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8 Reviews

Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road. Booking until 28th October 2000. NB. No wheelchair access.

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    8 Reviews
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      21.02.2001 16:08
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      So the new cast of Notre Dame de Paris is now firmly in place at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road. And a new Esmeralda, Danni (or is it Dannii?) Minogue. So I decided to go see the show again and see how it stood the test of time. First of all a brief synopsis of the show. Critics have said there's no storyline - that's not quite true, there's simply no narrative, so unless you know the story well, you may end up a little confused. The music is obviously French-influenced and fairly modern for a West End musical. And some of the set movements induce giggles (the dancing pillars of doom amongst them). Still, on the good side, some of the songs are strikingly magnificent, despite working in translation from the very powerful French lyrics. The cast are young and talented and appear to be enjoying the show. The ensemble's dancing is insane, acrobatic and spectacular in a way not usual for a musical. It's a very different experience from a traditional big musical show, and opinions seem split fairly evenly down the middle, with strong opinions both ways. For me, despite some of the ridiculous elements, it still remains a show worth seeing, and Danni Minogue is a very worthwhile cast addition. She sings admirably well, and, for me at least, she seemed more of a gypsy than Tina Arena (who previously played the role). The new Pheobus (can't remember the name) was suitably slimey - but I don't like the character. Clopin and Gringoire are as magnificent as they should be and of course, the Hunchback steals the show with his pained voice and despair. Once again, I think it's worth going to see, but I won't promise that you'll love it, it's just worth giving a try.. because it's certainly different.

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      22.01.2001 06:15
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      The set. The choreography/acrobatics. The music. Ok, so that would pretty much sum up any musical, but in the case of Notre Dame de Paris, these were what made me sit up and pay attention. Though being no particular fan of Riccardo Cocciante(1), I appreciate his music and was curious to see how his pop regime translated to a West End musical. [ (1) Riccardo Cocciante is a leading Italian pop "cantautore", meaning singer/songwriter, with the added flair of being extremely popular in France, too - a rare accomplishment for any Italian artist short of Sophia Loren! ] I wasn't disappointed. The Mediterranean roots of the music were so very evident, making it stand out from most of the other West End musicals with a (sigh! humphh! - dare I say predictable?... oops, I've said it) English/American sound. Cocciante's music was rich and atmospheric, with some numbers obviously stronger than others. The original lyrics are by Luc Plamondon, in the West End version obviously translated into English. I absolutely disagree with some reviews that claimed the music was weak. I rather thought there were some good tunes, and a few haunting songs that went down well with the audience. The coup de grace was of course "The Age of the Cathedrals". Some other personal favourites are "Belle", a duo with two powerful yet different male voices singing Esmeralda's praises/haunts. For pure spine-chilling cruelty coated in sugary-sweet verses, "My Heart If You Will Swear" is hard to beat - just listen to the words... Since watching the show (and since writing the original version of this op) I've bought the CD with the original cast recording. And oooh if it brought back memories... I'd go back any day. In fact, on a next visit to London I'll probably book another seat. Speaking of seats, the ticket prices are somewhat pricey - I was lucky to get half-price tickets from the Leiceste r Square booth (and without queueing, it was late afternoon), but otherwise it would have been veeeeeery expensive, with tickets maxing out at £37.50. But let's get back to the juice. The scenery (or set, I'm always confused as to what the proper term is... anyone please enlighten me), so simple in concept yet so detailed and grand, was another big plus to the show. Basically, most of the action took place in the shadow of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and we only ever saw a few slabs of the walls - but HUGE slabs which gave an oh-so-clear impression of the vastness of the Cathedral. This reinforced the idea of the characters as mere bit-players whose lives and loves run their course and are generally transient and small. The use of the slabs to recreate different areas of the church was also ingenious, especially the scene where stained-glass-windows-lighting and a moved slab shifted the action to the inside of the Cathedral. Then there was the choreography. Maximum use was made of the stage, in the form of using both horizontal and vertical levels. Yes, action was spread out not only throughout the floor, but vertically across the slab-background and with synchronised moves from dancers suspended in mid-air. The exits into the orchestra pit also added that further dimension to the action. Rarely have I been so impressed with musicals' choreography. The dance was completely three-dimensional, seemingly magical with actors floating in mid-air and suspended against the mighty Cathedral. All in all an unusual musical, with haunting melodies and fantastic actors bringing depth to the characters. If you happen to be in London and have a free evening, I heartily recommend this musical to anyone appreciative of Mediterranean sounds and suggestive scenery. Just sit down in your seat, relax and be prepared for a night of musicals' heaven.

