Nathaniel Hackmann is proud that he doesn’t have to wear a padded costume to play Gaston in the stage version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Hackmann, who regularly works out at a gym, has the burly arms and chest to play the imposingly large, self-appointed hero of the village who wants to marry the show’s heroine, Belle.
Belle wants nothing to do with Gaston and his chiseled physique.
The stage show of “Beauty and the Beast” will be performed at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts Monday-Wednesday. It follows the same story line as the animated film which was based on a fairy tale. A handsome, arrogant young prince is cursed to live life as an ugly beast until he finds true love. When a woman falls in love with the Beast, he will become a prince again.
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Being on tour
Hackmann has been on this tour since it started last February.
“It’s really been a good, good run,” he said.
Hackmann has also played the Beast in the show. One of the problems with playing the Beast is the elaborate makeup required. The Beast has to come in 30 minutes earlier than the rest of the cast to make his transformation.
The Beast is animalistic, but becomes more human as he and Belle fall in love. Gaston becomes a more animalistic, beastly guy as the play goes on.
Gaston is fun because “I’m singing about myself all the time. I’m being unhappy, fooling around and acting as a goofball.”
But he won’t pick a favorite role. “I love both characters,” he said.
Another thing he loves about the show is the audience. He gets a kick out of the little girls who wear yellow Belle-like princess gowns to the show.
But this is not just a children’s show.
“This is a show for everybody,” Hackmann said. “There are a few adult jokes and other humor that adults can appreciate.”
It’s a big show with as many as 30 actors on stage at any given time. There are 11 musicians and just many technical people working backstage.
Hackmann said guests who have seen the show before will find a new twist in this production.
“It has been re-imagined from the ground up,” he said. “It is very different from the original production, which was dark, almost ominous. This has a lot more ethereal look.”
Hackmann, who grew up in the suburbs of Phoenix, Ariz., got married on Christmas Eve to a woman who once played Belle to his Beast.
His new wife, Nicole, is currently directing a show at the Tennessee theater where they met. The newlyweds are together just two or three times a month while he’s touring. When the tour ends, the couple plan to spend more time together.
“She’s from New Orleans,” Hackmann said. “I think Louisiana will be home base for a while.”
Hackmann considers himself both a stage and opera performer.
“There are things about both worlds that I can’t live without... In all honesty, the finished products are pretty much the same. The approaches may be different, but we all want to have the best singers and best actors, the best scenic work and best dancers.”