Notre Dame’s FTT department adapts ‘Cyrano’
Claire Reid | Thursday, February 24, 2022
Described as a “swashbuckling love story with a modern musical twist” on the promotional poster, the Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) department’s original musical “Cyrano” has a little bit of everything including sword fights, romance and positive representation.
The musical is an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac” which tells the story of a 17th century Frenchman named Cyrano — a talented soldier, poet and artist who believes no one can love him due to his large nose. Adapted and directed by FTT professor Matt Hawkins, Notre Dame’s “Cyrano” features two key differences. First, unlike the original, it is a musical, and second, Hawkins’ Cyrano is a woman.
Ronnie Mansour, a 2021 FTT graduate and creator of the department’s 2021 original musical “An Old Family Recipe,” wrote the music and lyrics for “Cyrano” last summer based on Hawkins’ script.
“In musicals, songs happen during the most dramatic moments, the most action-packed parts of the show, when a character needs to express themselves so desperately that simple speech just won’t cut it,” Mansour said. “I would write songs for these moments … and send Matt demos. Then we would discuss any notes he might have.”
Hawkins and Mansour made the finishing touches to the songs in January, and the show’s main cast began rehearsing over Zoom during winter break. The entire cast has been rehearsing together since the beginning of the semester.
Grace Thomas, a senior FTT major from South Bend, plays Cyrano. She described her character as a “Renaissance woman.”
“That’s something our director Matt Hawkins really wanted to portray,” she said. “We hear the term ‘Renaissance man’ a lot, but we’ve never really heard the term ‘Renaissance woman’ and explored what that entails.”
Cyrano remains on stage for the entirety of the first act. At the beginning of the show, she longs to confess her love for her childhood friend, Roxanne, but before she can do so, Roxanne expresses interest in a handsome but socially unintelligent man named Christian.
“Christian is really dumb. He can’t talk to women. So Cyrano meets him, and they basically hatch a plan,” Thomas explained. “Cyrano writes these letters and signs them with Christian’s name, and Roxanne falls in love with Christian via Cyrano’s words. In the end, Cyrano figures out … she really was capable of being loved, and if she had just accepted that she would’ve gotten everything she wanted in the end.”
Thomas and the cast have already performed the show five times and she said it has really resonated with audiences.
“As a story about someone who is queer-identifying, I had some students come up to me and say that they felt they were represented in a way that was unique because [Cyrano’s identity] wasn’t the focus of the story, but it was so normalized,” she said. “It’s really special to be able to provide that for the audience.”
She explained Hawkins’ adaptation allowed for this type of representation because he chose to set the show in a fictional cross between contemporary times and the 17th century complete with Renaissance-era sword fights and modern pub karaoke.
“It’s interesting because, in the 17th century, something like that wouldn’t have been really accepted, but because it has this modern twist, you can include it without calling attention to it,” Thomas said.
The FTT department will perform “Cyrano” tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the Philbin Studio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Tickets are currently sold out, but a standby line will form one hour prior to each show. According to the FTT website, any tickets that become available will be released for purchase to those waiting in line on a first-come, first-served basis.
Demand to see the show has been so great that yesterday’s show was added to the lineup in response. Tickets for that additional show went on sale Monday at noon and sold out within 15 minutes.
Macy Mateer, a senior, plays Lignière, a character she described as “Cyrano’s biggest fan.”
“With Wednesday being an added show, it’s going to be full of people who really want to be there,” she said Tuesday night. “We know how cool and important the show is, so to have people we care about elbowing each other to try and see it is something really special.”
Mateer said the audience’s enthusiasm and reactions to the show have been energizing for herself and the other cast members.
“It’s humbling, like, wow. It makes us want to step up and really stay focused because there are so many people that genuinely want to hear this story,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to do it justice.”