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        15.10.2000 06:02
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        I went to see Notre Dame de Paris with an open mind, having read the other opinions on this site. I am an unashamed musical fan, the chance of tickets at £10 each curtesy of lastminute.com meant I had nothing to lose. I was not disappointed! To get the most out of this show you need to know the basis of the Victor Hugo novel, the songs & action distracted from the storyline & without prior knowledge of the story this musical may not make sense to you. The set was a simple one a large stone wall in effect, it came alive with various doors within it opening & posts that protruded at times. The dance & acrobatics was simply stunning & the vocal quality of the singers beyond compare, if you like either you will love this show. The characters often exited via steps at the front of the stage down into what would have been the orchestra pit, as I was near the front I could see this, from further back it must have looked as if they simply disappeared! NB: the comment that there is no wheelchair access is not correct, I noticed a wheelchair lift down to the stalls. The scence with the bells & the stunts performed on them was breathtaking. the only scene that was unbelievable was when a cast member swung down on a RSJ, if I am correct they did not exist in 1482! The music was all pre-recorded, I did not find this as overpowering as others have suggested. This is not the best musical I have ever seen but it is far from the worst & I felt that I had good value for money at £10 a ticket, had I had paid £37 for the ticket I would perhaps have felt differently. NB:the comment on the official information about there being no wheelchair access is incorrect, I noticed a wheelchair lift down to the stalls.

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          18.09.2000 03:46

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          i'm going to cut to the chase and i have to say this is by far the worst musical i have ever seen in london. It is simply dreadful. I went in with an open mind and a ticket from the half price ticket booth in leicester square (£21.50) - i knew it was tina arena's last night so i thought i'd pop along and see what it's like There is only one good thing about the show and that is the cast. All have brilliant voices and you can't fault any of them. I was pleased to see steve balsamo and the cast who had played the parts in montreal were all on stage. Everyone had fantastic voices and sang their hearts out. There was only two songs i remembered afterwards and that was the opening song (the age of the catthedral) and live for the one i love. this is staged as more as a concert than a musical - a cast member comes and sings then goes off - However this makes the story so confusing - it is very hard to keep track of what's going on with the exception of two songs, the rest are just trash and instantly forgettable - the lyrics are a joke - my three year old niece could have done better the pre recorded backing track is very loud and it is sometimes hard to hear what the cast is singing - mix this with the repetitive music and you have a show which left me cold the whole staging was very "french" and for me it just didn't feel right here in london - if i hadn't bought the ticket i would have walked out at the end of the first act - the people sitting around me were also bored and i almost fell asleep - when you see people twitching in their seats and looking at their watches you know the show is in trouble plaese avoid this at all costs - wait until disney brings the hunchback of notre dame to london - it may not be as true to victor hugo's story but it is a hell of a lot more entertaining - but the disney video instead and save yourself a load of money

