The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Musical Presented by Colchester Operatic Society at the Mercury

Theatre Like all theatre companies, Colchester Operatic have been yearning and ready to return to the stage, and they do so in triumphant manner with The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

It’s an ambitious choice, technically demanding, with an operatic score that demands everything from the company. And they accept the challenge with enthusiasm, style, and a stage bursting with talent.

The genius of director Adam Woodhouse’s production is in the inspired casting of Quasimodo, the role shared between deaf actor Jestin Bartlett, who is the physical embodiment of the role and signs and performs throughout, and the vocals of Sean Hayes.

But they work as one, moving in perfect synergy, the vocals powerful and beautiful, and you can’t take your eyes off Bartlett, he is a star. It’s a genuinely moving performance.

The two don’t have all the honours though – Cally Kline is a pitch perfect Esmeralda, feisty and strong, Thomas Pleasant an excellent Captain Phoebus, and Wayne Setford is a commanding Frollo, sinister and tortured, and his darkness is matched by the colourful Keegan Featherstone as Clopin.

From the first note, the choral work in this production is outstanding, huge congratulations to the team for creating such powerful and outstanding work. The use of BSL, very much in the news now, is moving and enhances the story.

The band, led by musical director Neil Somerville, are strong, especially in the rousing number Topsy Turvey, and assistant director Laura Hicks has been an essential part of the tram.

The set is perfectly created to allow the continuous movement of the cast, but, and this is a minor quibble, cuts down the stage space, so some of the dance numbers look a little crowded. But this is offset by an evening of many delights, and once the show runs in, will receive rapturous responses.

The show runs until Sunday, February 6.

Review by Paul T Davies