Just over three years after it opened, Walt Disney Theatricals' The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a stage adaptation of its animated musical film, will close in Berlin, June 16. The world premiere production opened June 5, 1999 at the Musical Theater at the Potsdamer Platz.
Stella Ag, the show's German production company, has already worked with Disney in bringing the German language Beauty and the Beast to London and Stuttgart. Stella generally brings in Broadway shows (in German) to German cities; this was the company's first world premiere.
In a statement, Stella Entertainment AG's CEO, Klaus von der Heyde, said that Hunchback succumbing at this time was in keeping with the company's desire to rotate shows every three years. "For us, the rhythm is optimal," he said. Another Stella-Disney project is expected to be announced in the weeks ahead.
Back in January 1998, plans were underway to bring the show to Broadway with James Lapine (Into the Woods) directing. Nothing came of that project, however, according to spokesperson Chris Boneau (reached Jan. 22), Disney is still developing the tuner for an American stage version, and Storyline Entertainment (Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) are developing a live-action, television-movie musical of the material for ABC-TV's "World of Disney." No set time frame has yet been announced for the appearance of either project.
According to Variety (May 11, 2001), Sally Robinson is scripting the TV movie, with Jeff Bleckner to direct. Other Storyline Entertainment projects include "Cinderella" and "Annie" and the upcoming "The Music Man" and "Mame." The original cast of the Berlin Hunchback featured Drew Sarich as Quasimodo and Judy Weiss as Esmerelda. Weiss is a young singer from Berlin who had a hit with Italian Tenor Andrea Bocelli called "Vivo per Lei."
Alan Menken wrote nine new songs to go along with the existing tunes from the film. Stephen Schwartz has penned the lyrics, while James Lapine is in charge of the libretto. Schwartz's works include Children Of Eden, Pippin and Godspell.
Based on Victor Hugo's novel about a misshappen man with a beautiful soul who yearns for the world beyond his belltower and falls in love with a gypsy girl, the film was directed by Kirk Wise and Garry Trousdale. Another Hugo novel, Les Miserables, was the source for the long- running stage musical.
— By David Lefkowitz and Robert Simonson