Hays High School’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will be a big show in more ways than one.
For the first time, Hays High students will perform their annual musical at Fort Hays State University’s Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.
“It’s been an interesting journey because we’ve usually been at 12th Street Auditorium, so this is a lot of new for us this year,” said musical director Johnny Matlock.
Beach/Schmidt was not available for the students to work in until last week, however, so rehearsals have been conducted in the Hays High wrestling room while the set was built at 12th Street Auditorium.
But cast and crew are excited about working in the university’s performing arts center, which has larger dressing rooms, more fly space and more accessibility for cast and audience.
“The general possibilities are so much greater,” said set director Jenny Rajewski. “Even just for creativity’s sake. We can stretch our imagination to allow these kids to do and try and work.”
Working with Beach/Schmidt technical director Luke LeCount and his crew will be an educational experience in itself, she said
“All of the kids will benefit from being able to see how professional technicians and a professional road house work,” she said.
The show has approximately 100 students involved as actors, musicians and crew, larger than last year’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”
It also has some large themes that Matlock said the student cast, and hopefully the audience, can relate to.
The musical of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was created by Walt Disney Theatrical. It draws more from the original Victor Hugo novel than the film did, however, Matlock and Rajewski said.
“It definitely returns us to Hugo’s primary intent when he wrote that novel,” Rajewski said.
The story is the tale of Quasimodo, played by Ryan Will, a disfigured young man who has lived isolated in Notre Dame. Befriended only by gargoyles, he longs to be with other people. Venturing outside the cathedral, he has a chance enounter with Esmerelda, played by Erin Muirhead. Quasimodo’s caretaker, Frollo, played by Eric Adams, is captivated by her, but she rejects him.
“The most beautiful part is how it outlines people who feel like outcasts. It’s relatable because everyone feels like an outcast at one point in their life,” Muirhead said.
“It also does a good job representing humanity and how everyone has issues that they struggle with. We all have imperfections, but that’s not something to be afraid of,” Will said.
Adams said his character, Frollo, pursues doing the right thing but makes the wrong choices.
“You end up actually doing what is entirely the wrong thing in this case, persecuting and going after one person you love who isn’t interested at all and end up destroying the lives of many,” he said.
“It makes you proud that they see that, they relate to this,” Matlock said.
The show includes approximately 20 solos and some complex ensemble performances. Some of the music from the Disney film is part of the stage show.
“There is a lot of songs that are different from the Disney version, and those are my favorite of all,” Adams said.