French Music and Dance Spectacular Notre Dame de Paris Makes New York Debut
By: Ellis Nassour
July 9, 2022: After more than two decades playing in over 23 countries (selling more than 15 million tickets and millions of original cast albums), Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon’s Notre Dame de Paris, the international musical and dance sensation adapted from Victor Hugo’s 1831 classic novel,makes it long-awaited and much-anticipated New York debut. It officially and aptly opens at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre on Bastille Day, Thursday, July 14. It will preview on July 13. In all, there’ll be 12 performances (including matinees) through July 24.
The production, from producers Nicolas and Charles Talar and Adam Blanshay, will be performed in French with English supertitles and featuring an international 30-member cast and live orchestra. The quite avant-garde production tells the timeless story of the disfigured Notre Dame Cathedral bell ringer Quasimodo, and his devotion to the beautiful Esmeralda, a tale that has inspired generations of readers, and been adapted for films, opera, ballet, and TV.
In 1998, Italian singer and composer Richard Cocciante and legendary French songwriter Luc Plamondon adapted the title for their unique musical extravaganza, combining elements of musical theater, dance, and acrobatics. The production originally debuted at the Palais des Congrès in Paris in 1998, where in its first year, it sold more than a million tickets and over three million albums, making it the most successful musical production ever, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Co-producer Talar says, “It has long been a dream to stage Notre Dame de Paris in New York. After more than two decades and a wait made longer due to the pandemic, it is truly a thrill to know we will share this immortal story with New York audiences in one of the greatest arts complexes in the world. We hope Notre Dame de Paris will please our existing fans as well as make new ones.”
The score of Notre Dame de Paris is on LP and has produced two hit singles: “Belle,” which has received airplay in 17 countries, and “Vivre [Live],” recorded in English, has been a hit for international superstar Céline Dion.
The principals in the cast of 30 are Angelo Del Vecchio as Quasimodo, Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda, Daniel Lavoie as Frollo, Gian Marco Schiaretti as Gringoire, Yvan Pedneault as Phoebus, Jay as Clopin, and Emma Lépine as Fleur de Lys. Each has played these roles in countless worldwide productions in many languages.
If there is one name associated with French songwriting around the world, it is Luc Plamondon (book and lyrics). This prolific written has penned over 500 songs and five musicals. With composer Michel Berger, he wrote the first French rock opera, Starmania. He’s the recipient of several Quebec Felix Awards, the French Victoires de la Musique, a World Music Award (Notre Dame de Paris) and the career achievement MIDEM Award. Plamondon was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Knight of the French Legion of Honour and is the first Quebecer inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Long before Notre Dame de Paris became an international success, Richard (music) Cocciante was already established as an international artist-singer-composer with more than 40 albums in Italian, Spanish, and French. He’s written for the stage (Starmania), opera, and film. He began a second career as composer of People’s Opera from Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince to Giuletta E Romeo.
Directing is Canadian actor, writer, director, teacher, set designer, choreographer, and filmmaker, Gilles Maheu. Celebrating four decades in show business, he was awarded the Compagnon des Arts et des Lettres du Québec for his contribution to cultural life. With his company Carbone 14, he toured over 30 countries and received numerous awards.
Choreographer Swiss former figure skater Martino Müller, danced with the Stuttgart Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. He’s won numerous awards and staged works worldwide, including in Austria, Macao, Singapore (Cendrillon), and for the Belgium theater spectacular Peter Pan, the Never-Ending Story.
The lead cast:
Angelo Del Vecchio (Quasimodo), is an international opera star and pianist, who began his career in theatre at age 15. He starred in the Italian, Asian, Russian, Turkish and Middle Eastern adaptations of Notre Dame de Paris. He also had the lead in a huge Spanish hit, Rock Revolution.
Hiba Tawaji (Esmeralda), a Lebanese opera singer, stage/film/TV actress, recording star, filmmaker, and director, has firmly established herself in the music scene throughout the Arab world. Disney Theatrical Group and Stage Entertainment selected Tawaji as the voice of Jasmine in the French release of Aladdin. She was also invited by tenor Andrea Bocelli to join him in concerts.
Canadian poet, composer, actor, comic, and prolific recording artist (20 albums) Daniel Lavoie (Frollo) is celebrating four decades in worldwide show business. He’s the recipient of a dozen French Canadian Félix Awards, four French Victoires de la Musique Awards, and a World Music Award for his participation Notre Dame de Paris.
Gian Marco Schiaretti (Gringoire) is an accomplished worldwide opera star. In Europe, Disney Theatrical chose him to play Tarzan (nearly 1,000 times) in their hugely-successful production of Phil Collins and David Henry Hwang’s musical. He also starred on the West End, Europe, and the UAE as Che in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita.
Yvan Pedneault (Phoebus) is an international rock star/recording artist. Brian May and Roger Taylor, founding members of rock group Queen, chose him at 25 to play the lead the Toronto production of We Will Rock You, which ran two years and earned Pedneault numerous acting honors. Following a tour across Ontario in Rock of Ages, he was chosen by Taylor to star in the first North American tour of Queen Extravaganza. Eventually, all roads led to co-starring in Notre Dame de Paris in eight countries.
Nicolas and Charles Talar, the original producers of Notre Dame de Paris, have been a team since 2000. Charles produced European records since the early 70s. In 1996, he developed Notre Dame de Paris into France’s most successful production. Their shows have played worldwide. On Broadway, they are co-producers of the Tony-winning Moulin Rouge! – as well as on the West End and in Australia.– and the Broadway revival of Funny Girl.
Eight-time Tony and six-time Olivier Award winner Adam Blanshay has produced and co-produced theater across the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. Recent shows on Broadway include The Inheritance, Moulin Rouge!, and the Funny Girl revival. He’s deeply involved in presenting highly-acclaimed French theatre for English-speaking audiences.
Tickets for Notre Dame de Paris can be purchased without outrageous fees, in person at the Koch Theatre box office, via the Koch Theater website at www.davidhkochtheater.com, or by phone at (212) 496-0600. The Koch does “dynamic pricing,” which means prices may change. However, for a number of performances tickets from the site range from $27 – $303. The sooner you purchase, the better for best pricing.
The Notre Dame de Paris performance schedule is weeknight performances are at 7;30 P.M. Friday and Saturday nights at 8 P.M.; Sunday night at 6 P.M.; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 P.M.