Few musical theater roles are more coveted by young baritones than the Beast in the Disney hit "Beauty and the Beast." No matter that Belle, the object of his affection, cannot see initially what lies beneath his hideous face, his inner self wins her over. Dane Agostinis, star of the Disney hit coming to National Theatre for a two-week run, described the routine he goes through before each performance.
"When Emily Behny, who plays Belle, and I were flown out from New York to join the cast in L.A., I spent an hour and a half in the makeup chair," he said. "After paying careful attention, I pretty soon decided I could handle the task myself. The process involves putting on basic makeup, prosthetics on my face, a wig and my costume. Now, I have it down to less than 45 minutes."
Considering all the details of facial and body characteristics involved, his swift transformation toward the end of the show from the Beast to the Prince seems next to impossible. He gives away no secrets, simply laughs and attributes it to "Disney magic." Despite the Beast's less than welcoming overtures to Belle, Agostinis quickly grew fond of the character.
|'Beauty and the Beast'|
|Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW|
|When: Through June 24|
|Info: $39 to $116.50; 800-447-7400; nationaltheatre.org|
"I like everything about him," he said. "He is dark and menacing for the first few scenes and turns on a dime. It's a tricky juggling act, so I have to pace myself. Because he becomes frustrated easily, I must be quick to infuse comedy to help him lighten up and become funny. Toward the end, he is humanized, and his emotional side is revealed when he woos Belle."
"The advantages of coming into a production after it's been on the road for some time is that I wasn't a guinea pig" he said. "The first guy in the role had a lot of skin reactions to the make-up. By the time I came along, that problem was solved. It's also fun traveling around the country, seeing new places, family and friends. One of the highlights was spending a week in Vancouver [British Columbia] where my dad's family lives. My 85-year old grandmother was able to see me perform for the first time."
Agostinis is open to all opportunities, from Broadway musicals and dramas to television. When "Beauty and the Beast" came along, he gave up his apartment in New York, so there are no strings to deter a move to L.A. For the present, however, he is enjoying every moment of the tour, from the thrill of entertaining audiences of all ages eight times a week to answering questions posed by young fans.
"The theme of this story is that my character is not what he looks like," he said. "It's an important truth that people can be misunderstood if we don't look past their facade and into their heart. The Beast feels hopeless at first, but once Belle comes around, everything changes."