As musical theater roles go, you can’t get much juicier than Gaston, the arrogant, ultra-conceited villain in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Rick Spangler certainly sees it that way. He gets to play Gaston in the Community Theatre of Howell’s production, and he’s relishing every minute of it.
“What isn’t there to love about playing Gaston?” Spangler said. “I get to play both the narcissistic town hero AND the villain at the same time. Several of my scenes are just over the top, and what actor doesn’t want to be a complete ham? Plus, I have the best onstage fan club and an official village mob to back me up. Gaston is definitely high on my list of favorite roles.”
CTH’s colorful “Beauty and the Beast” takes the stage Nov. 11-13 and 18-20 at the Howell High School Freshman Campus. It marks the second time Spangler has been on the CTH stage, following the 2015 production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which he played Perchik.
By day, Spangler, who lives in Fenton, is a senior scientist with MDA Information Systems in Ypsilanti, where he leads development teams to create algorithms and software that apply to remote and environmental sensing applications. And by night, he gets to play one of the biggest buffoons in Broadway history.
“ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a great ‘chorus show,’ – that is, there are a lot of scenes that are built on the ensemble,” Spangler said. “When you have a good cast bond, this kind of show really makes a performance stand out. It’s also one that’s well recognized by the audience. Most people have seen the movie – I must have watched this a hundred times when my daughter was little – and I’ll be pleased to see how much they recognize.”
As Spangler said, the story of “Beauty and the Beast” is a familiar one to generations of Disney fans. A beautiful woman in a small town in France named Belle has to help a hideous Beast find true love – all while fending off the advances of the conceited Gaston. CTH’s production will include all the big-stage musical numbers, including “Be Our Guest” and the hilarious “Gaston.”
“I think each show has its own chaos and its own familiarity at the same time,” Spangler said. “ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a big show with a lot of people, and I know how hard it can be to bring everything together. This show has a lot of moving parts. It’s been great to see the army of people who support this show to make it as strong as it is. Kevin (Rogers, the director) and the production team make this a positive experience, even during hard practices. And I get to work with great people on stage, who bring a lot of professionalism into their acting.”
Spangler is looking forward to opening night, when the audience gets to see it all come together.
“For an audience member, they get to see the part of the show that goes on the stage,” he said. “If they got to see the rest of the iceberg like I have, they’d notice how many members of this production take pride in what they’re doing, and how much they understand how important their role is. They’re a good group to work with, and I’ve had fun being involved with them.”
Performances of “Beauty and the Beast” are Nov. 11-13 and 18-20, with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, available online at cththeatre.org. Tickets are also available at Kahuna Coffee and Finding Roots in Howell; Big Acre in Brighton; Ed Bock Feed and Stuff in Pinckney; and Maria’s School of Dance in Fowlerville. You can also order tickets by calling the box office at 517-545-1290.
Photo by Richard Lim Photography. Visit them be clicking here.