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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Simi Suri

Sometimes children spring surprises, and sometimes those surprises are so brilliant, they send one into an unbelieving stupor which takes one a while to recover from!

This is exactly what happened on 12th July 2018, as the Akshar school celebrated its 20th year of being, by staging the famous musical, The Hunchback Of Notre Dam. Kala Mandir was full of luminaries from the field of education, school principals, teachers, proud parents and students, and the Chairman Mr. Deepak Khullar, the Executive Director Ms. Neena Singh and the Principal Ms. K. Khullar, watched with pride as the audience filled each and every seat of the large auditorium. The chief guest, Ms. Arundhati Bhattacharya, former Chairman of State Bank of India, spoke eloquently about her experience as a parent of the school, elucidating about the wonderful and inclusive environment at the school, which also welcomed children with special needs.

And then the curtain lifted to a magnificent stage depicting the stone walls of the ancient church in France. As the play progressed, the students revealed more and more of their amazing variety of skills, displaying a standard way beyond what behoves their age. One must appreciate the directors’ (Dana and Katy Lai Roy) ability to bring out such a high level of performance from each student. It was a splendidly laid out stage which large swinging church bells, and the students displayed immense maturity in the depiction of their roles. The different moods ranged from the somberness of cold stone walls and gargoyles of the church to the exuberant fun and frolic of the gypsies, all of which were marvelously depicted, including amazing acrobatics and cartwheels which made one feel one was in the midst of a carnival.

Particularly noteworthy, was that the character of Quasimodo was performed by five different students, some of whom were differently abled. Not only did this lend different shades to the personality of Quasimodo, but also aligned with the school’s ethos of embracing differences and inclusivity.

However, the most glorious of all was the music which defied all words to describe the quality and standard displayed. One must give full credit to the music directors, Subhagata Singha and Shireen Ghosh. One fails to imagine that school children could put up a choir offering a variety from bass to tenor and alto tenor, to alto and soprano with flawless perfection. Added to this were Romani folk songs and 15th century chants in Latin, all of which contributed to the flavor of excellence of this outstanding musical production put up by the children of Akshar school.