This July, Toowoomba Choral Society (TCS) Youth Choir is bringing to life The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical, in what will be its Australian Premiere on the community stage. Theatre Haus spoke with the director, Harrison Paroz, and lead performer, Evie Heffernan, to gain more insight into this exciting production.
Based on the novel of the 1800s, and the family-favourite Disney film of the 90s, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a timeless tale of a hunchbacked bell-ringer and his desire to one day be a part of the wider world.
Reflecting on the message of the piece, director Harrison Paroz notes, “I think part of the magic of this show is in how universal the themes are – I’m not sure there is a person on earth who doesn’t connect to messages of acceptance, friendship, and inner beauty. As long as you have capable actors who understand the emotional weight of a show, you are bound to end up with a powerful performance.”
And capable they are. TCS Youth Choir is a multi-award-winning performance group – with several Golden Palms under their belt, and graduates now studying at the likes of Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), the Queensland Conservatorium of Music Griffith University and the Victorian College of Arts.
“A lot of my focus has been dedicated to coordinating our cast’s movement throughout the show – this production involves narration and storytelling delivered by a large number of performers. Making sure this flows cohesively is a big job; one which will no doubt pay off!” explains Paroz, who has found it a much easier job with such a talented collective of performers.
The titular role of Quasimodo will be filled by Toowoomba’s Evie Heffernan.
Evie explained, “The role of Quasimodo is completely different to anything I’ve done before. I remember listening to the soundtrack for the first time and [being] blown away…”
A high school student by day, and budding young performer by night, Heffernan was the perfect fit – according to Paroz. “Not only a fantastic performer in her own right, Evie also brings a unique perspective to the role as someone living with a disability. She embodies Quasimodo with ease and has the singing chops to back up her dramatic performance.”
With a huge ensemble, The Hunchback of Notre Dame doesn’t rest entirely on Evie’s shoulders. “Along with a sensational cast of supporting characters and a rock-solid ensemble, this is bound to be a very special performance.”
A regular to the Toowoomba stage himself, Harrison Paroz is a TCS Youth Choir alumni who, after many years of performing, is a first-time director with the group.
A poignant story, Paroz hopes that audiences are inspired by the deeper meaning of the piece – “It sounds like a cliche, but I think an important takeaway is ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’. A beautiful person can be wicked inside, and a hideous person can be gentle and loving inside. Never be too quick to judge another.”
Heffernan agreed, adding, “I’m sorry for the way [Quasimodo] is treated, and everything he has to go through. To some degree, I understand what he has gone through, and he is not alone.”
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ will be presented at the Empire Theatre for one night only on Saturday, 9 July 2022. Tickets can be purchased via the Empire Theatre website.