MEET THE DIRECTOR – Christy McIntosh-Newsom

What initially drew you to directing The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
The Disney animated film has always been one of my favorites, and it has one of the most gorgeous scores I have ever heard in my life. I can’t listen to it without crying! I also love the challenge of directing an ensemble piece, in which we have a kind of Greek chorus of twenty-one people inhabiting every character from the story. We have a beautiful unit set, designed by Bill Stark, and we need to transform one space into about ten different locations, so it’s up to our ensemble to transport us to each place and tell each chapter of this story. Each and every actor is supported by a thirteen-person choir of glorious singers who never leave the stage. It’s a really cool way to tell a story and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences. Additionally, the show’s themes of inclusion and acceptance are more relevant now than ever. It’s really a beautiful show.

When people hear “Hunchback” many will probably think of the Disney animated film. Can you talk a little bit about how the musical differs from the film?
So this stage adaptation follows the Disney plot very closely, with a few exceptions. It’s definitely a little darker. We get a lot more of Frollo’s backstory, and thus we get a little deeper into his downward spiral. I would say it’s definitely a PG rating. “Hellfire” is probably the most frightening Disney song ever written, and it’s a chilling moment on stage. We do, however, include the color, brightness, and circus-y fun of the film, so I think it’s a good balance. We also have the ensemble playing every role in the show, so there aren’t three gargoyle sidekicks, but an ensemble of amazing actors inhabiting the statues, gargoyles, and chimeras of Notre Dame in one scene, and then gypsies, soldiers and Kings in the next scene.

Is there a line in the show that speaks to you the most?
The lyrics from “God Help the Outcasts,” sung by Esmeralda, have always touched me, and now more than ever. “I ask for nothing. I can get by, but I know so many less lucky than I. Please help my people- the poor and downtrod. I thought we all were the children of God.”

What has been your most memorable production you have directed at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre?

Each production I’ve worked on here has been special for different reasons and has been artistically fulfilling in different ways. I think that “Dreamgirls” will always hold a special place in my heart, however, because that cast and that show lifted me up after the passing of my mother. I’m not sure how I could have survived without the support and love from my theatre family. That’s the most amazing thing about art and music. The capability to heal and uplift one another through art is unbelievable. I’m grateful to be with this group of artists now– listening to them sing this beautiful music is lifting me up.