Notre Dame comes to Shanghai

Updated: 2011-11-27 08:17

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)

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Notre Dame comes to Shanghai


The most famous French musical is in Shanghai and will be an appreciated pre-Christmas treat for theater fans. Notre Dame de Paris will be staged at the Shanghai Culture Square from Dec 2 to 24.

Altogether, 24 shows have been scheduled, with a matinee each Saturday.

The show has had massive success in France, where four-and-a-half million people have seen it since its premiere at the Palais des Congress in 1998.

The English version is touring China and South Korea this time, with lyrics penned by Will Jennings, who also wrote the My Heart Will Go On theme for the film Titanic. The China tour starts in Guangzhou and will end in Beijing.

Notre Dame's music is definitely its main attraction, says An Dong, a composer and music producer from Shanghai. It stands out from the usual West End or Broadway productions.

"The story is told through music and there are more than 40 songs altogether - each is well-written and very pleasant to listen to, which is incredibly difficult to achieve," he says.

While most US and British musicals feature actors singing and dancing on stage, often at the same time, Notre Dame de Paris assigns the singing to seven main actors, while dancers and acrobats perform alongside.

Adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo, it tells the story of the gypsy Esmeralda, whose beauty captures the heart of a young captain, the archdeacon of the Notre Dame de Paris, and his adopted son, the hunchbacked bell-ringer, Quasimodo.

The archdeacon kills the captain and frames Esmeralda. Quasimodo comes to her rescue and keeps her safe in the cathedral. Rejected again and again by Esmeralda, the archdeacon turns her over to the troops who are out for revenge for their captain.

The seven actors all have distinctive voices suited for their roles. In Belle, three men - Quasimodo, the archdeacon and the captain - all sing of their love for Esmeralda. The coarse, gravelly voice of the deformed bell-ringer, the majestic singing of the priest, and the young, amorous soldier's lament are all in character.

The song topped the music charts for 10 weeks in France, and won many international music awards. The soundtrack has sold more than 7 millions worldwide.

Lead actor Matt Laurent is from Quebec, Canada and has played Quasimodo in French more than 400 times.

It will be his first time singing the role in English.

"It's physically demanding to play Quasimodo," he says. To play the deformed hunchback, he has to wear heavy makeup and keep the posture all the time, and Quasimodo's songs are so emotional that he has to sing with restraint. "Otherwise I will be crying and won't be able to sing."

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(China Daily 11/27/2011 page15)