Review: Holly Theatre explores love, diversity and acceptance with The Hunchback of Notre Dame

by: Jody Key — Speakeysie Managing Editor

Cover Photo Credit: Jody Key –Article Photo Credit: Tim Quigley


“Love, diversity, and acceptance are not political issues. They are human issues None of us are born perfect, and all of us are sinners.”  —Jamie Fambrough

The story began back in 1831 when Victor Hugo penned The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a story of a deformed man living in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. Little did Hugo know his story would be adapted and retold on screen and stage for 187 years. Disney resurrected the story in 1996, and now fans of the animated feature film can enjoy the story live on stage at the Historic Holly Theatre weekends from August 3rd to the 26th.

The story is set in 1482 during the reign of King Louis XI. This is the tale of Quasimodo, deformed at birth, adopted by his uncle, Frollo, and made to repent for his father’s sins by living as a bell ringer in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral. Frollo works to hide Quasimodo from the cruel world and eradicate the city of Paris from the sinful gypsies. Frollo’s weakness is his undoing as his forbidden desire for the gypsy Esmerelda consumes him. Esmerelda’s beauty and kindness not only enchants Frollo but also Quasimodo and Captain Phoebus De Martin, a soldier back from the front and commissioned to the Cathedral Guard.

The legendary story unfolds under the direction of Jamie Fambrough. Jamie’s bold vision of immersing the audience in the experience comes to life through the brilliant set design of Patrick Rose, who transforms the Holly’s interior into the Cathedral of Notre Dame, complete with spectacular arches, a rose window, and a crucifix attached to the front of the balcony. Light designer Sean Newman sets the tone and provides lighting elements that bring the set to life. The audience is surrounded by the cast who, during the feast of fools, invites audience members to dance in the aisles and come up to the stage to make ugly faces in the King of Fools contest.

The cast, congregation, and choir are in capable hands under the musical direction of Leanne Kinney, especially blending beautifully in the light-hearted “Topsy Turvy”, the beautiful “God Help the Outcasts”, and the intense “Esmeralda”. Choreography by Laurin Dunleavy and her assistant Keelie Hogan is designed to differentiate between the abilities of each performer. The dancers’ use of scarves to emulate flames in a burning at the stake scene is beautifully innovative. This is a strong ensemble who supports the story and the cast, many playing multiple roles.

Key-noteworthy performances were delivered by Ryen Krygier as Quasimodo, Morgan Painter as Esmerelda, Cory Speakman as Claude Frollo, and Asa Stephens as Clopin Troullefou.

Ryan Krygier (Quasimodo) is a graduate of Brenau’s Gainesville Theater Alliance and tackles the demanding vocals and physicality of the role with style and grace.

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Morgan Painter (Esmerelda) in her Holly debut introduces a sweet and melodious voice coming to us from Gilmer High School in Ellijay.

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Cory Speakman (Frollo) is also making his Holly debut, and holds a Master of Music and directs middle school music. His demeaning stature and clear, controlled baritone voice command the stage.

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Finally, not to be outdone is Asa Stephens (Clopin), also with his Holly debut and a recent graduate from UNG’s Gainesville Theater Alliance who works in technical theater in the Atlanta area. Asa is delightful as the king of the gypsies and a natural on stage with impressive acting, voice, dance, and acrobatic skills.

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The best thing about community theater is COMMUNITY. When you go to see this show, you’ll find it remarkable not only due to the lovely scenery and captivating story but also because this is a story about a community, told by the Northeast Georgia community. It’s very likely you will see on the stage a friend, family member, co-worker, colleague, or fellow student telling this story of love, diversity, and acceptance. A story for our age, and for the ages to come.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame Runs August 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, and 24-26 at the Historic Holly Theater, Dahlonega, GA. Get your tickets are $14 for students and $20 for adults. Get your tickets at vendini.com or at the Holly box office.

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