Notre Dame de Paris

Previewed 15 May 2000, Opened 23 May 2000, Closed 6 October 2001 at the Dominion Theatre in London

The London Premiere of the Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon stage musical Notre-Dame de Paris.

The original Notre-Dame de Paris cast studio album has sold 3.5 million copies in France and Europe. The song 'Belle' from the show was No.1 in the French charts for 33 weeks while over a million copies of the video and DVD of the stage show have been sold. The English version features lyrics by Will Jennings, who wrote the words to hit song 'My Heart Will Go On' from the movie Titanic.

Notre-Dame de Paris is based on the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo and has music by Richard Cocciante with original lyrics by Luc Plamondon and English lyrics by Will Jennings. Directed by Gilles Maheu with choreography by Martino Muller, sets by Christian Ratz and costumes by Fred Sathal.

"A big hit in France, Notre Dame de Paris makes no effort to dramatise the story or waste any time on characters or scenes. It is a show based on a CD with track after track relentlessly booming out to the musical accompaniment of a synthesiser. Energetic dancers run, writhe and somersault as a visual backing track and the lighting resembles a pop concert... It has to be said that composer Richard Cocciante and the lyricists Luc Plamondon and Will Jennings have come up with enough numbers to fill a long evening (two and a half hours). But there's no pause, no reflection, no dramatic insight. Quasimodo is deaf, Notre Dame is dumb." The Independent on Sunday

"The arrival in London's West End of the French Notre Dame de Paris hopefully does not signal the end of the stage musical as we know it, but it sure isn't like any other you have seen. There's no orchestra. The cast sings the soft rock score to what sounds like an electronically produced backing track - it's a show where you exit humming the computer... On the credit side there is some terrific acrobatic dancing and daring clambering up and down the walls of Notre Dame Cathedral, but what all this has to do with Victor Hugo's tragic story of the hunchback Quasimodo and his devotion to Esmerelda is unclear. Luc Plamondon wrote the book and original lyrics, Richard Cocciante the repetitive music and Gilles Maheu directs with astonishing bravado. Les Miserables, it isn't. Miserable it is." The News of the World

"Les Miserables has a lot to answer for – it gave credibility to sung-through musicals based on gloomy chunks of French Lit. Now here comes Victor Hugo’s other best-seller in a show that has knocked them for six on the Continent, Notre Dame de Paris. Why, I can’t work out. It’s not even a proper musical – there’s no orchestra, just a thundering soundtrack and a lot of moody young men with long hair mincing about... Still, it’s all very visual. The chorus of choreographed refugees is endlessly acrobatic... Design-wise, Christian Ratz’s concept is a disaster, involving huge blocks of ugly concrete representing Paris’s beautiful cathedral. Richard Cocciante’s surging Euro-pop score isn’t bad as far as it goes and Tina Arena raises the pulse when she lets rip in Live For the One I Love. But of romance, beguilement and fantasy, there’s little. The show is all bats and no belfry." The Daily Express

"The bells, the bells. After the classic novel, several movies and a Disney cartoon, comes the all-singing, all-dancing, all-screaming, all-shouting stage version of Victor Hugo's tragic 19th century love story of the hunchback and the gypsy girl. You won't remember the songs, which all sound the same, but you will go home with a ringing in your ears. Australian songbird Tina Arena makes a seductive Esmeralda in a figure-hugging gown that is slashed to the thigh... There is no dialogue and precious little acting. Mostly the cast stand around waiting for their turn to have a good shout. The French have dropped a clanger shipping this rag-bag of a rock opera across The Channel. Even if it doesn't give you the hump it is bound to give you a headache." The Daily Mirror

"The kindest thing to say about Notre-Dame De Paris, the new French blockbuster which opened at the vast Dominion Theatre this week, is that something - perhaps everything - has been lost in translation. But the rubbishy lyrics are so fantastically inaudible that I can't be sure... A potentially gripping and thrilling tale more badly told, deadly boring and risibly witless (I laughed, but for all the wrong reasons) would be hard to imagine... When it opened in Paris, this 'musical spectacular' attracted two million spectators, and sales of the soundtrack, featuring Celine Dion, topped seven million. Well, I'm quite a fan of Celine, but two-and-a-half hours of relentlessly soupy, slushy, anguished and gushing stuff is, inevitably, a dramatic cul-de-sac. The show's creators - rock musicians - have endeavoured to give Hugo's original a contemporary spin by dressing the cast like asylum seekers who appear to be sleeping rough. Quite why is a mystery, except that it provides an excuse for costumes in which medieval meets modern in the shape of designer grunge, tie-dye, sequins, Glastonbury hair extensions, hoodies, baggies and so on... The breathtaking gymnastics on display wouldn't look out of place in a Chinese circus but, alas, are dramatically meaningless. What's the French word for flop? Blancmange will do nicely." The Mail on Sunday

Tina Arena, who originated the role of 'Esmeralda' in this London production said: "I feel like the part of Esmeralda was written for me. Love is an important part of what Esmeralda is about and she'll do anything to search for real love - at whatever cost. I guess in many ways I'm like that myself. I identify with Esmeralda because she is a free spirit. She wants to enjoy herself and her time. She fights for what she believes in. Like her, I do what pleases me rather than trying to please someone else. And I have a strong voice. I am not afraid to be vocal. Taking on her character has made me aware of my power as a woman. Esmeralda is a powerful creature - adored, special. Instead of denying this power in myself I am learning to acknowledge and embrace it. Playing this role has brought me out of my shell. It made me realise the strength of my spirit. It has taught me to be proud. Not to hide. She has taught me to be true to myself, to fulfil the things I want to do and to be what I am."

Notre-Dame de Paris in London at the Doninion Theatre previewed from 15 May 2000, opened on 23 May 2000 and closed on 6 October 2001.