“I thought it was unbelievably fabulous. I want to see it again.” – The Indiana Daily Student

Vox Lumiere brings silent movies to life

Allison Tyra – The Indiana Daily Student

Performance group Vox Lumiere’s signature shows are rock concerts built around silent movies, and Friday night’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater was no exception.

The 1923 Lon Chaney classic, combined with live performers, original music and multimedia projections, gave audience members a unique experience.

“I thought it was unbelievably fabulous,” said Bloomington Area Arts Council executive director Pamela Keech. “I want to see it again.”

Individual performers acted as the voices of various primary characters, such as the beautiful Esmeralda, handsome Phoebus, wicked Jehan and, of course, the title character, Quasimodo.

“I thought Lawson was the best part,” said audience member Brooke Fuller, referring to the singer who voiced Clopin, Esmeralda’s adopted father and the leader of the Court of Miracles, an underground society of outcasts.

From the peal of bells that opened the evening with the Festival of Fools to the end, when Quasimodo rang his own death knell, the visual imagery and auditory stimuli kept audience members riveted throughout the two-hour performance.

“The whole thing was fantastic,” Keech said. “It was so grand and so amazing.”

The climax came as Clopin leads the Court of Miracles in a march on the cathedral to rescue Esmeralda from the king’s soldiers.

Vox Lumiere creator and executive producer Kevin Saunders Hayes composes the music and lyrics for every performance and said the visual aspect is just as

important to the performance’s impact as the songs he writes.

The costumes were primarily black with silver and red accents, including several crosses and an angel pattern on Lawson’s shirt. Hayes said the imagery was important to evoking an emotional response to the performance.

“Obvious or not, it’s the imagery of the cathedral,” he said. “Whether you’re religious or not, there’s a lot of power and history in those icons.”

While the movie played on the middle of three overhead screens, other images were projected onto the other two, enhancing the experience with images that established the setting – such as the Rose Window of Notre Dame and people in the streets during the Festival of Fools – as well as evocative images, such as stained-glass apostles, angelic statues or the pictures of Jesus on the cross during a scene in which Quasimodo was tied down in the square after being beaten.

Meanwhile, guitarists and a drummer accompanied the performers singing and dancing onstage.

While the combined overall effect might be complicated to explain if someone has never seen it before, it is simple to describe.

“It’s basically just magic,” Hayes said. “Vox Lumiere is all about emotion. … I don’t want you to get in your head. I want you to stay in your heart the whole time.”