Cullman High’s ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ opens this week

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Quasimodo (Grant Holland) shows Esmeralda (Abby West) his view of Paris from the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman High School (CHS) Theatre on Monday morning opened a series of in-school performances of its spring production “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” leading up to public performances starting this Thursday.

The Tribune talked to CHS Theatre Director Wayne Cook, along with members of his crew, as they prepared for the opening.

Cook shared, “This is a show that’s based on the Disney movie.  It’s got some elements and some of the songs from the original Disney, but when they did it (for the stage), it’s a little bit more dark than the average Disney film.”

Cook said that, while the production is not as happy-go-lucky as many Disney films, it is still a family-friendly show, though its feel may be more mature.

Said Cook, “It’s definitely a family show.  Families can come and see. It’s different from things we’ve done in the past.  We’ve done a lot of comedies, a lot of fun things, a lot of, you know, fairy tale-type stuff.  And this has a sense with which the story, obviously a story being told, but it’s a more serious production, you know.  It’s much more serious; it has a lot more of a serious theme to it.

“But it’s gorgeous, beautiful, and people will definitely be entertained. It’s definitely got a lot of ‘wow’ to it; our kids think it has a ‘wow.’ They love it because there’s more suspense and more- a lot of things take place in the show that we don’t get in a regular Disney show; there’s some fighting, and there’s conflict, a lot more conflict, than we get in a Disney show. Not everything ends fairy tale-ish, you know, happily ever after.

“But our kids have really embraced it.  It’s a difficult show. We chose, this year, two shows, we did ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ and this, and they’re both pretty difficult shows.  I mean, it’s really challenged our department and out kids, but they needed it. They needed something that challenged them, to show them something more difficult, a little harder to put together.  And they’ve risen to the challenge.

“It’s got some great themes to it.  One of the themes is just acceptance and the love of someone who’s different, because he’s different.  He’s obviously deformed and has social issues that are somewhat induced by his environment.”

A different approach to music will be a highlight

In a period of time in which every new theatrical production in Cullman County seems to be breaking new ground (student cast flight, sensory-friendly performance, multi-school casting), “Hunchback” will display one of its own innovations in its music.

Cook explained, “The music in this production is beautiful.  It’s tremendous, just beautiful. Anyone who’s ever heard it or seen it would say that.  And then our music department has done a fabulous job; our choir director has done a fabulous job directing the music for the show.  

“We’re using a choir!  Our CHS choir’s involved in it, as well as our theater department, so onstage we’ll have a choir and a complete cast that will be involved in the whole production.”

When The Tribune asked students involved in the production what they themselves thought the “wow” factor of the show was, “music” and “choir” were popular responses.

The music is directed by CHS/CMS Choir Director Sarah Skinner, who told The Tribune, “It’s a different show, because normally we have choir students that sing in the (orchestra) pit.  But with this show, it’s such a choir-heavy show. There’s choral music in almost every single song in the show, and so we wanted them to be featured. We’re treating this like their spring concert, because it’s about three times as much music as they normally learn in a spring semester, and we wanted this to be a real combined effort from both departments.”

Cook concluded, “If you’re a lover of great music, you will enjoy the show: great choir music, great harmonies, great parts.  We’ve invested a lot of time in the music on this show. It’s a very strong music-led show.”

Big production

With a cast and crew of more than 100 students, “Hunchback” promises to be a memorable production.  The Tribune had the opportunity to hear from three of the show’s directors and managers who are CHS students.

Student Director Emma Mansour talked about running the show:

“It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of fun, though!  I’ve been with the show since day one auditions; they let me sit in on auditions with them, so I’ve seen it in every stage.  It’s come so far.

“And the cast has come a long way.  There’s certain actors that have really stepped it up this year, done what they aren’t used to, aren’t acclimated to.  So it’s been a really cool transition to watch evolve into.

“And usually I’m backstage, off the stage, because I stage managed the last show.  But they wanted me to student direct this one, so I’m actually up in the light booth now.  And it’s very different; I haven’t seen a show not backstage since my freshman year. I’ve enjoyed it; I’ve loved it.  I’ve been calling cues, which is a lot of what I’ll be doing if I take this into a profession, which is what I want to do. I’m majoring in theater in college, UAB, and I think this has just been a very good last show.”

Stage Manager Olivia Wood said about her duties and efforts, “It’s so much fun!  There’s so many aspects that are just moving around constantly. You’ve just got to stay on top of everything and have everybody in their place.  And all the cast is running around crazy because they’re excited about this production, because it’s really fun and good backstage.”

Technical Manager Matthew Smith said, “This show is very sound- and lighting-dependent.  There’s a lot of vocal work which we have to be very careful about with the mics, to make sure to pick up every little bit, because if we don’t pick up some of that sound, then the songs don’t sound right, you miss a line, or something like that happens.

“As far as the lighting goes, the lighting is very extravagant in this show.  The show itself is, I think, 18 scenes, and in that, we have 102 different lighting cues.  And the lightings change from just moving lights, colors, different colors, different spotlights on different people at different times in the show.  It’s just been a lot of trial and error, as far as getting what we need done and getting it where we need it.”

Cast

  • Quasimodo – Grant Holland
  • Esmeralda – Abby West
  • Phoebus – Micah Coucke
  • Frollo – Graffin Shaddrix
  • Clopin – Clay Brown
  • Statues – Devon Campbell, Dawson Culver, Chandler Greer, Zach Harbison, Sam Jones, Reagan Martin, Laci New, Mary Claire Page, Alyssa Sandlin, Madison Smith, Matthew Smith, Natalie Thrasher and Kayla Watts
  • Jehan – David Goymer
  • Frederic – Atticus Phillips
  • Aphrodesius – Thomas Myers
  • Father Dupin – Matthew Smith
  • King Louis – Caleb Brown
  • Madam – Sayra Milne
  • Florika – Kate Rains
  • Gypsies – Caleb Brown, Trent Lee, Kate Rains, Miracle Corley, Olivia Noblett, Tiffany Dotson, Macey Orr, Emiley Gable, Anabelle Howze, Alyssa Barbee, Chloe Powers, Kristin Chau Le, Sayra Milne and Coco Eddleman
  • Cathedral Guard – Thomas Myers, Trent Lee, Caleb Brown, David Goymer, Devan Kunter and Harrison Drake
  • French Citizens – Colette Whitney, Mattie Green, Raina Henderson, Monica Zapien, Bailee Bradford, Emma Kate Price, Avery Drake, Kirin Tisdale, Jenn Netherton, Jessie Thiot, Anna Kammerlocher and Madison Spell
  • Choir – Brianna Alexander, Myleen Andon, Jade Barbee, Emiley Beckman, Emily Bell, Alexis Brown, Emma Bruce, Baylee Burgess, Ragan Canter, Kristin Chau Le, Dana Cordes, Ava Cox, Adrionna Cox, Katelin Ferrell, Gloria Huerta, Angelina Hughes, Sarah Johnson, Anna Lee, Angela Lejarazo, Emma Lindsey, Jubal Lindsey, Elizabeth Mena, Kelli Mikus, Thomas Myers, Dax Olszowska, Sasha Peterson, Olivia Shelton, Ashlee Smith, Katie Smith, Spencer Smith, CiCi Tran, Claire Thompson, Anya Twilley, Gabby Walker, Emily Watwood, Felicity Widok, Stevie Wilson, Selena Yanez and Chloe Zinsmeister
  • Gypsy Dancers: Autumn Allison, Ali Burleson, Kaley Eaton, Kate Davis Heatherly, Presley Lafon, Olivia Shelton, Chloe Powers, Kristin Chau Le and Graciella Smith

Stage Crew

  • Emma Mansour (student director)
  • Olivia Wood (stage manager)
  • Stacy Harris (assistant stage manager)
  • Bailey Grace Smith
  • Alayah Smith
  • Livia Laney
  • Jake Wachter
  • Sara Reeves
  • Jacob Dye
  • Alyssa Tancredi
  • Claudio Ramirez
  • Clay Pruitt
  • Noah Moss
  • Ashley Clowers
  • Devan Kunter
  • David Goymer
  • Morgan Shultz
  • Morgan Shikle

Tech Crew

  • Matthew Smith (manager)
  • Emiley Gable (assistant manager)
  • Clay Gobel
  • Claude Thomas
  • Katherine Seagars
  • Annabelle Mcallister
  • Gage Carpenter
  • Lauren Thiot

Makeup Crew

  • Piper Hemphling (manager)
  • Ivy Falcon
  • Isabella Phillips
  • Katie Edmond
  • Bella Cottingham
  • Hanna McCaw

Costume Crew

  • Emma Bruce (manager)
  • Grace Riley
  • Claire Bailey
  • Bailey Edmonson
  • Emma Shirey

House Crew

  • Laney Burgess
  • Emily Touchet
  • Emily Robertson
  • Emma Laidley
  • Jessica Youmans
  • Taylor Trimble
  • Brooke Quattlebaum

CHS Theatre Boosters President Casey Cheatham Sandlin shared: “I would like to thank all of our sponsors who have made this show possible.  Without your support of the arts, these kids would not have this opportunity. The talent at Cullman High School is phenomenal!!  The kids have worked very hard and are so excited to perform for the schools and the public. I promise…you don’t want to miss it!”

Shows are:

  • Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, April 12 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

All shows are in the Cullman High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets will be sold at the door.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com