The 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle is staging a new rendition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the month of June, loosely based on the Disney film, but with darker tones drawn from the original Victor Hugo novel. This new version of Hunchback has the notable distinction of starring a deaf actor in the lead role of Quasimodo – a character who was deaf in Hugo’s story. Joshua M. Castille was first seen on Broadway in the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening; he will play Quasimodo using American Sign Language, while E.J. Cardona will be Quasimodo’s “voice” and one of the gargoyles.
Hunchback at the 5th Avenue will also feature three thespians from Olympia. Ensemble members Kristin Burch and Zoe Raphael are both Olympia High School graduates. Well-known Olympia actress Carolyn Willems Van Dijk is also featured in the ensemble. (Olympians may recognize her by her married surname, “Fry.”)
Willems Van Dijk is often cast beside Broadway performers and up-and-coming musical theater stars in musicals at The 5th Avenue Theater. In recent years, The 5th Avenue has premiered 17 new musicals, nine of which subsequently moved on to Broadway. Notable examples include Catch Me If You Can, Jekyll & Hyde, Memphis, Shrek the Musical and The Wedding Singer—all of which were Tony award winners on Broadway. Other notable projects at The 5th Avenue included Disney’s Aladdin musical, A Christmas Story, First Date and Hairspray.
In the past five years, Willems Van Dijk has been cast in seven mainstage productions at The 5th Avenue, including Cinderella, Elf the Musical, Oklahoma, Paint Your Wagon, The Sound of Music, and The Pajama Game. She was not cast in The 5th Avenue’s original premiere of First Date, but she was featured in a hilarious rendition of this romantic comedy in Olympia at Harlequin Productions in summer 2017.
The 5th Avenue’s work to include a deaf actor in the lead has inspired her. “It’s really exciting to be part of a project that is taking so many steps to be more accessible and more inclusive,” says Willems Van Dijk. “The more barriers we break down, the more people we can reach with this important story. I think the ultimate goal is that everyone would feel welcome and represented at the theater, and this production is a huge step in the right direction.”
Hunchback should be an amazing experience for cast, crew, and audience. This new edition of the musical will feature songs from the Disney animated feature and new music from legendary composers Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Newsies) and Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell and Pippin). Eight of the performances will be ASL-interpreted for deaf audiences.
“This show centers around people who have historically been, and who continue to be, marginalized in our society,” says Willems Van Dijk. “It’s a really emotional journey that doesn’t let you off the hook at the end. There’s no convenient happily-ever-after moment. For me, our finale feels like a call to action. “Someday…” life will be better. We can make it better. We have to.”
(Please note that although the musical has the same name as the Disney movie, this show may not be suitable for children, given adult subject matter and darker plot points derived from Victor Hugo’s original novel.)
WHAT: Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Musical
WHEN: June 1-24
WHERE: 5th Avenue Theater
1308 5th Avenue Seattle, WA
HOW MUCH: $29-$115
5thAvenue.org | (206) 625-1900