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Hunchback of Notre Dame as Presented by Boyle Musical Society



Adjudication performance 23rd November 2023

Someday…. when we are wiser, when the world's older, when we have learned……I pray, someday we may yet live to live, and let live…………

The beautiful lyrics of one of the strongest numbers of this lovely show from Boyle Musical Society are still in my mind as I write this Adjudication. And in this world we live in, how many of us struggle for acceptance, to believe that there is always hope, and to always have the faith and courage to believe in those dreams.

The Director for this show is Ms Vivienne Moran. Ms Moran is also this Society’s Choreographer no mean feat, but this duo of responsibilities worked very well with Ms Moran at the helm. This was a lovely well directed production with wonderful attention to detail throughout. With a great set that I’ll mention later, super lighting and of course the cast. This cast has a beautiful sound, so melodic, gorgeous harmonies and magnificent energy that flew off the stage and into the audience. Vibrant and with huge energy and passion. Lovely start. I loved the attention to detail in every area, “Sanctuary”, “Topsy Turvy”, were particularly well done. In the beginning of the show my first tiny distraction was that the “baby” (Quasimodo) which Dom Claude Frollo was asked to care for by his dying brother was far too small and did take away from the scene slightly, however this is just a small prop issue, but it was distracting for those few seconds of the show. I will add that the sound effects of the baby crying in comparison were excellently done. The direction in particular for Quasimodo played by Oisin Dowling was brilliant. Every aspect of Mr Dowling’s character oozed attention to the minutest detail. Ms Moran showed great direction in this show with her flair for perfect symmetry, beautiful “pictures” for each scene particularly in the Ensemble settings and an exquisite attention to detail throughout the show in this whole area of Direction. As a director you have a great skill and a great eye for detail. Ms Moran’s vision as Director gelled this show together and you did a great job. Well done.

The Choreography in this show was slick and very well done. I really liked the way when the full cast were on stage and where space was confined the movements were simple and not a limb out of place. “Topsy Turvy” was so lively, and full of energy and was a highlight. The movement here was beautiful. Again, with a large number on stage the dancing and graceful movements of the dancers in this fabulous number in every way, was one of the strongest choreographed numbers in this lovely show. “Court of Miracles” was so softly moved as the chorus moved around slowly in a circle as Clopin Trouillefou played by Jason Kenny sang. Clever use also of the stage here with Quasimodo and some of the Chorus subtly moving on to a lower ledge of the stage just above the Orchestra for some of this number. This gave the ensemble more space and although the movements were slow and not overshadowing Clopin, these movements created lovely levels again and lovely movement by all in this number. The dance with the Chorus in “The Rhythm of The Tambourine” was so very good. Beautiful visuals in the Choreography here. Ms Moran congratulations, you enhanced the show greatly with your team and your talent. Well done.

The Musical Director was Ms Anne Kielty. There are 42 numbers in this massive musical – not an easy job to get it right but Ms Kielty most certainly did. You were a constant at the front of the Company in the pit conducting with your beautiful sounding Orchestra. You, Ms Kielty, were the shows Captain always there in front of the Cast, and it was marvellous to watch you with your skill and talent, throughout the show with mention to “Someday”, “Rhythm of the Tambourine”, “The Court of Miracles” and “Top of The World” these were really performed. There was lovely emotion throughout this show by the Orchestra, only enhancing the soloists and the Ensemble singing every time – never too loud, always there, but not overpowering. I must also mention here the great work done by Chorus Assistant Lizi Hannon. Finally, to Ms Kielty, thank you for your time, and congratulations on your role as Musical Director.

Stage Management consisted of Enda Commons and Team with Set Design provided by Stage Wright. From the moment the show opened the Set for this production was very good. From the Opening Number “Olim” and followed shortly by the “The Bells of Notre Dame” my jaw dropped when I saw these two massive beautifully painted gorgeous bells drop down from the fly’s and fill the stage. There was a collective intake of breath from the audience as they were lowered from on high so to speak. They were a vision, and so effective, the massive gothic arches backstage and the steps with the huge, large stone effect pillars, the candles lit at the entrance to the arched door of the Cathedral. The Cathedral's steps were like something from The Vatican! And the famous stained-glass window, the one always associated with this show, gleamed brightly above it all. The set was constantly changing, different areas consistently being used, the Rope from the eves that Quasimodo swung in on was brilliant. This full set was so very solid, functional, and secure. For the Stage Management team under the direction of Mr Enda Commons this was a mammoth task to continually work this set throughout the show for the many different musical numbers. Beautiful visuals, a solid set used to its maximum use, and also, I am sure, giving your cast huge confidence in moving about throughout the show such was the structure and its strength, but also giving your audience a continuous beautiful visual of Notre Dame Cathedral which is exactly where this set took us for every second of the show. Congratulations.

