For some it is a tale as old as time, but for many it will be like hearing a whole new tale when catching the classic Beauty and The Beast this summer. The hit Broadway show makes a triumphant return to San Francisco June 29. To celebrate the show’s return to SF I got the chance to talk with Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek, who plays the not-always-so-lovable Gaston in the current touring production.
PopWrapped: Tell us about Beauty in the Beast and when you joined the cast as Gaston.
Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek: This production has been touring for six years and I joined in September. It’s a great show for the whole family and what’s fun for me is that it’s a story that most people are familiar with and I get to play a character that’s part of the American psyche. It’s a story that we can all learn from. It has amazing lessons in terms of dealing with being an outsider and seeing different ways different people do that. It’s also an evening full of dance and wonderful music. We’re fortunate enough to be able to work with the original creative team from the original Broadway show and that’s really a reta for me. Working with Matt West and Rob Roth is kind of a dream come true. So it's really fantastic to be a part of this.
PW: It’s such a classic story, as an actor what is it like to step into a tale as old as time, so they say?
CSK: There are definitely expectations coming of every character and since it is so well known you have to make sure you’re providing what people are expecting to see. And fortunately the creative team has an amazing handle on what they want and what they need from each character and they do a fantastic job of drawing it out of you and also allowing you the freedom to be who you are, because they hired you based on traits that you may have that match with the character. Fortunately whether it’s physical or in your acting style. They do a wonderful job of giving us the right amount of freedom and the right amount of direction. It’s really a treat and they're great people to work with.
PW: So how did you personally end up on the path that led you to a career in theater?
CSK: I actually trained as an opera singer for my college and graduate degrees and so I’ve been on stage for at least that long. I started in the high school drama club when I was a sophomore and just kept going. I never expected this was what I'd be doing as a career, but now that I’m doing it I can’t think of anything that would be more fulfilling. It’s such a fun job.
PW: So how different is performing Opera from performing in Beauty and the Beast?
CSK: Pretty similar actually. Gaston is written to be a very robust character with a very large voice so I’ve found the transition to be relatively smooth. It's been really fun and I’m looking forward to coming to San Francisco.
PW: Is this your first Broadway production and if so is it a path you’d like to continue down?
CSK: Yes, this is my first tour. In today’s world there’s a pretty broad spectrum of performing opportunities out there and I don’t see any reason to confine oneself to one field. I’m open to exploring all the options that are out there. I would love to be in any role, that's good for me.
PW: Do you find now to be a good time to be a part of Broadway in general?
CSK: There was certainly a lot of energy going on during the Tony’s. We had them on in the green room while we were doing a show, so we could see what was happening. It was very electric and exciting for all of us to see. It's an art form that is always changing and is always growing with the times. I’m really excited to see how much attention it’s getting.
PW: What would your artistic career goal be?
CSK: I’m having a great time with Gaston and I think this is perhaps one of my favorite things that I’ve done so far. And I can only imagine anything close to this, would be pretty perfect. I’m having so much fun doing this show. It’s hard to think it’s coming to a close soon and then the tour is over. There’s only a few more chances to see this show and I hope people will take advantage of the opportunity.
PW: What do you have planned after the tour ends?
CSK: Immediately after the tour I’ll be doing Spamalot in a small production in Wisconsin where I’m from. And then I’m planning a few things for down the road is well. Taking it little by little.
So get your tickets now and, as they say, be our guest!
Follow along with the show, and Christiaan, on social media: