The Bells of Notre Dame ring off at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater

Kevin Clark is Quasimodo in the Fine Arts Network’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Valley News/Shawna Sarnowski photo
Kit Fugrad as Frollo sings “Hell Fire” along with the ensemble of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Valley News/Shawna Sarnowski photo

Old Town Temecula’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” concludes its run within just a few days, and there has never been a better time to see it than now. This musical

Tori Alforque as Esmeralda sings “God Help the Outcast” in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Valley News/Shawna Sarnowski photo

adaptation is based on the original novel written by Victor Hugo, and includes many of the songs from the Disney animated film of 1996. Merged together, the final result offers audiences an emotionally-driven experience. Presented by the Fine Arts Network, this production was originally intended to debut during early 2020, mere days before the world was forced into a mandatory quarantine.

The show has returned for the community to enjoy, with many of the original performers returning to their roles.

Kevin Clark’s performance as Quasimodo is show-stopping, with a captivating voice that rivals the bells of Notre Dame themselves. His manner of capturing his character’s passion and pain must be experienced to be believed.

Clark has been performing for the past seven years, having started in college with his degree before falling in love with musical theater. He expressed his love for both Fine Arts Network, and the Old Town Theater, and remains grateful for the opportunity to play this character.

Having spent his whole life above Paris and confined to the bell tower, Quasimodo sees the world in a uniquely hopeful light. To embody him with all his sympathetic yet loving traits is no easy fleet, but Clark does so with ease.

“It was tough finding how Quasi carries himself and what limitations he holds as a result of his deformity as well as limited upbringing. It has certainly been rewarding as finding that headspace has opened me up to seeing the world in a new light,” Clark reflects.

One scene in which Clark truly shines, arrives during act two when he sings the song “Made of Stone.” The piece breaks his heart each time it is performed, and acts as the moment his character finally loses all of the hope he has been holding onto. The moment capitalizes on the character’s feeling of powerlessness. How he is unable to change his predicament, to protect the one he loves, and to shake away the ideals his master has conditioned him to believe.

Audience members acquainted with the animated film are in for a different portrayal of Frollo, one that is expertly done by one Kit Fugrad. Fugrad has been performing for thirty years, starting at fourteen years of age. The amount of roles he has portrayed in the past are unspeakably expansive, and he can recollect on them all with such passion.

Unlike the blatantly venomous judge from the animated film, archdeacon Frollo’s most terrifying qualities, and flaws, stem from the fact that he is more innately human within this musical adaptation. Fugrad knows this well.

“There is a quiet, intensely insidious evil that festers in a man like Frollo that is almost difficult to portray. He is vain for all the wrong reasons, a classic narcissist of the nth degree who projects his faults onto others as easily as he breathes. It is his intensity that I enjoy playing, though I try to leave his evil on the stage floor,” Fugrad proclaimed.

“The end result, I feel, is a man who sits neatly in a world of his own design, a miser in a house on fire, clutching his gold to him while his life burns down around him. It is rewarding because it is cathartic, the audience knows that when he dies, the world will be better for it,” he said.

Frollo’s song from the animated film, “Hellfire,” in which he battles relentlessly with his religious beliefs and his desires to either obtain or destroy the gyspy Esmeralda, is translated greatly to the stage. With a set designed by Neil Kapple, the master carpenter for the community theater, scenes such as “Hellfire” feel infinitely more grandiose.

Fugrad says that singing the song is its own reward, as it allows him to unleash an intense downward spiral of malignancy that can only be portrayed in that song. He said that his favorite moment as Frollo is watching Esmerelda dance for the first time. He claims that fellow actress, Tori Alforque, makes it easy to relate to, as she is “a resplendent treasure to behold, and she makes it easy to become entranced with her character.”

The character of Esmerelda dances not only into the hearts of those sharing the stage with her, but those watching from their seats within the house. Identified for her beauty and resilience, Esmeralda offers unwavering kindness to Quasimodo when no one else will, becomes the source of an impure conflict manifesting within Frollo, and stands for the well-being of her people. Her strength is admirable, and her arc concludes in unbelievable tragedy.

Alforque captures all of these traits and thensome as Esmerelda. She has been performing since she was nine years old, beginning as a dancer, and then diverging into musical theater. She says that she has never played a character that she has related to more within her life.

“I love everything about her, even her mistakes come from a good place and I feel like we all can relate to that. I hope that my skills and my devotion to this show have earned me the role,” she expressed.

Alforque explains that in order to bring out the most authentic depiction of fear and sadness, she had to dive deep into her own past experiences. It proved to be a challenge for her mental health, but the reactions she has received from crowds have made it very rewarding. Her efforts in bringing her character to life truly cannot be understated.

Her favorite moment from the production is a duet she shares with Clark, “Top of the World.” She views it as the calm before the storm, where both Quasimodo and Esmerelda overlook the city from the top of Notre Dame. It is a moment of reprieve, where Clark and Alforque earnestly demonstrate the newfound bond between their characters.

Chris Campell, husband of the show’s director Brittany Campbell, also wonderfully portrays the character Captain Phoebus. Campbell has been performing for most of his life, and his time spent with Fine Arts Network is now nearing twenty years. He claims that their productions are fun and top-notch, and full of people who are supportive and talented. As someone who has always enjoyed the art of performing, he encourages everyone to give it a shot.

Campbell believes the Captain to be brimming with complexity. At the beginning of the production, Phoebus is plucked from the frontlines of war and promoted captain. He is then ordered to aid Frollo in hunting down and imprisoning the gypsies. But as the show progresses, and his relationships with the rest of the primary characters shift, his devotion to those orders are continuously put to the test. He too, develops feelings for Esmerelda. Unlike Frollo, or Quasimodo for that matter, she reciprocates his feelings. Yet in the end, they are still used against him.

“We want to root for him as he clearly cares for Esmerelda and ultimately does the right thing, but he starts off on the wrong side and has to overcome internal struggles in the process. I really enjoy the challenge of showing his journey,” he said.

Adding onto the character’s layers of complexity, Campbell said that conveying Phoebus’ PTSD was the hardest part in playing his character, as he has never been in combat. Campbell aimed to convey it effectively, while also remaining sensitive to any audience members who may also suffer from it. He hopes that lots of individuals come to see this production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” for both its entertainment and great message. There are only a few more opportunities left to see this show before it concludes its run, but it is a spectacle worth enjoying. Tickets remain available for Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 at 7:30PM, and Oct. 23 at 2:00PM, right here at this website: