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Bells ring out as Hunchback Of Notre Dame brings live theatre back to Aberdeen

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, staged by Phoenix Theatre, features Jonnie Milne with, from left, Adam Huckle ,Jo Gallagher, Mark Smith and Ian Baxter.
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, staged by Phoenix Theatre, features Jonnie Milne with, from left, Adam Huckle ,Jo Gallagher, Mark Smith and Ian Baxter.

It Disney get any better than the Hunchback Of Notre Dame leading the return of live theatre in the north-east after the Christmas Covid lockdown on venues.

Not only will the show bring the lights back up at Aberdeen Arts Centre on Tuesday January 25, it is the Scottish premiere of the amateur version of the musical and also a belated 30th-anniversary production for Phoenix Theatre.

Jonnie Milne, who will be playing the iconic role of Quasimodo, said the whole cast and team were delighted to be getting back on stage for a host of reasons.

“I think it’s definitely an honour to be ushering theatre back to the Granite City,” he said.

Jonnie Milne and Jo Gallagher are both thrilled to be back on stage with The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

“It will also be our first show in two years, it’s the Scottish amateur premiere of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and this is technically our delayed 30th anniversary production.”

Why is Hunchback Of Notre Dame such a special show?

The hugely-popular amateur company had planned to stage Annie in January last year as their milestone production to celebrate three decades. That was swept away as theatres went dark during the pandemic.

Even this production of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was delayed, initially pencilled in for a run in November last year.

“It’s everything all happening at once this week, so it’s overwhelming for me,” said Jonnie, who works in communications.

And Jo Gallagher, who will take on the role of Esmerelda, agreed Hunchback would be a fantastic return to live performance.

Expect tears, laughter and lots of songs from Phoenix Theatre’s show.

“It’s such as special show to come back with,” she said. “It’s one that people tend to think maybe they know, because they’ve seen the Disney film, but because it’s more related to the book, it’s quite surprising in some ways.”

Jo, who manages a children’s oral health programme with the NHS, said the show was a hybrid between the Disney film and the original novel by Victor Hugo.

What can you expect from this musical premiere?

“It’s the story you think you know if you’ve seen the Disney film, but with some darker nuances through the plot and it’s really moving. I think it will bring a lot of tears.”

Both agree that the main appeal of the show is the music, which Jonnie described as being stunning.

“It’s the music from the film and everyone in the company has brought their A-game to it and it’s also very funny,” said Jonnie, who counts Hunchback as his favourite Disney film.

Jonnie Milne during rehearsals for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

Jo and Jonnie also praised the rest of the Phoenix Theatre cast who have the task of turning the much-loved animated gargoyles and statues of the film into stage characters.

Not only that, they also help the slick staging of the production as they move stairs and other sets and props around to re-create Disney magic.

Jonnie said: “I’m standing in front of them when it’s happening, and it’s mystifying how they can remember what they’re doing and do it so gracefully. It’s definitely going to be a feast for the eyes as well.”

Where can you get tickets for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame?

Both Jo and Jonnie have loved not only getting into character as the two leads, but also the rehearsal process that has seen long-absent cast members get back together with some emotional moments as they prepare to tread the boards at long last.

And the relief among the company was palpable when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that restrictions on indoor events – including theatres – would end on Monday January 24.

Expect some dark twists in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

Jo has high hopes the audience at Aberdeen Art Centre will be just as overjoyed to see The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

“I hope that they have that nostalgia for a film they’ve probably loved from being a child, but see a differing side to it,” she said.

“But most of all I hope they enjoy being out with their friends and experiencing live theatre again.”

Jonnie chimed in with: “I hope that after so many months without theatre in the north-east, we live up to your expectations. I’m sure you’re going to have a fantastic time.”

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame runs at Aberdeen Arts Centre from Tuesday January 25 to Saturday January 29 and tickets are available from www.aberdeenartscentre.com

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