Press Conference: Paper Mill Playhouse Brings Paris to New Jersey

Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz took center stage with their creative team at a press conference yesterday morning promoting their newest work in progress, a musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. The show is set to premiere at Millburn, New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse on March 15, 2015, with previews starting March 4.

The 1831 Victor Hugo novel dramatizing the sociopolitical upheaval in 15th century Paris inspired the musical. The story centers on the heart wrenching love triangle between Quasimodo, a disfigured hunchback, Esmeralda, a striking Gypsy dancer, and Phoebus, the handsome Captain of the French militia, and the interference of Claude Frollo the Archdeacon of Notre Dame and Quasimodo’s adopted guardian.

Shayne Miller, Paper Mill Playhouse’s director of press and public relations says that although the dynamic duo is best known for their Disney ties, they are attempting to stay truer to the literary work than they have in the past.

“I know that for this particular piece the inspiration is the novel, not necessarily Disney’s album,” Miller said.

Menken and Schwartz are not the only ones enthusiastic about bringing the renowned novel to life. Erik Liberman, who plays Clopin the Gypsy King, said that he thinks the show’s message is one that needs to be expressed to new generations, especially in a time that calls for more empathy between strangers.

“The show’s message is one of compassion and its timeless necessity. I hope audiences will leave the show caring just a little bit more for those they deem ‘other’ in this world,” Liberman said.

Menken and Schwartz are no strangers to the world of theatre or Disney. Both men collaborated on the Disney movie version of the musical released in 1996 after working together on Disney’s Pocahontas. Menken went on to compose for shows such as Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Aladdin”, which was nominated for five awards in the 2014 Tony season. Schwartz is best known for “Godspell”, “Pippin”, and “Wicked”, which received ten nominations for the 2004 Tony Awards.

“I’m really excited and I think this is such a wonderful adaptation of it, it’s so beautifully staged and designed”, said Schwartz. “It’s an amazing story, amazing bunch of creators, and the fusion of the novel and the animated film to create this whole new work is really extraordinary.”

Movie, theatre, and music fanatics alike are ecstatic at the reunion of Menken and Schwartz. Jason Cohen, a published composer and musical theatre playwright, expressed his excitement for the upcoming new show, which is one of his favorite musicals.

“Menken’s flawless blending of epic, sweeping songs with a contemporary feel is what attracts audiences young and old and will continue to do so in Hunchback,” Cohen said, “And his music team is of just the right era to be young enough to know what the proper sound is, while experienced enough to execute that sound properly.”

            The show will be using the talents of director Scott Schwartz, Stephen Schwartz’s son, and performers Michael Arden, Patrick Page, Ciara Renée, Andre Samonsky, and Erik Liberman. This rendition of the musical is currently in association with La Jolla Playhouse and Disney Theatrical Group and will run eight times a week. Tickets are currently on sale and range in price from $28 to $99.


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