FRANKLIN — Summer theatre in Franklin is expanding its reach of talent and resources as this summer’s Teche Theatre production “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” includes a director and a few lead characters from New Iberia.
“The cast has been great we have a few people in the show from New Iberia -- some of them I have worked with before,” Director Mitchell Prudhomme said. “It was great to see them on a different stage.”
Prudhomme’s stage home is IPAL (Iberia Performing Arts League) yet he has quickly adjusted to meeting new theater enthusiasts who share a love for the art and are committed to the often noted cliche “the show must go on”
“Most of the cast is from St. Mary Parish,” Prudhomme noted. “I’m used to using my connections from New Iberia to get through a production, but I’m meeting people and Teche Theatre participants like Bret Casselman who handles set building and props has given great assistance.”
The 28-member cast, which also includes Prudhomme as the character Phoebus, have now started dress rehearsals in preparation for their July 28 opening night.
The summer musical has been made as a Disney production but Prudhomme said Teche Theater’s performance will stick closely to the classic original Victor Hugo novel.
That novel tells the tale of Quasimodo, a disfigured orphan who is taken in by the domineering Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame.
Quasimodo has been sequestered his entire life in a bell tower where his job as a bell ringer occupies his day. He adopts stone gargoyles as his friends before discovering the outside world and the kindness of Esmerelda, a gypsy.
John Lagneaux, 21, of New Iberia plays Quasimodo.
Lagneaux said the play is his favorite one to date and he relates personally to the main character who deals with disfigurement, speech impediments and mental illness.
“I have dealt with PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), it’s a condition that triggers a lot of psychological effects one being extreme OCD and other mental problems,” Lagneaux said.
“I was diagnosed with this at 13 and I have been dealing with it a long time. I recovered from a lot of symptoms from it because I can easily relate to a person trying to deal with intense confusion and fear in dealing with who they are as a person.”
Despite Quasimodo’s physical challenges, it’s his inner man that is sure to resonate with audiences as the relationship between he and the gypsy Esmeralda, played by Franklin native and UL of Lafayette student, Bria Burrell unfolds.
“I’m really enjoying the fierceness of the character but also how vulnerable she is,” Burrell said. “It’s been really fun to play, it’s a challenge because it involves singing, dancing, and acting, so I’m growing in all three areas.”
A third lead character who plays Clopin, the self proclaimed King of the gypsies, is New Iberia native Jasim Ali.
The 15-year-old actor said this production is going to be really special because it’s his last. Ali will be leaving the area to attend Louisiana School of Math Science and the Arts in Natchitoches in the fall.
“There is a lot of hidden meaning in the play, it’s very emotional,” Ali said. “It shows that love is something very precious to us and you shouldn’t waste it. It shows that the true appearance actually comes from the heart,” he added.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” runs at 7 pm on July 28, and 30 and August 1st-3rd with a 3 pm matinee on July 29. Beginning on July 15th, advance tickets will be available at eventbrite.com or Lamp Lighter Antiques.
Advance tickets are $10 for children and $15 for adults.
Tickets are also available at the door for $20.