production.


Attention to Detail:

Special recognition must be given to Glen Heriot, whose dedication extends beyond his vocal talents in the choir, playing a pivotal role in constructing the astounding set. The set design by Chapman, brought to life by Heriot and James Thomson, is a character in its own right. The intricate wooden structure, stained glass windows, and grand double doors create an authentic cathedral atmosphere, while the bell ropes and towering heights for Quasimodo to climb add dynamic layers to the visual storytelling.


Chapman’s meticulous direction shines through in the intricate details woven throughout the production. Chapman emphasises the art of storytelling, relying on the actors’ performances and the audience's imagination to craft vivid scenes from the film. The use of lighting, especially during "Hellfire" and "Heaven’s Light," creates visually stunning moments that complement the emotional depth of the songs. The costumes, particularly those of the gypsies and the gargoyles, deserve special mention for their intricate designs and vibrant colours, enhancing the visual splendour of the show. The choreography during "The Tavern Song" is dynamic and engaging, perfectly complementing the lively score.


Although some accents occasionally slip into an Australian twang, this minor inconsistency does not detract from the overall experience. The ensemble’s narration aids in maintaining the narrative’s momentum, and despite some minor issues with audibility, the context and the performers' articulation and projection (notably the men) ensure the story remains clear.


Prepare to be transported to the heart of Notre Dame and experience a story of love, longing, and courage that will resonate deeply with audiences of all ages. The cast, choir, and crew have crafted a profoundly moving and visually beautiful experience with this production. Tickets are available now for this limited run, and I highly recommend securing yours soon! Now playing at Crete Street Theatre until 22 June 2024.

Secure your Tickets here


bottom of page