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Dec 18, 2014

Animated classic 'Beauty and the Beast' coming to life in Greenville

December 18, 2014

By LEENA DBOUK [email protected] Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 3:15 a.m.

Whether they’re 5 years old or 75, most Americans have watched Disney’s timeless animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” and have fallen in love with the gorgeous musical compositions and witty dialogue revolving around far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells and a prince in disguise.

Children and adults can celebrate the holidays by watching the Academy Award-winning film come to life in the form of a hit Broadway musical that makes a stop Tuesday through Dec. 28 at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville. Featuring a newly introduced cast, the “Beauty and the Beast” tour has quickly reached critical acclaim and all the Peace Center shows have already sold out.

“The critics have given us very positive feedback, which is fantastic,” said cast member Cameron Bond, who plays the infamous and vain antagonist Gaston. “It’s a 20-person cast, and the talent that the audience will see on stage is out of this world. I couldn’t imagine a better Belle than Jillian (Butterfield) or Beast than Ryan (Everett Wood).”

The Broadway musical was adapted from the popular Disney film, “Beauty and the Beast,” in 1994. The majority of the plot follows the original film with a few new jokes added to the mix.

“The storyline is the same for the most part,” Bond said. “The comedy is different, though; the show isn’t just for families.

“Like, a few friends (of mine), who don’t like theater, came to support the show — they were dragging their feet — and loved it because they were laughing the whole time. It just goes to show that people of all ages will enjoy the production.”

And Disney fans who love the movie and music of “Beauty and the Beast” will be happy to know that the Broadway show has added several musical numbers. Bond explained, “There are a few different songs that aren’t in the movie which audiences love. Like, the Beast’s heartbreaking song, ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ or ‘No Matter What,’ which is a fun number between Belle and her father where they talk about the value of being true to yourself.”

True to his character, Bond said his favorite song in the show is “Gaston.”

“It’s just a lot of fun. It’s so technical and took a while to learn, but because of that, it really shows off when it’s put together on stage,” he said. “It’s silly and gaudy. But, then again, so is ‘Be Our Guest,’ which is also fantastic.”

To help him get into character, Bond created his own backstory for the villainous character he portrays.

“I see Gaston as being an only child with a family that functioned similar to how his dream family works,” he said. “His dad was probably this big macho man who is the self-proclaimed mayor of the town with a beautiful woman to do his bidding.

“Jake (Bridges) who plays Lefou threw around some ideas about the relationship between our two characters. Part of us wants to think that Lefou is a family member who follows Gaston around to the annoyance of Gaston, who is trying to appease his family.

“The other suggestion is that Lefou is a necessary part of Gaston’s ego-mania because he continually boots the character’s ego. It’s fun to play around with those ideas.”

Bond grew up in San Diego as the youngest of three children. His two older sisters would often have parts in local school or community plays and Bond was encouraged to join them.

“My parents figured it was easier to just drop us all off at one place rather than many, so I often found myself at theater auditions and practice,” he said. “I was never one of the theater kids who knew they wanted to be on stage from the time they started acting. I was more into sports.”

Bond graduated college, where he had continued to dabble in theater, in 2013 with a business degree.

“I got an internship/job with a business but really felt like there was something missing from my life. I didn’t feel alive,” he said. “At some point I realized that the theater is where I truly felt alive, and so I quit my regular job and started auditioning for roles.”

Growing up, Bond loved watching “Beauty and the Beast,” so playing Gaston is a special treat for him.

“It’s definitely weird to be playing the role of a character you grew up watching. I feel like I’m playing a celebrity,” he said. “I always wondered if I could get away with it.”

Bond has certainly captured the essence of the beloved-yet-hated character right down to his muscular stature, ostentatious smirk, egotistic swagger and booming voice.

“I love the role,” Bond exclaimed. “I get to play a fun, goofy ego-maniac in the first act and a seriously deranged villain in the second act.

“But I also, pretty much, love all of this production. Belle is the first Disney princess that stood up against the idea of a girl just needing to be pretty. She set the stage for so many self-empowered modern princesses.

“And, as cliché as it sounds, the story of two people falling in love truly is a tale as old as time. This story is timeless.”