Lighting Design was by Indigo Lighting, with Lighting Operators Nigel Cleary and Tom Cleary. As already mentioned, the lighting was very effective throughout with some lovely moments where the blues of the lights and the reds created a myriad of colour particularly on the floor of the stage and on the areas such as the stained-glass windows. I very much liked the use of spots. Particularly on Quasimodo and his solos, and when he was on stage with the Chorus, he was always beautifully lit and never once in the shadows. When Esmerelda dies, there was this massive white spotlight on Quasimodo whilst being surrounded by the cast. It was a beautiful scene for the lighting and stood out for me personally. Lighting overall was very effective, very successful, and very well done.

Sound was by Vinnie Higgins, with Sound Effects by Brendan McGee. Sound throughout was superb. Only at one stage did I notice at the Finale of Act 2 Mr Clopin Trouillefou (Jason Kenny) microphone did not seem to work for his solo opening lines at the beginning of the number “In a place of Miracles”. A small glitch and was very soon rectified. The sound filled the theatre and created a lovely, enhanced atmosphere for the audience.

Costumes were by Thespis Theatrical Costumiers Ltd, and the Costume Co-Ordinator was Ms Tara Kililea. All Costumes were very effective, with mention to The Gypsies Costumes, Frollo’s priestly Archdeacon garments (fabulous) Esmerelda and Quasimodo – which were quite brilliant, and special mention to the costumes of the Choristers, Gargoyles, and the magnificent costume of The King of the Gypsies Mr Clopin Trouillefou played by Jason Kenny. So, eye catching. Costume of the evening and a highlight throughout was Quasimodo’s costume. Quite brilliant in every aspect. The hump, the dark brown rags, the red cloak and the shoes. Well done to Ms Kililea also on coordinating all this. A mammoth task, meticulously and brilliantly done.

Props, Makeup and Hair was the responsibility of Anna Robertson (Props), Patricia Regan and Team (Make Up) and Emily McEvoy and Team (Hair). Only one small mention regarding the props and I have already mentioned it above so I will not dwell on it was that the Baby Quasimodo was too small. Now saying that this young, very tiny baby had a very loud and fine set of lungs!! Well done to Mr Brendan McGee on sound effects for that! I particularly liked the Choristers hymn books, and attention to detail in all aspects of the props area.

Makeup was excellent throughout with mention of Quasimodo's face makeup – brilliant.

This had an amazing effect on his appearance. Even from my own seat his face looked botched, ruptured and with big sore boils all over it yet it was so simply and very cleverly done and very effective. Also, Gargoyle's make up was very well done with wonderful attention to detail. Hair by Emily Macken and Team was very effective, loving the long tresses on the gypsies and Esmerelda. A lovely blend and a lovely balance in all the above areas.

The part of Dom Claude Frollo the Archdeacon of Notre Dame Cathedral was played by Mr Darragh Beirne. What a wonderful character Mr Beirne created in this role. You were superb. Your acting, stage presence, and singing were top notch. Mr Beirne has a beautiful strong baritone singing voice, filling the stage with its volume and depth and control and I would have loved to hear you sing more. “Sanctuary” was another highlight of this production. A very strong Frollo, beautifully acted and wonderful casting here for Mr Beirne. A great performance throughout.

The part of Quasimodo was played by the young Oisin Dowling. From the moment this young man arrived on stage, swinging back and forth on the cathedral bell ringing rope, he again and again captured the hearts of the audience, and I liked this young man immediately. A wonderful talent. And a lovely stage presence. Mr Dowling is 18 years of age. Vocally this young man has a very good singing voice. “Out There” was beautiful where he yearned for what life would be like outside the Cathedral Walls. This was sung with lovely emotion and feeling and then “Heavens Light” sung so gently and again with great emotion a song telling the world of his love for Esmeralda. A high point of the evening was that I loved this number. It was simply gorgeous. This duet with Esmerelda (played by Natasha Brady) was also lovely, two beautiful voices combined in harmony was a showstopper. I understand Mr Dowling that this is your first lead role, and I hope you continue your journey in Musical Theatre as you have a talent that should not be wasted and put to use. I do hope to see you again in the future in leading roles such as this and I wish you the very best of luck. Well done on gifting to us your audience a magnificent Quasimodo.

The part of Clopin Trouillefou, King of The Gypsies, was played by Mr Jason Kenny. What a great part and I get a sneaky feeling you really loved playing this role. You bounced around the stage, full of energy and life and enthusiasm. Great vocals and strong stage presence, you were a great contrast to Frollo as mentioned above in that you brought light and dance and joy to the stage, which really worked well in the overall casting as it emphasised the different emotions and character differences on a stage when the mix is right it is superb. And the mix here was just that. You have a lovely flair to your acting that comes very naturally to you. “Topsy Turvy” was wonderful, full of life and joy. I did mention above the slight loss of sound in your solo part in the finale, however that in no way takes away from your own performance whatsoever. Very well-done Mr Kenny.

