I love Catalyst Theatre. I am a huge fan of their work so I’m not even going to pretend otherwise. And, last night I had the amazing opportunity to be at the Opening Night performance of Hunchback.
The first time I experienced the magic of Catalyst Theatre was at Nevermore two years ago. Back then I didn’t know anything about Catalyst or their shows so I walked in a completely neutral party and left in wonderment. I was blown away by the production and didn’t hesitate to say so afterwards. It was my first time experiencing Catalyst, and although there can only ever be one first time, Hunchback did not disappoint. Not in the slightest.
I did, however, get to experience my friends first time at a Catalyst production and that, in and of itself, was a gift. I have been raving and talking about Catalyst for two years so my friend has heard it all and was so excited to be seeing Hunchback. But, how do you put into words everything you feel and see and experience at a Catalyst show? How do you do it justice? The answer is: you can’t. It has to be experienced to be appreciated in the same way. So, when the finale was complete, and we had leapt to our feet with applause, and my friend turned to look at me with tears in her eyes, a look of utter shock, awe and admiration, I knew exactly how she was feeling. Through my friend I got to experience my first time again and I got to watch as yet another person was taken away and transformed by their theatre experience. This is the power of the theatre. This is the power of Catalyst.
So, I am not going to sit here and write a detailed review of Hunchback. Instead I am going to give you my top 5 moments from the production and then I am going to ask you to go out and experience it for yourself. Trust me it will be worth it.
1. When Captain Phoebus comes riding in on his horse drawn carriage. This was the epic design moment of the first half.
2. The second epic design moment of the night came at the top of the second half. I walked into the theatre thinking how could it possibly get better than the Captain Phoebus moment? Oh it did. The second half started with a giant Judge puppet whose arms were maneuvered by the ensemble actors as Esmeralda was given her sentence.
3. And, every time I thought it couldn’t get any better, it just kept getting better. The moment Robert Markus (playing the role of Jehan du Maulin) stepped onto stage in the second half and the choral boys choir music started and then he whipped out this bone-chilling countertenor (ie. boy soprano voice) I nearly died. That was a moment of pure beauty.
4. Then the bells of Notre Dame – oh the bells! – float in from the rafters illuminated from within and the most heart wrenching scene between Quasimodo and Esmeralda takes place with startling simplicity.
5. And, finally, the finale. That song. My god, that song! There is a reason the lady in the stall next to me was still humming the tune in the bathroom after the show was over.
Then after the performance I had the amazing pleasure of finally getting to meet and chat with Bretta Gerecke (Production Designer) after chatting with her for almost an hour on the phone and I tell you she is just as lovely in person. Then, as an added bonus, I also got to meet and chat with the man himself, Jonathan Christenson (Director/Writer/Composer). As I was saying to my friend, as the reception was drawing to a close at 12:30am, I just want to dive into their brains and swim around in there for awhile. Because, how they come up with these ideas and productions is beyond me.
I go to these Catalyst shows and get swept up in the experience and have an amazing time. But, then when I sit back and actually think about it I realize he, Jonathan, writes all those beautiful music & lyrics and she, Bretta, does not only the costumes but also the set and the lighting and then - and then - they combine it so beautifully, along with the polished and masterful choreography, to create a show like Hunchback. I don’t know. I just don’t know. It’s mind-boggling.
Catalyst Theatre’s Hunchback will play at the Vancouver Playhouse until March 10th. Get your tickets soon before they're gone. I mean it. You do not want to miss this show! I’ve already got my ticket (paid for with my own dollars and dimes) to see it again at the March 6th talkback evening. Maybe I will see you there.