music education center.Cotati’s Music to My Ears is presenting the musical at the new Rancho CotateHigh School Theatre Arts Auditorium in Rohnert Park through March 8.

A blend of Victor Hugo’s gothic novel and Disney’s 1996animated musical, the show never made it to Broadway but has met with somesuccess with regional and community theatres. Rohnert Park’s Spreckels TheatreCompany scheduled it in a season a few years back, but pulled thedarker-than-you-would-expect-with-the-name-Disney-attached entertainment for amore “family friendly” show.

Hugo’s 15th century-settale of the Cathedral of Notre Dame’s bell ringer Quasimodo (Chris DeSouza),his guardian Archdeacon Frollo (William O’Neill), and a gypsy girl namedEsmeralda (director Aja Gianola-Norris) is a monster of a show to produce. Operaticin scope, the production benefits immensely from the involvement of SanFrancisco Opera member O’Neill as both performer and choir director. A chorusis integral to this show, and there’s a 28-member one on stage throughout.

DeSouza, who is deaf (as isQuasimodo), communicates beautifully through American Sign Language whileactor/singer Ezra Hernandez provides the speaking and singing voice. This hadto add a significant level of complexity to the production and credit must begiven to all involved for making it work so well. While many cast membersutilize ASL in the show, the March 6 performance will be fully ASL interpreted.

Gianola-Norris makes for anentrancing Esmeralda, and there’s good work done by Alanna Weatherby asnarrator Clopin and Blake Chandler as the dashing Phoebus. The ensemble isfilled out by performers of a variety of ages and abilities in fulfillment ofthe producing company’s vision that participation in theater is for everyone.

While there’s good costuming byCaitlyn Clark, the performance I attended was lacking in technical finesse. There’sno set to speak of and haphazard lighting and missed sound cues were a constantdistraction. To add insult to injury, someone pulled the fire alarm during thefinal scene and the theatre had to be evacuated. After receiving clearance, inthe best tradition of “the show must go on”, it did.

The nobility shown by the cast andaudience in dealing with that situation makes for a good summation of thisproduction. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a noble effort.

The Music to My Ears production of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ runs through March 8 at the Rancho Cotate High School Theatre Auditorium in Rohnert Park. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7:30pm; the Sunday matinee is at 2pm. The Friday, March 6 performance will be fully ASL interpreted.

For moreinformation, go to funmusiclessons.com

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