Interlochen Arts Academy theatre students prepare "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" after tragic Paris cathedral fire

  • Sasha Manzetti (center) portrays Quasimodo in a scene from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

  • Miriam Peck (Clopin) rehearses a scene from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Interlochen Arts Academy’s theatre rehearsal spaces came to a standstill as students and faculty, who were preparing to stage The Hunchback of Notre Dame, joined the world in following the news of the fire at Notre Dame.

"We were all quite stunned in rehearsal as the images and news came in from Paris. The day we discussed the tragic fire was also the day we staged the finale," said Bill Church, Director of Theatre Arts at Interlochen Center for the Arts. "In many ways, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is the main character, and the lyrics to the powerful culmination are full of words about smoke and flame. Real life began to inform the work in the rehearsal room, and the actors discovered a new weight and importance in the text; a sense of gravity and meaning that they had not yet fully explored."

That gravity and meaning runs deeper than those recent events and into the performance history of the story as well. Both original Quasimodo actors are Interlochen alumni. The first actor to portray Quasimodo on stage in English was Michael Arden (IAC 99, IAA 99-01) and the voice actor who portrayed him in the Disney classic was Tom Hulce (IAC/NMC 66-67, IAA 69-70).

Four-year Arts Academy senior Sasha Manzetti will bring Quasimodo to life on the Corson stage.

"Bringing myself to the work has been what makes the transition between myself and Quasimodo so smooth. This has been an extremely revealing process not only as the character, but as a person as well,” Manzetti said. “Quasimodo is no different than any normal being with thoughts and feelings and, remarkably enough, I have found his way of thinking to be more fluid than my own sometimes. He is a decisive person and when he doesn't know the answer to something he talks about it fixedly until he reaches his own resolution."

At its heart, this performance challenges the audience to reflect on viewing people for their inner humanity, rather than their outward appearance. This is a theme that has run through the entirety of the Arts Academy’s theatre season.

“Throughout this season we have explored titles that address issues of acceptance and understanding,” said Church. “These themes come to a conclusion with our presentation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Our piece moves away from the 1996 animated film by restoring the tragic ending and allowing the darker elements of this story to come to the surface, while maintaining much of the original Disney musical score.”

Peter Parnell's new book for The Hunchback of Notre Dame embraces story theatre and features verbatim passages from Hugo's gothic novel. The work also features the Academy Award nominated Disney score, along with new songs by Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz.

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