The story appears on

Page B3

December 9, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Crash course in acting

MATT Laurent has played the role of Quasimodo so much in the past 12 years that it may seem like a blur, but he will always remember the first time.

Now 44, the rock singer was an emergency replacement in 1999 for the French-Canadian singer known as Garou, who was ill, to star in the musical "Notre Dame de Paris." Laurent, also from Canada, flew to Paris, only having seen the musical a few days before and with no acting experience.

"I was just a rock singer and guitarist, I didn't know how to act," Laurent said. "When I saw what Quasimodo does in the musical for the first time, I just couldn't help stating that they picked the wrong guy."

But they insisted on keeping him - his smoky voice was similar to Garou's and fit the Quasimodo character. They also didn't have time to find another singer.

"They told me not to worry as I could already sing well, I just needed to learn how to act, which they said they could teach me," Laurent said.

"Being a friend of Garou, I just felt it was my responsibility to help at that moment."

But the crash course on how to act nearly drove Laurent crazy. Playing Quasimodo, who has a hunchback, is quite demanding physically with a heavy costume and lots of climbing. He spent more than eight hours every day learning how to be Quasimodo.

"I was scared and couldn't believe that I was really going to perform on the stage," said Laurent. "I called my mom and told her the news to convince myself it was real."

More than 400 performances later, it's safe to say his Quasimodo was well received by audiences.

Laurent is in Shanghai to reprise his role as Quasimodo in an English version of the musical at Shanghai Culture Square through December 24. Young French jazz singer Candice Paris stars along side him as Esmeralda.

Laurent says the music in "Notre Dame" still touches his heart, especially "Dance My Esmeralda," which Quasimodo sings when Esmeralda dies.

"Every song is so well-written for each character, you just never get bored of it," he says. "I liked the songs the first time I heard them and I still like them when I sing them now."

To this day, Laurent finds the role challenging as he needs to express the strong emotions of Quasimodo without letting it affect his singing.

The Shanghai performances present a new challenge - singing in English for the first time. "I have to keep reminding myself - don't sing in French, sing it in English now," Laurent said. "It is easy to lose focus."

Whenever a "Notre Dame" tour ends, Laurent returns home, picks up his ukulele and has fun with friends.

"It is very demanding both vocally and physically to play Quasimodo, while the ukulele is quite the opposite. It is like being on a holiday, lying on the beach and relaxing," he said.

Apart from "Notre Dame," Laurent has found time to direct rock shows, produce records and performing heavy metal songs with the ukulele.

Initially, he picked up the ukulele for fun, but then a friend suggested he make a record with it. "I said no; nobody will take it seriously," said Laurent, who recorded the song "Cum On Feel the Noise" with the ukulele. "Actually, nobody took us seriously really, but a lot of people bought the record. It sold very well."

Shifting between Quasimodo and other music projects works well for Laurent, who enjoys doing completely different things to ensure he doesn't get bored.

"I thought I was doing 'Notre Dame de Paris' for the last time five years ago in Singapore," he said. "But here I am again. It seems to never finish."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend