An Interview With Hunchback of Notre Dame Lyricist Stephen Schwartz

In spring 2015, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey started a limited run of a new stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Notice, I didn’t say “Disney’s” Hunchback.  Admittedly, this isn’t as family-friendly as other Disney stage shows like Mary Poppins, Aladdin or The Lion King. Indeed, this play is inspired by the Disney animated feature as well as another Victor Hugo novel, “Notre Dame de Paris” but the Disney name has been left off the marquee this time.

Copyright Disney Theatrical

Copyright Disney Theatrical

Admittedly, Hunchback was one of Disney’s darkest animated movies and while not a huge hit at the box office, it has a large following amongst adults who understand the more advanced themes (it was Michael Eisner’s personal favorite animated film while he was CEO).

Copyright Walt Disney Feature Animation

Copyright Walt Disney Feature Animation

Bringing it to the stage has been a difficult journey, starting in 1999 when Disney Theatrical opened its first show outside of the United States when Notre Dame debuted in Berlin, Germany.  Using more of the source material than animated feature, the German show was one of the longest running in Berlin’s history and had an admittedly darker tone than anything Disney Theatrical had done prior.

Copyright Disney Theatrical

Copyright Disney Theatrical

On October 26, 2014 a new version of Hunchback opened at the La Jolla Playhouse near San Diego, California. This version was adapted for American audiences and directed by Scott Schwartz, son of Stephen Schwartz, lyricist for Disney’s “Hunchback” animated film.

After a successful run in California, the show closed and reopened at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Photo: Matthew Murphy

To be sure, this is not your typical kid-friendly Disney theatrical show. Not that there is any sex, violence or foul language, however, the sets are not strikingly “shiny,” most of the show is very heavy (as is the movie) and there are certainly adult themes throughout.

Copyright Disney Theatrical

Copyright Disney Theatrical

Recently, a Theme Park University reporter was at an interview at the Paper Mill Playhouse where Hunchback is playing through April 5, 2015, with Stephen Schwartz and the artistic director of the theater.  We have exclusive audio of the interview and you can listen to it via the link below!

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