The part of Phoebus de Martin, the Captain of the Cathedral Guard was played by Mr Sean McGuire. What a lovely singing voice with beautiful control. Very well cast also in this part. A very charming character providing a lovely lightness to the Musical with his love for Esmeralda and indeed his friendship with Quasimodo. “In a Place of Miracles' , your badly injured arm for this scene acted superbly!! You looked great, were perfectly cast and yourself and Esmerelda’s characters worked very well together with lovely feeling and emotions, particularly the scene with Phoebus, Clopin, Esmerelda and Quasimodo surrounded by hanging cloths with choristers in the eaves and arches, again providing lovely depth, was enchanting. “Here we are nearly strangers, from two worlds that have rarely met, but somehow you have made me someone new, travel far on a journey that’s the longest I’ve taken yet, now I’m asking if you can let me come with you”. This duet with Esmerelda following on from the previous scene as mentioned above was tender and soft and lovely and I particularly enjoyed your singing in this song where you really came into your own. Well done.

The part of Esmerelda the beautiful and free-spirited gypsy was played by the Ms Natasha Brady. What a gorgeous character this young lady created here and made it her own. From the moment you arrived on stage, you had an energy, and you looked the part! You really did. I’m not saying from Costumes etc which obviously enhance a character, but your whole demeanour portrayed a beautiful young lady, a gypsy, carefree and joyous, loved dancing and your gypsy family and Ms. Brady, you were enchanting as Esmerelda. I can still hear you singing “God Help The Outcasts” it was sung with feeling and emotion. There were several times during the show where you may be patted the arm of one of your cast members, and in the Finale and it was lovely to see genuine friendship from you that comes naturally to you as I am sure it does off stage also. Really some lovely tender moments. “Rhythm Of the Tambourine”, “In a Place of Miracles”, and especially “Someday” with Phoebus was so lovely a song that I hold close to my own heart, and you did not disappoint in your singing of this number. It was a pleasure to watch you in this role and I do hope there are many more for you. Well done Ms Brady.

Saint Aphrodisisu was played by Mr John Reynolds. There is no such thing as a small part. A lovely vocal and “Flight into Egypt” with Quasimodo, Statues, Gargoyles and Choir was well sung. Very assured acting performance and lovely stage presence moving around the stage gracefully and with ease. No stranger to musicals and to drama, a strong role played well. I must and need to mention other smaller yet significant roles in the overall success of this show were Kate Connelly as Florika, Diarmuid Beirne as Jehan Frollo – great part, well done on this Mr Beirne, Skyler O’Flaherty as King Louis XI , King of France, Karen Gordon, Florika’s Ghost, Ash Galway as Madame, Conor White, Frederick Charlus Lieutenant of the Cathedral Guard, Stephen Tighe, - Father Dupin, Cathal Tivnan Official and Officer of the court of King Louis XI. All these parts were a) well cast, and b) superbly executed. Great singing and acting and indeed choreography, all adding up to complete the jigsaw of the show that is your Hunchback of Notre Dame. I applaud each of you. Well done. And last but by no means least two wonderful young men, Tommy Commons and Tom Hannon as the Young Quasimodo’s. Rising stars these two little chaps are. Well done lads!.

Chorus. I did feel that in some numbers I did feel that the very high notes were a bit strained and a little tinny, noting one “Bells of Notre Dame” which was the Congregation and Choir I am not too sure if this could have been remedied or improved up as several of the Chorus songs are indeed written for sopranos.

The minute I stepped inside the foyer of St Joseph’s Hall it was as if someone had put on some sparkly shoes, and waved a wand, and all the stress of being a few minutes late ( I blame the Google maps !) drifted away in seconds. This was thanks to a very calm and very professional front of house team of Deirdre Purcell, Siobhan Gallagher (my fairy godmother), & Liz Gannon & Team. I was immediately made to feel so very welcome and shown to my seat with some goodies In my own opinion it makes such a difference, when there is a strong Front Of House Team and I have said it before in other shows – until the Curtain goes up – Front Of House is the Cast that the audience initially meet and it is vital that this team work correctly with enthusiasm and empathy, because it really can give a show a good start or a bad start in the eye of the audience member. For you all here it most definitely was a very positive experience and I thank you for that. I sat back (my breathing had returned to normal) and my evening began. And what an evening’s performance this was.

I also wish to add my compliments to the Committee of this Society for inviting me backstage at the interval as well as at the end of the show. That is a first! I loved it. It was just such a novelty to meet the production team in front of house, cast, everyone at the interval for a few moments before the second half began and have a chat and a cuppa.

You are a wonderful warm welcoming and talented Society, and it seems to me that it continues to grow successfully each year in strength and numbers. I hope you do that. It was a pleasure to be with you on the evening of 23rd November 2023 and my journey home was enhanced greatly having been in the company of your lovely Society and your production of Hunchback of Notre Dame for those few precious and most enjoyable hours. Thank you.

Caroline Daly Jones

AIMS Adjudicator 2023 / 2024 Sullivan

Some photos kindly provided by the society

Photographer: Benny Morgan


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