The Community Players of Concord are celebrating a big birthday this year – 90 years old. Think about how many performances that is. Say they averaged two shows a year (probably more) and that’s a minimum of 178 shows going into its 10th decade.
But somehow the Players have outdone themselves once again. They’re only the first community theater group in the state to perform The Hunchback of Notre Dame – ever. That’s all.
“We’re billing it as the biggest show the Players has ever done,” said director Bryan Halperin.
So why not head down to the Concord City Auditorium this weekend, and see a little history?
The musical was just released to non-professional acting groups earlier this year for the first time ever.
“It’s so new I really didn’t have it on my radar until I saw it at the Ogunquit Playhouse in summer 2016,” Halperin said. “Then I pitched the show to the Players (last winter) before the rights were even available.”
Once it was open to a community theater company production, Halperin and the Players jumped at the chance.
And it’s quite the undertaking. The musical calls for a cast of 27 storytellers and a 24-person choir. Add in a professional 10-piece orchestra and that’s a lot of moving parts to be ready for on opening night.
“It’s a very big show, one of the more complicated shows I’ve worked on,” Halperin said.
In traditional storytelling theater fashion, it was up to Halperin to make it come to life. He wanted to find a way to justify having such a large choir – for there to be a purpose for the group to be on stage.
So he decided to create a version of the story where the tale of Quasimodo is set in a gothic church. The choir is, well, the choir, while the storytellers are the congregation.
Archdeacon Frollo, played by Jakob Stone, begins the show with a sermon of “What makes a monster? What makes a man?”
The story is then told through the imagination of the congregation as they listen to the sermon.
Quasimodo is taught that people like him don’t belong in the world.
“But he yearns to be part of something bigger,” Halperin said.
There are five major roles in the production: Quasimodo is played by Darik Velez. Stone is the minister/Quasimodo’s caretaker and uncle. Husband and wife (in real life) Joel and Laura Iwaskiewicz play Esmeralda and Phoebus, who play love interests in the show. Clopin, the king of the gypsies, is portrayed by Adam Beauparlant.
Halperin compares it to another one of Victor Hugo’s classics.
“If you like Les Mis, then this is one for you,” he said.
Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for juniors (17 and younger) and seniors, and if bought before Wednesday, you’ll receive a $2 discount.
For more information, visit communityplayersofconcord.org.