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          07.09.2000 22:00
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          Well, a musical spectacular is what the producers call the show! The reviews when the show was first seen on the West End Stage where less than kind, yet it is still running so obviously something is happening right. The story is based on Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and has played to packed theatres around the world. The show is an amazing blend of dance, song and music. Many of the original *star name* cast members have left the show to be replaced by trained actors and actresses for the most part. In my opinion, this has improved the show no end, to have people who make a living from acting rather than performing brings more depth to the characters. The dancing is spectacular, although it does sometimes detract from the storyline, leaving you watching the moves rather than listening to the words and then wondering what on earth is happening ten minutes later! The set is kept quite simple with the wall backdrop being used constantly throughout the show. I have some complaints though. Primarily the use of recorded music can get irritating, particularly when it is kept at one volume throughout the show. I don't know what the reasoning behind this but I think it was said that it is so the dancers can concentrate on the dancing rather than having to sing at the same time. The simple way around this would be to bring in booth singers - a common enough practise for shows that make use of a lot of dance and movement (eg CATS). The other complaint is the producer's stubborn refusal to give information as to which members of the cast will be playing on a given date. The main cast perform at 6 out of the 8 shows, with alternates performing at the others. I am sure this will have affected advance ticket sales, primarily as they have tried to sell the show on the personnel involved. Their reasoning for the use of Alternates is that the show is Vocally Demanding, yet is it more demand ing than that of any other West End show? I don't think so. Still, given the situation with alternates it does mean you can get half price show tickets for the majority of performances. Also if you buy a £10 ticket and seats in front are free then the staff of the theatre will let you move! Even if there are no seats in front that are free, the £10 seats still have great views. Never be tempted to take a camera in though as the staff will get you, even if you only take pictures at the end in the Curtain Calls! Even with all my complaints, if you are looking for a show that makes use of great, energetic dancing and good singing, then you will not go far wrong here.

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            24.08.2000 17:30
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            Normally I don’t like musicals and so it was with great reluctance that I was dragged to see Notre Dame de Paris. My friends had cajoled me when I had had one too many into agreeing to go, and held me to my promise when I was much more sober. We went to the matinee performance (at the Dominion Theatre just outside Tottenham Court Road Tube Station). The place was empty, and we bought the cheapest tickets for £10. All of the main cast was on stage, except for one of the performers whose understudy was on (and he was very good as well). Midway through the performance we asked one of the attendants if we could move forward, and she said sure, so long as no one else was sitting there, and so we ended up with excellent seats. So if you can, attend the matinee performance. I was surprised, I really enjoyed this musical. The songs are epic, and tend towards the pop, but combined with the very visual performance, it’s great. The performance is a mixture of dancing and acrobatics. There’s always movement and the dancing is top class, and the combination with the acrobatics makes it very spectacular. My companions like musicals, and they also liked this, and I found it interesting, so I think you could say that Notre Dame de Paris is a musical for most people, something to do if you’re with a group of diverse people and looking for something to do either during the day or during the evening. The costumes were good, the performance was good, and the set was great as a mixture of the surreal and material. Very well done.

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            18.08.2000 03:32
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            This show is unlike any other I have seen before. It lacks a certain amount of the 'niceness' of something like Joseph or Saturday Night Fever and lacks a certain uniform quality of Miss Saigon or Les Miserables but that doesn't matter. The main thing to remember when booking this show is not to go in with any pre-conceptions (especially of the Disney variety). The lyrics have been almost literally translated from the original French ones so they are not alwyas easy to follow (be sure to buy the big programme for a synopsis) but everyones voice is strong and the songs dramatic. Tina Arena absolutely shines (even though I envisioned Esmeralda to be a bit taller) and the choreography is amazing (at times making the Circ de Soleil look like an Am Dram group). If you like happy endings or bright colours, this isn't the musical for you. If your into fantastic singing, atmopsphere, acrobatics and romance, go see it now! (playing at the Dominion Theatre, right on Tottenham Court Road Tube)

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            25.07.2000 21:17
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            This musical came from rave reviews in Paris and Montreal. It is obviously, from the base material, quite a dark storyline. So it is not something you would go to if you want to feel cheered and is definitely not in the 'feel-good' category. There are some impressive dance routines and some of the songs are very powerful, but I found the musical, generally a little over-long and at parts, a bit boring. At the moment, Tina Arena is playing Esmerelda, and she was much better than I had expected. I found the plot at times a little hard to follow though, and if I had not known the story, then I think I might have had troubles following from the music alone. The sets though were impressive and it's clear there was quite a large budget to be played with. Unfortunately, the tickets are quite expensive, even allowing for London musical standards, but the Dominion is a large theatre which caters well to its clientele. In short, I'd say that this musical was entertaining, but not spectacular. It was worth seeing, but it wasn't breathtaking, or groundbreaking.

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