Kentucky native Justin Glaser has the lead role in the current national tour of Beauty and the Beast – although, if you’re a friend of Glaser’s, you won’t recognize him under all the hair, and the dark makeup, and the snarly–looking tusks.
He’s no Beauty, he’s the Beast.
This is, of course, a Disney show, a stage adaptation of the mouse’s uber–successful animated musical of 1991, itself adapted from a classic French fairy tale. Beauty and the Beast was the very first animated film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
The Alan Mencken/Howard Ashman score includes loads of memorable songs (“Belle,” “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest”) and the cast o’characters includes Lumiere the candelabra, Mrs. Potts the teapot, and Cogsworth the clock.
Then, of course, there’s Belle, the titular Beauty (played here by Liz Shivener) and the enchanted prince–turned–monster played by Glaser.
Your makeup is pretty complex – does it take a long time to apply?
Justin Glaser: It’s actually just a 25–minute process. It involves prosthetics, wig and makeup ... it’s been a year, so there’s a bit of a routine now. It’s down from about 40 minutes when we started. Mine’s definitely the most extensive. It looks really cool, though.
After a year, how do you go out there and be inspired every night?
Justin Glaser: I really love the Beast, and I love the show. It’s a live performance, it’s not like we are doing a take and then it’s printed forever on film, and that’s the rendition that everyone will see. You feel differently on different days, so that affects your performance. Your body feels different, your voice feels different, the theater you’re performing in is different than the one before. Sometimes an understudy will be performing, and everyone around you feels differently. So it’s never the same performance.
Additonally, the creative team on this tour is fantastic. They’re very committed to the quality of the piece. They come out regularly and they fix things. They tighten things up. You know, a performance grows over a period of time. You find new things, and those things become a part of the performance. And sometimes the creatives will love it, and sometimes they’ll say “What are you doing? What you were doing before was better.” All of those things help to make each performance fresh.
Was this a show that you were familiar with? Did you know the Disney movie?
Justin Glaser: The movie came out when I was in high school, so I was definitely very aware of it. I’d seen it many times, and I saw the Broadway production when I first moved to New York back in 2000.
This version of the tour is a re–vamped, re–imagined production. When the creative team first developed the piece, they were told to make it look like the Disney movie. Since then, with the success of other productions that Disney has had, they’ve sort of loosened that grip on making it like the movie. So the team was able to change some things around.
The look is different, the feel of this production is different. The first one was gorgeous and brilliant–looking – this one is lighter, and it moves very quickly. The ensemble move the set pieces around. The effect is that we’re all coming together to tell this story. It’s old–fashioned storytelling, and I think that’s very cool.
Beauty and the Beast
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe
When: At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3
Tickets: $37–$59.50 at etix.com
Phone: (912) 651–6556