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Community Theatre's musical opens Friday in 15th century Paris
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Cast members of the Paradise Community Theatre’s production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will take the audience back in time to the 15th century.

As the bells of Notre Dame sound through the famed cathedral in Paris, the story of Quasimodo, played by Cody Jensen, unfolds.

Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre Dame played by Cody Jensen, has a strong desire to be part of the outside world one day. (Michelle Vlasak/

The hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre Dame desires to be a part of the outside world one day, and drums up the courage to attend Feast of the Fools. He meets a compassionate gypsy Esmeralda, played by Jenna McMains, who protects him from an angry mob.

Quasimodo’s master, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, played by Patrick McColley, and the new captain of the guard, Phoebus de Martin, played by Jason Meyer, also both fall in love with Esmeralda.

Six performances follow Friday’s opening for attendees to find out if Quasimodo will be able to save Esmeralda from Frollo’s lust and anger before Paris is burned to the ground, if she will return Quasimodo’s affection and see who the “true” monster of Notre Dame is.

Phoebus de Martin, played by Jason Meyer, protects Esmeralda, played by Jenna McMains, from the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, played by Patrick McColley. (Michelle Vlasak/

The musical is based on the Victor Hugo novel and includes songs from the Disney animated feature as well as some new songs. The local production is directed by Shelley Fitzgerald and choreographed by Jordyn Tesch.

Gypsy Esmeralda, played by Jenna McMains, and the new captain of the guard, Phoebus de Martin, played by Jason Meyer, share a moment together. (Michelle Vlasak/

The cast includes over 30 members, whom McMains said are all “very” talented.

“They always put a great show together, with good cast,” McMains said of the Paradise Community Theatre.

Having performed in a previous Paradise Community Theatre show in 2017, “Beauty and the Beast,” McMains said this musical has that “same Disney magic.”

The cast also includes ensemble members who play statues and chorale members who play gypsies.

“If you want to see amazing costumes, stage and music, come see a performance,” McMains said. “Both the lead roles and ensemble play an important role in the play, and do such a good job of telling the story.”

The Paradise Community Theater’s production of its summer musical, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” will take the audience back in time to the 15th century this weekend and the following weekend. (Michelle Vlasak/

McColley, who is experiencing his first full show on the Paradise stage, said there is a “crazy” amount of talent among the cast and all members have important roles in the musical.

“It’s been a great experience. Everyone has been welcoming, and it’s really cool to be in this space,” McColley said.

Among the bell tower filled with stone figures and a solitary Hunchback are three bells rented from the Grand Rapids Theater.

Paradise Community Theatre producer Kathy Rush said the other theater had planned on producing the musical, but the pandemic caused the cast to leave the musical unfinished. Rush said a cast member came across a post about the bells online, and directors reached out to see if they could use them.

First look at pregnancy-related deaths in Minnesota finds some disparities

A snapshot look at pregnancy-related deaths in Minnesota found all of the deaths could have been prevented and that pregnancy-associated deaths were disproportionately high among Black and Indigenous people.

The Minnesota Health Department identified 48 people who died of both pregnancy-related and unrelated causes while pregnant, including vehicle accidents and drug overdoses, during 2017 and 2018.

In that time period, the state calculated 8.8 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Health Department report released Thursday. That’s about half the national rate in 2017, or 17.3 deaths per 100,000 births.

Of the 12 pregnancy-related deaths — where pregnancy was the aggravating factor — the report concluded that half occurred within six weeks after birth, and all of them were determined to be “preventable.”

“The health of our mothers is a key indicator of the health of our state,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, said in a statement. “Each maternal death is tragic, and the racial disparities we see in the data are alarming.”

Malcolm said they mourn those lost, and called the report a “critical first step” to prevention.

While white, non-Hispanic people made up 60 percent of the pregnancy-associated deaths, the percentages for people who identify as Black or Native American were “disproportionately high,” researchers said.

Indigenous Minnesotans, for example, made up 2 percent of all births during this time period, but accounted for 8.3 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths.

The northwest and south-central regions of the state also had a higher percentage of deaths than births during this period, although most deaths and births overall took place in the metro area.

While the relatively small number of deaths makes it difficult for researchers to identify broader trends, the report recommends improvements in the identification and collection of data related to maternal deaths.

“Our work identifies a significant need for focused services after pregnancy delivery, during what is now being called the fourth trimester, given that well over half of pregnancy-associated deaths occur during this time,” Dr. Cresta Jones, co-chair of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, said in a statement. “Typically, individuals are not seen after delivery for 6-12 weeks.”

The report also recommends developing a standardized network that helps people find care and creates more support for those dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues to improve overall outcomes and calls for greater efforts to provide “culturally-informed” care.

The report was compiled and analyzed by the state health department’s Women and Infant Health Unit along with the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, which was formalized in a 2021 statute.

Hardeman said she views the report as a “marching order” for health care systems and policymakers.

“We, as a state, have talked about maternal mortality and morbidity for a long time, but we haven’t actually had the data to rely on to say, ‘Here’s exactly what’s going on,’” she said. Pregnancy-related deaths, pregnancy-associated deaths and maternal mortality, are “deeply tied to one’s ability to live in healthy and safe and vibrant communities.”