There’s something about young voices joined in song that can make even the dreariest of stories seem brighter.
drama program, in its inaugural performance, breathed fresh life into Victor Hugo’s classic tale “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
“A Tale of the Hunchback,” set inside the famed Cathedral of Notre Dame in 19th century Paris, was performed this week.
Led by the musical narration of Julia Atkins, a petite fifth grader with remarkable talent and poise, the 50-child cast entertained three packed performances in the school cafeteria.
Sean Kim, who played the Hunchback, Quasimodo; Tina Le, who played the evil mayor of Paris, Frollo; Timothy Davis, who played Phoebus, the captain of the guards; and Erin Tu, who played Esmerelda, the gypsy who helps to rescue Quasimodo from the tower; each demonstrated the hidden talents that children don’t always feel confident sharing.
“The children at VFES worked so hard for this performance and I am impressed by their dedication and talent,” said Timothy Whiting, the music director who led the performance.
“This was a project of love for me, but without the support of my colleagues, the school administration and staff, and of course the parents and the entire student body, we couldn’t have pulled this off," Whiting said. "For many of these kids it was their first experience on stage, but I have to believe, based on how they connected, they will be back.”
School Principal Anne Gold agreed: “I have always been a supporter of the arts and believe it is important to expose children to the arts in school."
"I have been so pleased with the progress we have made as a student and faculty body over our first few years, but this project, I think really demonstrated what a cohesive place this really is,” Gold said.
“The Tale of the Hunchback,” written by Keith W. Derrickson, adds levity to the original tale to make it more familiar with today’s audiences.
The gargoyles in the tower were also referred to as "The Stones," Mic, Jaeger, Rollin, Fire, Flint, Rip and Olivia, offering subtleties that most parents would recognize. The three guards were named Brinks, Armour, and Pinkerton and "The King of the Bells," Belvis, added an Elvis impressionism to the show.
For the parents and children, the performance wasn’t just about the show, it was about the opportunities the program offers. “I remember thinking about what an investment this was in time and energy as I was running to the school for practices,” said Kelly Woolford, whose son, Bryce, was in the accompanying chorus.
“Seeing it come together and watching all the kids work so hard, it was definitely something that I would recommend for any kids who might not have participated this year or who may be coming to Vincent Farm in the future. I don’t know any other local school that could have pulled this off so successfully. I am impressed,” Woolford said.
As for the performers themselves, they seemed to appreciate the thunderous cheer from backstage following the final performance.
“We were all really tired, but we all had fun and want to do this again next year,” said Sarah Frager, who played a gypsy dancer. “This was the first time I did anything like this, but I think next year I am going to try out for a speaking role.”
Stewart Emmerich, who led the set design, reflected on the performance when the lights came up on Friday evening.
“Watching this come together and seeing how hard these children worked to pull this off, they inspire me," Emmerich said. "They remind me why I entered the teaching profession in the first place and they make me realize there is no other place I want to be right now. I think I will make that a new sign in my room: 'You inspire me.’”