A devastating fire ravaged the actual Notre Dame but Bakersfield's stage version stands at the ready as "Hunchback of Notre Dame" opens at Stars.

Director Joe Lowry said his cast was moved by the footage last week of the cathedral burning.

He said, "I gave them an opportunity to talk about that on that day. ... It had a big impact on the cast, gave them an additional dimension to what they are doing."

A touch of the real cathedral will be part of the musical thanks to one of the performers who had visited France a couple of weeks prior.

He said, "The (cathedral's) bell sounds from her video we were able to incorporate that into our show, which is pretty special."

Bells certainly ring in this musical based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel featuring the musical score by Alan Menken and songs by Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz from the 1996 Disney film adaptation.

"This is the fourth show in a row where the music was written by Alan Menken," said the director, who also had helmed "Little Shop of Horrors" and "A Christmas Carol." "The music is fantastic."

Lowry said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the show based on the film that was in heavy rotation in his household.

"My daughters used to watch the Disney version a lot but I had never paid much attention to it. I had watched 'Beauty and the Beast.'"

Set in 15th century Paris, the show begins with deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo (Matthew Thompson) who has been held captive by his far-from-benevolent caretaker, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo (Ken Burdick). Escaping from the cathedral, he finds himself in the Feast of Fools, where he only finds kindness from the gypsy Esmerelda (Kelci Cerri). The beautiful woman also draws the attention of Captain Phoebus (Dominic Demay) and Frollo, who channels his lust for her into his mission to destroy the gypsies, who are led by their king,  Clopin Trouillefou (Zachary Gonzalez).

The show also features Randy Jelmini, Nathan Couch, Jordan Payne, Fred Cremer, Stephen Bush and Ayrian Gridiron.

Lowry said he hopes audiences will walk away examining themselves in light of the story they have watched.

"They can ask, 'What is an outcast? What is weakness versus strength? What makes a monster and what makes a man?'

"Perceptions aren't always what they seem."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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