New Ulm High School presents… The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Romance, tragedy, music

Sarah Todesco , in front and playing the role of Esmeralda in the play, rehearses during a recent practice in the New Ulm High School Auditorium. “ The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will have four total showings between Nov. 16-18 at the high school. Tickets are available in advance at https://www. thebigsouthconference. org/public/ genie/742/ school/12/ page/1090/.

NEW ULM — “A little romance, a little tragedy and lots of music — and latin.”

That’s how New Ulm High School english teacher and director Carissa Cowles described the school’s latest musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Playgoers and theater enthusiasts will have several opportunities to check

out the musical also as it takes to the High School Auditorium from Nov. 16-18.

On Nov. 16 and Nov. 17, there will be a 7 p.m. showtime, while Saturday, Nov. 18, sees two showings at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at https://www. thebigsouthconference.org/public/genie/742/school/12/page/1090/, but they can also be purchased at the door for $10 per adult and $7 per student.

In her sixth play directed and third at the school, Cowles said she and musical director Daniel Olson decided on this script as a way to continue a trend of doing “uncommon” or “new” musicals, with “The Addams Family” being last year. They also took into consideration what other schools in the area were performing and decided that “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” fit both of those areas.

From left to right, Jason Malcolm (Quasimodo) rehearses a scene with Joey Kotten (Frollo) for the upcoming Hunchback of Notre Dame play at the high school.

Cowles said this musical is a great blend of the book and the Disney film.

“It follows Quasimodo as he meets Esmeralda,the one person who sees beyond his bent form, and the adventure that befriending her leads to,” she said. “However, the oppressive force of Quasimodo’s caretaker, Frollo, continues to haunt the lives of Quasimodo and Esmeralda as they seek sanctuary from people who want to see them killed or exiled because they are different.”

Quasimodo is being played by junior Jason Malcolm, who will be in his fourth play at NUHS and his first leading role.

Malcolm said he’s been interested in performing since he was 8 years old and saw State Street Theater Co. put on “The Wizard of Oz.” His first performance on stage came in “The Music Man Jr.” in middle school.

Malcolm described Quasimodo as misunderstood but self-aware.

From left to right, Nick Vigil (St. Aphrodisius) carries Carly Wenninger (Clopin) with the help of Josh Gordon (Ensemble) during a recent rehearsal at New Ulm High School

“He’s a very misunderstood character,” Malcolm said. “He’s more on the side of, ‘I want love, but I can never truly have it.’ So he’s self-aware, but then again he plays into the fantasy of, ‘Oh, I could have this because she’s right there.’ … He’s very self-conscious.”

Starring alongside Malcolm is senior Sarah Todesco, who will be playing the character of Esmeralda.

“Esmeralda is a very deeply caring person,” she said. “She pays a lot of attention to injustices she sees in Paris, and she’s kind of a martyr for the Gypsies. I don’t want to spoil too much, but she’s willing to fight despite the danger she’ll put herself in.”

Todesco, who said she plans to attend college for Musical Theater, said this will be her fourth and last musical at the high school. She said she’s performed in around 10-12 plays total, but Esmeralda may be her favorite character so far.

“Every year, I always say that my character I am is my new favorite character,” she said. “And I don’t think it’ll ever get better than this [laughs]. I love this character so much and it’s my dream role.”

From left to right, Ellie Anderson (Ensemble), Lexi Schneider (Leutinent Frederic) and Brooks Miner (Phoebus) rehearse a scene from New Ulm High School’s upcoming musical, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Every great story needs a great antagonist,and this musical finds it villain in Frollo, played by senior Joey Kotten.

“He’s a very religious man, of course,” Kotten said. “He’s a priest, archdeacon of the Cathedral, and he just wants the best for the church and the city, and that means by all means necessary. Very stern.”

This will be Kotten’s sixth play at the high school.

People may have seen the movie or read the book, but Malcolm said this musical will be a different experience.

“It’s definitely a different look than the Disney movie,” Malcolm said. “There’s more in-depth looks into who Quasimodo is, who Frollo is, who all the characters are. There’s more of a dramatic feel … and I’d say I like how there’s more of an actual motive for Frollo’s evil.”

From left to right, Jason Malcolm (Quasimodo) rehearses a scene with Joey Kotten (Frollo) for New Ulm High School’s upcoming musical, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The musical hits the New Ulm High School Auditorium stage Nov. 16-18.

Kotten said there’s nothing like seeing a story play out on stage in person.

“You can watch any movie online, but seeing us in person, these are real people and you can see the character come out of every individual,” Kotten said. “When we’re on stage, we kind of hype each other out, we bring out the best in each other. What makes a monster?

What makes a man? That’s our theme.” There may be some tears, but Todesco said the experience will be worth checking out as the school’s musical program continues to climb.

“The plot is very enticing,” she said. “It’s a really emotional roller coaster. I’ve even cried in rehearsals, which is really embarrassing [laughs], but it’s a lot. We’re building up our musical program again, COVID really knocked us down and we got a new director.

And with Mr. Olson and Carissa Cowles, we’ve been able to really build it back up. And I think we’re finally starting to get more recognition in the community again, and if [people] want to support that, they should come see us.”

Cowles said the program and interest in it has grown so much in large part to those who attend.

“Their presence tells kids they can do anything they set their minds to, and the pride that you see glowing on their faces when they take those bows — it’s unexplainable and so remarkable,” Cowles said. “If that isn’t enough, this show is a classic for a reason. It’s one of those that should be on every theatergoer’s bucket list because the lyrics and story will bring you to tears.”

Todesco also said she thinks the set is the best one she’s ever seen at the high school and thanked Kevin Maudal for his work in building it. Maudal began constructing the set earlier this July.


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