Running until May 19th, Toby’s Dinner Theatre presents The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The musical is a stunning retelling of Victor Hugo’s epic story of love, acceptance, and what it means to be a hero. As the bells of Notre Dame sound through the famed cathedral in 15th-century Paris, Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer, longs to be “Out There,” celebrating the “Feast of Fools.” Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Baltimore-native Jessica Bennett to discuss her upcoming role as Esmerelda in the musical.

Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from Toby’s rendition of one of theatre’s great classics?

Jessica Bennett: I think they are going to see a lot of strengths. Toby [Orenstein] was very specific about trying to really home in on Esmerelda’s strength and her core. I think people will see a free-spirited woman. They’re going to see a kind woman, but they’re going to see this wall of strength in her.

Could you describe the role of Esmerelda for our readers?

I think that essentially Esmerelda just wants everyone to be treated well. She’s a martyr, in a sense. I think people are going to see this really strong person who stands up for what she believes in, and in a world like today that’s so important for people to see.

What is it about The Hunchback of Notre Dame that makes it such a great tale to share?

This is a fictional piece of art that’s taking place in 1492, but yet there are so many similarities of the world that we live in. For example, the song “God Help the Outcasts” talks about what it means to be different and not be accepted for that. Essentially, what bullying really is. I don’t think it’s our goal to beat people over the head with that message, but I think the show itself is going to do that. And it’s a beautiful story.

What it is about Toby’s Dinner Theatre that makes it special to perform there? So, this is actually my first time performing at Toby’s! I’ve only been working in the DC area for about a year. I’ve never done theater in the round. That alone makes this performance really special. It’s an intimate space and an intimate story. People are immersed in it because they are right there in the performance. The world of the play is literally right around you.

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Frankie Kujawa
Frankie Kujawa
Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.