The musical Notre-Dame de Paris has returned to Taipei after a seven years absence, but this time, the originally French musical will be performed in its English version, which had its international debut in 2000. The show opens in Taipei on Jan 18 and will stay until Jan 27 for a total of 12 shows.
Notre-Dame de Paris was a French-Canadian production that debuted in 1998 based upon the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by the novelist Victor Hugo. It has had an enviable track record in performance, for according to the Guinness Book of Records, it had the most successful first year of any musical ever. The premiere of its English version in London ran for 17 months.
It should be mentioned at the outset for those not familiar with the globe conquering sensation, that Notre-Dame de Paris is a rock opera — or more correctly, a power pop opera. In its English version, the lyrics are by Will Jennings, the multi-award winning songwriter who created such notable hits has My Heart Will Go On, the theme for the film Titanic. Songs from the original, such as Belle and Le temps des Cathedrales, have long since established themselves as international hits.
For all the emotional pop ballads, it also should be noted that Notre-Dame de Paris is, unlike a Broadway musical, completely sung through, without spoken dialogue. This poses considerable challenges for the creation of engaging verbal drama.
Judging from Internet comment, many local fans are delighted that the English lyrics will give greater accessibility for those not proficient in French. However, a review in the British newspaper The Telegraph described the lyrics as largely inaudible and when heard, mostly trite.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of musical power and it should be pointed out that this isn’t some second or third string touring company, as performers from the original Canadian cast will take the leading roles, notably Matt Laurent who plays Quasimodo and Richard Charest, who plays the poet Gringoire.
The organizers have highlighted the post-modern stage design as a highlight of the show, with Notre-Dame Cathedral represented by Brutalist mobile blocks that move around on stage. These are used to facilitate some lively acrobatic choreography, and with the combination of sophisticated lighting, the stage looks quite spectacular. While Notre-Dame de Paris might not get to the heart of Hugo’s massive work, it has proved its ability to entertain time and time again.