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Notre Dame de Paris

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Notre-Dame de Paris On Tour

Since its 1998 debut in Paris, composer Riccardo Cocciante and lyricist Luc Plamondon's Notre-Dame de Paris — based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel — has been less a musical than an international sensation. Its 4,300 performances in 20 countries have attracted more than 11 million theatergoers swept up in the tragic story of the misshapen bell ringer Quasimodo's unrequited love for the beautiful and free-spirited gypsy, Esmeralda.

Looking for a subject for his next work, French-Canadian songwriter Luc Plamondon, who has written for Céline Dion and many other Québécois stars, stumbled across Quasimodo in an encyclopedia of literary characters. Inspiration struck the creator of the 1976 rock musical Starmania, and he began discussions with Cocciante, a successful Italian singer-songwriter with dozens of albums to his credit. French-Canadian director Gilles Maheu was brought in to direct.

The release of the single "Belle" prior to the show's premiere primed Paris audiences for the musical's innovative sung-through structure consisting of 52 songs interrupted by neither narration nor dialogue. Notre-Dame went on to enjoy the most successful first year of any musical ever, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Songs from the show, including "Vivre," "Belle," and "Le temps des cathédrales," have been released as successful singles, and the show's original cast album — performed by original leads Daniel Lavoie, Hélène Ségara, Garou, Bruno Pelletier, Luck Mervil, Patrick Fiori, and Julie Zenatti — sold more than eight million copies. The first London production ran for 17 months.

Notre-Dame has been translated from its original French into English, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Flemish, Polish, and Chinese. The musical is a spectacle in any language, with two dozen singers, acrobats, and dancers supporting the leads. Church bells offer a gymnastic show of strength, while a 12-meter-high wall provides the backdrop for energetic parkour moves.

The mix of time periods represented in the show's costumes and props tell a timeless story. Past and present merge as though to suggest that the 19th-century backdrop to Victor Hugo's story is still relevant today, as are the novel's themes of asylum seekers, religious hypocrisy, discrimination, and love.