Before the official start of the first rehearsal, the cast gathered in the auditorium while Coleman, their new director, explained his directing process and reasoning for choosing Hunchback as this year’s fall musical.
“Everyone outside this theater thinks we’re putting on the Disney movie,” Coleman said.
He discussed the deeper themes in the show that go beyond the Disney animation: the main character is a physically deformed, biracial orphan who struggles with his identity, and Esmeralda boldly stands up to oppression from the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, who sexually assaults her. Coleman also explained how the treatment of the Gypsies in the story reflects today’s treatment of immigrants trying to cross the southern border of the United States.
“The show is very powerful,” Wayman said. “It’s a story that’s definitely going to move the audience — or at least, we hope is going to move the audience — because it deals with so many prevalent things in society today: sexism, rape, racism.”
After Coleman’s introduction, the cast went through a brief movement warm-up and sat on stage in a circle for a table read-through of the show. While reading a scene, the actors asked each other questions to further understand the emotions and motives behind each characters’ actions.
After that first day, rehearsals quickly picked up. Although the directors didn’t call the whole cast everyday, rehearsals ran until 6 p.m. all week long. The cast spent the first half of each rehearsal on music and the second half on choreography and blocking, which is the direction for the actions and movements of the characters in a scene.
In the second week of rehearsal, Wayman and other actors reviewed the Latin music for the opening number.
“The first number is called ‘Olim,’ and it’s all Latin,” Wayman said. “There are six parts to it, and there’s a lot of dialogue in between the actual music. It’s really important to the story because it tells the backstory of all the characters.”
In between blocking scenes, Blanks went over his lines in the back of the auditorium because Coleman expected actors to have all lines memorized after blocking. When the cast revisited a scene, he didn’t allow them to bring scripts onstage.
“We’ve had a few directors here, and not all directors do it the same,” Blanks said. “Chris [Gerken] expected people to show up memorized before he blocked a scene. Randy [Snight] didn’t mind as long as you were saying your lines. He’d rather that you held your book than not know your lines.”
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