Theater & Dance
Review
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

By: book by Peter Parnell, new songs by Alan Menken, based on the novel by Victor Hugo and the Disney animated feature
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Riley Costello
Choreographed by: Jeanne Batacan-Harper
Music direction by: Matthew Bourne
Featuring: Randy O'Hara, Amandina Altomare, Christine Baker, Gary Giurbino, Matthew Davis, Ryan Doyle, Luke Hamilton, Daniel Joseph Harper, Angela Harrington, Sammi Hildebrandt, Joshua Lau, Jasmine Lew, Jack O'Reily, Brian Palac, Nicole Roca, Catherine Traceski
When: August 24 through September 10, 2017
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City
Tickets: $35-$50; call 650-349-6411, extension 2, or visit www.hillbarntheatre.org.

Giurbino, O'Hara, Hamilton, Altomare
Mark Kitaoka / Hillbarn Theatre
Gary Giurbino, Randy O’Hara, Luke Hamilton, and Amandina Altomare, from left, in a pre-production publicity photo for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," which plays August 24 through September 10, 2017, at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City. The show is being directed by Riley Costello.
Story about an amazing woman
and three men who love her
'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' really rings a bell
for first-time director Riley Costello
August 19, 2017

Sure, "You have your classic Disney hero, an underdog, Quasimodo," said Riley Costello, who is directing "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" for Hillbarn Theatre, "but in my mind, it's really Esmeralda's show.

"All the action happens because three men fall in love with her, and the effect this amazing woman has over these three men."

Riley costello
Riley Costello, 23, said maybe it's time for him to get a new headshot, but he also said he knows he will be playing high school parts for years.

The three men, in the musical, which is about 60 percent Victor Hugo novel and 40 percent Disney movie, said Costello, are Quasimodo the deformed bell ringer; Phoebus, captain of the Guard, and Frollo, the evil archdeacon.

"Each of the three has a unique point of view," said Costello during a phone interview from Stanford Shopping Center, where he was on an outing with some members of the cast recently. "There is love and acceptance and tolerance. There is using fear as motivation ... ultimately, the show is about humanity. 'What makes a monster, and what makes a man?'

"The audience is left to answer that for themselves.

"It's a classic story," Costello said. "I just love all the different relationships. I am so endeared to all these characters."

Only 23 years old, Costello has already performed on Broadway in several shows, was "Hairspray Live" in NBC and entirely has had an impressive career.

Which got its start, really, at Hillbarn Theatre.

"I started when I was about 8 years old," he said. "I performed a lot around the Bay Area, but most shows were at Hillbarn. I grew up on that stage. It's not a typical proscenium theater. It's really intimate."

That makes some people get nervous, he said, but it seems normal to him.

Costello, in the Bay Area, performed in "Hello, Dolly," "The Music Man, "The Secret Garden," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and "Big the Musical."

"I played the young Josh part," Costello said. "In 2006, I think. There's a great song in Act 2, a sweet ballad. That's where I got discovered. Somebody saw me, had a connection to Jason Robert Brown (who wrote the music and lyrics for "13") ... and I was in my first Broadway show. I got the opportunity to start my professional career."

"13" the musical was followed by other Broadway parts, usually as an understudy, but it's been a good career, and has included work in Hollywood.

Costello had seen the production of the stage musical "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," because a friend, Chase Brock, was the show's choreographer.

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"I was completely overwhelmed with excitement," Costello said. "I sort of became obsessed with the show, and thought I'd love to direct it.

"But, how could that happen? I had so many ideas, so many ways I wanted to tell it."

Then came a lunch with Dan Demers, executive artistic director of Hillbarn Theatre.

"Dan was the person I called when I wanted to direct," said Costello. "I called him, met him. My family is still in the area. I knew him, peripherally.

"I had originally pitched a different show, 'The Secret Garden,' one of my favorite musicals, but another theater in the area was doing it, so we lost the rights. I had lunch with Dan, and he said, 'I think I got the rights for "Hunchback."'

"I thought, 'I've got my shot.'

"'I'm your man,' I told him."

Costello said he "Truly, I can't think of a better show to start my directing career with ... I'm so happy to do it at a place I care about."

Hillbarn is not a big space, but Costello said the show "is fitting really well in the space ... It's the perfect place to do it. The show is so grand, so big, so large, because of its place -- a cathedral. But at the heart of the story, it's about these intimate relationships between these people. You can't hide behind anything, you have to tell the truth, or it won't work."

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com



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