March 18, 2015

Granted, I didn’t actually tally them up, but the words “Kyrie eleison” — that’s Greek for “Lord have mercy” — seem to be sung more frequently in the musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at the Paper Mill Playhouse here than they are in many a Mass. Which is saying something, if you’ve heard a few Masses in your day. This is a telling indication of the surprising self-seriousness of this polished but ponderous musical, with a book by Peter Parnell, music by Alan Menken (“Little Shop of Horrors,” “Newsies,” many a Disney film) and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (“Pippin,” “Wicked”). The veterans Mr. Menken and Mr. Schwartz wrote the songs for the lighter-toned animated Disney movie of the same title, collaborating for the first time. Most of those songs are included here, of course, but Mr. Menken and Mr. Schwartz have amply augmented the score with songs that didn’t make it into the movie and others. The musical is billed as being “based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo and the 1996 Disney film.” (Strictly speaking, the novel’s title is “Notre Dame de Paris.”)