George Dinsmore: Making Frollo a Town Theatre Star
Those who carefully follow Disney movies may recall The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which has a Broadway show that was at Town Theatre in September and early October. As George Dinsmore can indicate in his role, the complexity of Archdeacon Claude Frollo’s character in the show is much more complex and even understandable.
Dinsmore is a veteran of Town Theatre, also appeared in My Fair Lady, Spamalot and The Buddy Holly Story. While he generally specializes in comedy and physical humor, such as tripping over chairs, playing Frollo was very different for him, especially since he is a tenor playing a role generally reserved for deep bass singers.
“It took me a little while to get there,” Dinsmore said, referring to getting his voice to such low levels. “It seemed weird to me, but I kept pushing the register.”
Frollo, who is the main villain, uses his religious background to torment the gypsy Esmerelda, but he is also adamant about keeping Quasimodo, his deformed nephew and son of a gypsy, out of the public eye because he knows the people will be cruel and wicked toward him. He is willing to take extreme measures to defend his beliefs and actions, even if the beauty of Esmerelda skews his thought process.
While Quasimodo’s role was kept for the strongest voice, Dinsmore wanted to play a role that required more depth and background, which is exactly what Frollo possesses.
“He thinks he’s in the right the whole time,” Dinsmore said, “and he gets caught in a weird path, strolls off on some tangents, and gets distracted. He doesn’t know how to deal with how he’s feeling and thinks he’s being tested. He’s being evil while trying to have human reasons for it all.”
Since the show’s plot centers on Frollo’s decisions, especially on how to handle Esmerelda’s impact on the city, it made Dinsmore’s job especially important.
“There’s so much going on that you can’t see what Frollo is doing on the edges,” Dinsmore said. “You have to see it in his face, mannerisms, and songs on why he is making those decisions.”
While Frollo is much different from his other notable acts in Columbia, it is actually the second role that he has had in 2017 that involves playing a villain in a religion-based production. He played Uncle Roger in the 2016 movie Faith’s Song, which is about a girl (Faith) who loses her parents in a car accident and gets her religious background tested when she moves in with relatives in a new city. Uncle Roger, who is not a believer in God, makes his evil thoughts known when he asks Faith, “When you’re praying and talking to God, do you ever ask him why he killed your parents?”
Yet Dinsmore related more to a devastating moment in Roger’s life. In a fight with the main character, Faith, Roger tells her, “There is no God. You know how I know? Because I got YOU instead of my baby daughter!” The way Dinsmore handled it, however, was significantly different.
“My wife and I lost a child like Roger,” Dinsmore said, “and we had a niece come to live with us. It was my ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ movie where this thing happened to me, and if I had reacted differently, it could have gone this way.”
The Town Theatre crowd “booed” Dinsmore after the show because of Frollo’s evil unraveling, but that was a testament to Dinsmore’s outstanding ability to portray the most complex character in the show. A man who specialized in computer programming effortlessly carried the story of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with the dynamic theme of religion.