Since the beginning of time, the human race has debated what makes you a “man” (human) verse a “beast”. From a scientific perspective, evolution theories say humans stemmed from the beast. Yet according to many religious traditions man was created.  Yet each of us has the ability to behave civilized or to behave badly which is at the heart of the debate of; are we a human or beast at heart. There’s a Cherokee story told by a Cherokee Chief to his grandson about two wolves, and it serves as an excellent life parable. … “The end message is this my son, the battle is between two ’wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” The grandson thinks for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee Chief simply replied, “the one that you feed.”

 

In that simple story, it sums up the battle we each have. But it is not the only story that leaves a message on this topic of are we human or beast.  Two stories stand out. Both told in film format by Disney. “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

 

“Beauty and the Beast” (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740.  Her lengthy version was abridged, rewritten, and published first by Jeane-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. The story was then turned into an animated movie by Disney in 1991 and then later into a live action version in 2017. The story has such messages as “Love is stronger than hate” and it’s not what is on the outside but what is on the inside that counts.

 

The second story “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is a novel by Victor Hugo which was adapted for screen and stage and been told in various films and on TV. The novel’s original French title, “Notre-Dame de Paris” which is a double entendre: it refers to Notre Dame Cathedral, on which the story is centered, and Esmeralda, the novel’s main character who is “our Lady of Paris” and the center of the human drama within the story.  It explores the idea or what makes you a human and what makes you a monster. It also takes a look at what a hero really is. The late Christopher Reeves who played Superman said this “ I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”.  That quote sums up the story of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

 

Based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney animated feature, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” showcases the film’s Academy Award-nominated score, as well as new songs by Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz. Featuring the characters of the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, Quasimodo the deformed “Bell Ringer” with a heart of gold, the handsome “Captain Phoebus,  Frollo, and the evil Cardinal”… all brought to life in a magical production.

 

Through all the productions that have been done on stage in London Ontario, never has “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” ever seen the stage lights in the rich theatre town of London Ontario… that is until now. The very “big and difficult to mount and put on” production is being presented at the Palace Theatre in London by AK Arts Academy.  The production’s Musical Director is the Creative Director of AK Arts Academy, Alexandra Kane. The show was produced by Jason McMannis and directed by Kaitlyn Rietdyk. The play is starring Colton Abel as Quasimodo, Diegra Kambamba as Esmeralda and Ben Kennes as Archdeacon Claude Frollo.

 

“What makes a monster, and what makes a man? A story that can be described as ‘Hauntingly human’. This classic tale of life, love, and loss forces you to feel every emotion”, says the play’s producer Jason McMannis.

 

The production was well done and very dramatic. Especially knowing the work that goes into pulling off a play of this size and complexity. The cast was very good and have created a very solid show that delivers the message of the story in a way that moved the audience.

 

This production even has connections back to iFilmGroup and m & s Marshall productions. The first is the lead actor Colton Abel. Matthew Marshall co-founder of iFilmGroup and co-owner of m & s Marshall productions was stage manager for a number AVSS musical theatre shows when Colton was in High School in St. Thomas.
The second and bigger connection is Zach Wilson who was part of the Hunchback productions ensemble cast.  He plays a few roles within the production, but the main one is the Guard for the cathedral.

Wilson has acted in several  m & s Marshall Productions, as well he is a member of iFilmGroup  Zach was a student in Malicious Attack, Rob in Summer of Discovery and one of the basketball boys in Blue Love. Even with being a part of the ensemble cast Zach showcased his pure talent. He has continued to work on his stagecraft and improve his vocals as his voice has been maturing. Marshall says…“It’s always a pleasure watching Zach on stage”.

 

The iFilmGroup team has not ruled out Zach being a part of some future cast with iFilmGroup. “He has a bright future and is a star,” says iFilmGroup’s other co-founder Don Hickey.

 

Hunchback of Notre Dame will run until Feb 24th. But there will be no rest for iFilmGroup member Zach Wilson as he will be jumping into the leading role at his high school for their production. More details to come later but the teaser is that he will be belting out notes with his wonderful voice again.

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