It’s a tale as old as time — or, at least, as old as 1991.
That’s when Disney’s animated film “Beauty and the Beast” opened to almost instant acclaim, earning Oscar nominations and spawning a hit stage adaptation.
This weekend, the “Beauty and the Beast” national tour comes to the RiverCenter. One of the show’s stars, Tim Rogan (who plays Gaston, the village villain), recently spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Is this the first Disney musical you’ve done?
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Yeah. I think this might be the Disney show that I’ve ever done and it’s definitely the first national tour that I’ve ever done, so that’s kind of a big exciting thing. The movie is one of my favorite films ever. So for this to sort of be the first tour that I ever get to be a part of, I’m pretty happy and grateful for that.
Plus you’re playing a Disney villain!
The part’s not bad either. [Laughs] Gaston is a total, total blast to play. He is pretty iconic and some of the people that have played Gaston in the past now are pretty legendary, too.
Preparing for the role: did you look back at the animated film?
I really have to say, the original version, the Richard White version from the film, I grew up watching the film so much throughout my life, it’s kind of one of those things where the little isms, the little mannerisms, were just so burned and ingrained into my mind because they did such an amazing job the first go-round that it was like, Well how do you improve upon what is so, so well established? And then I guess sort of the thing that I wanted to bring to it is that — our directors talk about how they have this vision of how the Beast becomes human and Gaston starts off as the charming human (but becomes) the scary monster by the end of the show.
You’re going from goofy in the beginning to menacing in like two hours flat, which is quite a change.
And we talked about with our director how in the mob scene there’s really just this sort of switch that goes off in Gaston’s mind about once he realizes this whole thing isn’t going to work it drives him crazy. The thing that I sort of equate him to is he is a hunter, right? He is an expert at one thing that he does and I kind of joke, I almost think of him as a shark or something, where he kind of goes about his day not really caring about anything else that is around him and it’s not so much that he is being purposefully rude to the people in the town or to Belle, it’s that he really doesn’t even think to consider what they’re feeling. He just kind of does his own thing. But then when he does that one thing that he is very good at, and that is hunting and that is killing, and that’s what he does, that’s one of those things where you’re sort of like a shark in the ocean — there’s nothing better than that. But when it comes to that second-act thing, that mob song and you see what he’s really capable of, that’s where the terror comes in. Because that’s that one thing that he does and he does it better than anyone else.
What is the difference between “Beauty and the Beast” as a film and a stage musical?
One of the great things about it, they very very much stick to what the essence of the film is. So much of the dialogue and the songs from the film you will find in the musical. The wonderful thing is the musical, being a traditional stage show, is about an hour longer than a 90-minute Disney film, so with that came the luxury of being able to add some more supplemental material. One of the songs that people often cite is “Human Again,” where it’s the song that all the animated objects are singing about them hoping and dreaming, the reality of the becoming human is coming that much closer. It’s this very optimistic, wonderful song. But just due for time, it had to be cut from the film and so it’s an original song from what should have been the film but then it got thrown back into the stage version. Now, retroactively they’ve actually put it back in the film because it’s been so successful from the musical.
Since it’s a nine-month national tour, how has the show changed over time?
It’s an interesting thing, because this show is the child of the Broadway show, it’s the same original creative team. Now, whenever any show goes on the road, you then need to start figuring out some simple logistic things of, “Oh, we don’t have this castle” because that’s what we’re able to do when it’s in one building for forever — so in that essence it does have the opportunity evolve a little bit over time. It’s kind of awesome, too, because you find those little moments for the actors — “This is the moment that I’m able to put my original spin on it.”
IF YOU GO
Where: RiverCenter, 900 Broadway
When: March 15 at 7:30 p.m. and March 16 at 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $49.50-$59.50. Go to http://www.tickets.com