“Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” will run February 2-7, 2016, at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. This production will be the fifth out of ten shows in Fifth/Third Bank’s Broadway in Atlanta 2015/2016 season.
Romance will fill the stage of the Fox during this musical based on the popular 1991 animated film. The beloved enchantment tells the story of Belle, Gaston, and the Beast as they learn the life lessons of love, charity and friendship.
The musical first opened on Broadway at The Palace Theatre on April 18, 1994. In 1999, the show transferred to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. It closed its Broadway run on July 29, 2007. At its time of closing, it had played a total of 5,461 performances, making it the ninth longest running Broadway musical in history. Since its premiere, the musical has grosses $1.4 billion worldwide and has played in thirteen countries and 115 cities. Now, the show is back on the road and is headed to Atlanta.
Fortunately I had the amazing opportunity to interview Ryan N. Phillips. Phillips brings to life the role of Lumiere in this timeless tale. and you can check him out while he’s in Atlanta by purchasing your tickets to the show (click here to buy tickets!). Check out the interview, below.
Colt Chambers: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Ryan. Now, being able to tour the country in one of the most famous Disney musicals of all time must be exciting, what’s your favorite part of being in this show and being on tour?
Ryan N. Phillips: It’s beyond exciting! I get to do a role that I’ve wanted to do for years. What’s even better is that I share the stage with people who are phenomenal in their roles. I think that’s the best part about being in the show; I get to perform with such talented people in a show that has such a great story with incredible music. Plus, exploring the country while doing what I love is definitely a great bonus.
CC: You are clearly living the dream. Which city/theatre has been your favorite so far on the tour and which are you anticipating the most?
RNP: We’ve been on the road for almost five months now. We’ve seen some truly incredible places, and each place has had its perks. However, I think Seattle and San Diego have become my favorites. The coffee in Seattle is amazing (duh..) and San Diego has some truly incredible food. The cities I’m anticipating most are Newport News, VA since that’s the area that I grew up and Bangor and Portland, ME because that’s where my mom and her entire side of the family live.
CC: Woah, five months on the road. Incredible! What is the typical day of a touring actor like?
RNP: It depends! If we’re in a city for only a day or so, most of our time is dedicated to the show. However, if we’re in a city for a week or more, we get to explore during the day and experience everything that the city has to offer. I’m a big foodie so I spend a lot of my time eating local cuisine. Then we have shows at night. Weekends are a little busier because we usually have two, sometimes three shows a day.
CC: What would you say is the hardest part about being on the road for extended periods of time?
RNP: For me, it’s not getting to see my family and friends for long periods of time. However, my cast and crew have really become my family here. As homesick as I can get sometimes, I always have these amazing people to pick me back up and keep a smile on my face.
CC: Once cast in Beauty and the Beast, what were the rehearsals like? How did you “get into character” as Lumiere?
RNP: Rehearsals were fun! Diving into a new show is always exciting because there is so much to discover. Our directors, Rob Roth and Sam Scalamoni, were very welcoming in the fact that many of us are new players in the game, and that we were going to bring our own new and unique choices to the table. Then we fine-tuned it into what you’ll see when we’re performing at the Fox!
“Getting into character” was a great, educational process. Lumiere is such a confident, relaxed guy. When I first started, I was very much over the top with a lot of my choices and mannerisms. Once I grounded myself and really let him sit into my body, that’s when I could truly discover who he is. When everyone first thinks of Lumiere, they think of the suave, seductive candelabra who sings “Be Our Guest!” Initially, I was guilty of this too. However, the more I dove into the script and worked with Rob and Sam, it became clear to me that Lumiere was so much more than that. There is a sense of vulnerability to him. Yes, he’s still the suave, seductive candelabra that everyone knows and loves, but he’s also a human with human emotions and human wants and needs. Discovering those emotions was the most interesting, and ultimately rewarding part of getting to play this incredible, intricate character.
CC: What is your favorite musical number in the show?
RNP: The song “Human Again” is, no question, my favorite number in the show. It personifies what I think this show is about: hope. For years, we’ve gradually and hopelessly been turning into these household objects. However, due to events in the show that I won’t spoil for you people who have never seen the show or the movie (which if you haven’t, you should!), we finally have a reason to believe that we might become human again. So we allow ourselves to remember and revel in what that was like. With the help of Alan Menken’s music, Howard Ashman’s lyrics, and choreographer Matt West’s staging, it’s a musical number that leaves everyone on stage and everyone in the audience with a true feeling of hope.
CC: What sparked your interest in performing? Did you know at a young age that theatre was a career that you wanted to pursue?
RNP: My parents were very encouraging of me doing what made me happy when I was a kid. I loved playing baseball and I loved singing. So I played baseball and I joined chorus. While I was in elementary school, I saw a local high school production of “Guys and Dolls.” I was hooked. My sister was involved in theater in middle school, so when I got there, she helped me get involved. It was soon clear to me that I enjoyed performing more than playing baseball, so I made the decision to devote all my spare time to that. I auditioned for the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, VA to attend while I was also attending regular high school, and I was very lucky and got accepted. That prepped me for college auditions, and thankfully, I was accepted into the University of Miami in Florida where I got the best theatre education I could ever ask for.
CC: How do you prepare for each performance? Do you have pre-show rituals?
RNP: I don’t really have any rituals as much as I have an order to things. If I go out of order, I just feel weird. Before the show starts, I do my best to tell as many people as I can to have a great show. Everyone has their own thing whether it’s a fist bump, high five, hug, etc. Then after I’ve gotten into costume, I relax my body as much as I can, clear my mind, say a few trigger sentences to warm up my French accent, and remember that Lumiere is all about having fun. Luckily, as an actor, the times when I’m having the most fun are when I’m on stage. So getting into character comes pretty easily to me.
CC: Following the tour, what are your plans? Where would you like to see yourself 5 years from now?
RNP: Those are GREAT questions haha. Most likely once the tour is over, I’ll take a short vacation with some family and then return to NYC to start the audition grind all over again. However, as of right now, I have until late July to think about it so who knows what I’ll do!
Five years from now, I’ll be in my thirties (weird). Performing on Broadway has always been my dream, so hopefully by then I’ll have made it! Honestly though, I have no idea. I’m very much a “here and now” sort of person with the mindset that whatever is meant to happen will happen. And when it does, I’ll be ready for it.
CC: Thanks for your time, Ryan. I am looking forward to seeing your performance in Atlanta. One final question, what would you like to tell potential Beauty and the Beast audience members about the show?
RNP: Thank you so much for the questions, Colt! For all of you who are seeing the show or are thinking about seeing the show, thank you so much for welcoming us to Atlanta! I hope you enjoy the show as much as we enjoy performing it! Also, send me your favorite food and coffee spots! Twitter: @ryannmp
Other shows coming up in Fifth/Third Bank’s Broadway in Atlanta 2015/2016 season include: “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” (March 1-6, 2016), “KINKY BOOTS” (March 29-April 3, 2016), “BEAUTIFUL — THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL” (May 24-29, 2016), “THE WIZARD OF OZ” (June 21-26, 2015), and “IF/THEN” (Aug. 9-14, 2016).
To purchase tickets to the Disney’s Beauty and The Beast opening February 2nd, or other upcoming shows, visit www.BroadwayinAtlanta.com.