By Emma Kwan/Town Crier Intern
David Mister leaps across stage, eyes wide as he tries to escape the angry Parisian mob coming up behind him. He stumbles to the ground and is attacked by the crowd, only to be saved by gypsy Esmeralda. As she helps him escape, the rest of the cast goes silent.
Mister is playing Quasimodo, the reclusive and kind hunchback trapped in the bell tower of the cathedral Notre Dame in the South Bay Musical Theatre production of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The musical is slated to run through June 9.
The Mountain View resident, who practiced choral music in his hometown of Baltimore, moved to the Bay Area in 2007. Mister said he was drawn to musical theater because of the area’s “big and vibrant” theater scene.
His decade of experience in theater and vocal adaptation skills landed him the part of the hunchback, which requires an unusual speaking style, because the character is mostly deaf from ringing the bells of Notre Dame for the majority of his life. Mister developed Quasimodo’s speech patterns with the help of the play’s choreographer.
“When (Quasimodo) speaks, he doesn’t hear himself speaking, so his speech is different,” Mister said. “Our choreographer, Elizabeth Cox, has a connection to the deaf community, and she and I worked together to make sure that we weren’t portraying him in a way that would be offensive, but was true to someone that had significant hearing loss.”
Along with the cast, the show features a 33-member choir, and Mister said an important aspect of rehearsals was learning how to effectively layer the sounds of the leads, ensemble, choir and orchestra to create the illusion that the audience was in the cathedral.
“(The choir) is something different entirely,” said Mister, who has performed with Los Altos Stage Company. “They are used to conjure up feelings or emotions or a mood, and at times they directly comment on what’s going on stage. It’s a really interesting position, and I don’t know that I’ve ever done a show that had a group or a character quite like that.”
The ending sequence of the musical is “challenging,” Mister noted, as Quasimodo experiences a range of emotions, including anger and grief. In scenes that are especially emotional, Mister draws on the human interactions within the story to bolster his performance.
“A lot of it is just that you have to let yourself go there,” he said. “You have to let yourself be really upset and mad, and the material really helps in the way that it is written (because) it takes you there gradually. I am exhausted after every performance, emotionally and physically, but in a way that is hopefully fulfilling for the audience.”
Performances are scheduled 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, along with 8 p.m. June 7 and 2:30 p.m. June 9 at the Saratoga Civic Theater, 13777 Fruitvale Ave. Tickets are $20-$37.
For tickets and more information, call (408) 266-4734 or visit southbaymt.com.