Anyone that knows anything about theatre will tell you that the hardest thing about running a theatre company is simply continuing to exist. With well over 50 years and 100 shows under its belt, Brampton Music Theatre is well past that. BMT, as it is affectionately known, is hard at work building a new tradition in community theatre; being exceptional.

“We have up to 15,000 patrons a year, depending on the shows.” says Sharon Vandrish, a producer with the company and musical director of BMT’s upcoming show.

Brampton Music Theatre opens its first show of the season, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, at the Rose on Nov. 8. The run includes eight shows over six days.

“Unlike some of our recent shows, Beauty and the Beast for example, I don’t think people understand how magnificent this piece is until they see it,” says Vandrish, “But they are going to leave saying, ‘Wow!’” 

The show is an adaptation for the stage of The Disney Animated Musical of the same name from 1996. Based on Victor Hugo’s legendary book, the live action musical showcases the film’s Oscar nominated score as well as new songs by famed composers Alan Menken, who is known for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast, and Stephen Schwartz, the writer behind Wicked and Godspell.

The show opens as the bells of Notre Dame sound through the famed cathedral in 15th-century Paris. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer, observes the entire city despite being held captive by his devious caretaker, Dom Claude Frollo. Fed up, Quasimodo finally escapes for a day only to find that he is treated cruelly for being different by all except the beautiful gypsy, Esmerelda. Their adventure continues together, but it’s up to Quasimodo to save his new friend when she finds herself threatened by the hatred for her people.

“This show is quite unique in that in addition to having actors and dancers, it also features a full choir and a hand-bell choir to boot,” says Vandrish. “The music itself is akin to Les Miserables in terms of beauty and scope.”

Brand new to BMT with Hunchback, Nicholas Cotton takes on the dynamic role of Clopin Trouillefo, who tells the story to the audience with flair. Returning to a lead role with the company for the first time since her turn as Eva Peron in Evita, Lyndsey Camara will be playing Esmerelda, while Matt Butler, in his first BMT leading role, will be rising to the epic task of playing Quasimodo. Of course, these are just three of the more than fifty who are working to bring this story to life. 

“It’s just beautiful music with gorgeous arrangements, a full orchestra in the pit and fantastic performers,” says Vandrish. “It’s very epic.”

BMT discovered years ago, the best way to build a community theatre into an excellent arts organization was to, in addition to producing shows, add training and education to its mission. For several years they’ve been running singing, dancing and general performance classes on Saturday mornings for local aspiring performers. The classes are run by local theatre professionals and arts educators at St. Thomas Aquinas School for the Arts.

“Sometimes there tends to be a stigma with community theatre; that some will think that it isn’t as good or something,” explains Vandrish. “But we get several responses for each show from people that don’t know that we’re not part of the Rose’s ‘professional’ season.”

If there is a way to do local theatre right, BMT seems to be leading the way. Fans of the company can look forward to productions of another Disney musical, Newsies, in the spring and to the Brampton premiere of Mama Mia next fall.

Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame runs at the Rose Theatre from Nov. 8 to 17. The shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 905-874-2800 or by clicking here