SAN JOSE, CA – Looking at, the young, 6 feet 3’’ ex-Nebraska alum SAM HARTLEY, it is almost impossible to believe that this handsome Actor/Baritone could play the role of “The Beast” in the 2016 touring version of DISNEY’s Broadway’s musical “Beauty and the Beast.” but “the Magic of Disney”, as he calls his costume, makes it possible when it transforms his appearance.
Playing the leading role in this musical, is not an easy task, he tells CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL explaining that one of the reasons is that playing the part requires not only that the actor learns his lines, his songs, and the lyrics, but that he re-learns how to walk. “We need to remember,” he says “that being a four-legged animal, the “Beast” moved in four legs, but that now, because he is trying to impress Belle (the girl who came into his castle looking for her father) he needs to learn how to walk in two.”
After getting the role, HARTLEY tells us that to be able to play it convincingly, he had to spent time analyzing the psyche of his character. In the story, the “Beast” was once a handsome prince that was transformed into an animal by a Sorceress. Since his transformation, this young man/beast still living in his castle, is waiting to die. The reason is that the day he was transformed into a monster, the Sorceress gave him a vase containing a single rose that loses petals every day. She told him that he will die, when the last petal of the rose is gone and that the only way he could change her curse, will be for him to find a woman who could love him as a beast.
We ask HARTLEY how old was he, when he first got acquainted with the story.
S.H “I was acquainted with the story with the movie, which came out in l992 or 93, so I was probably four or five years old when I first saw it, and I absolutely loved the story. The music was so good, and the movie itself is so well written and so well done that at that age, I fell in love with these characters and these songs.”
“ One of the interesting aspects of this story is that it is so dissectible simple, that you don’t think about it, but when you do, it affects you. It affected me as a youngster, and later on as a teenager, when I was able to connect with the “journey”
C.W.B. What Journey?
S.H. “Both Belle (the lead actress in the story) and the Beast go through a "journey", usually associated with adolescence, when you feel that you are an outsider. In the story, Belle (meaning beautiful in French) is described as the girl that the people in the village finds “odd” (She likes to read and is more mature and intelligent that the rest of the girls her age). As for the Beast, the first words the story uses to describe him are “a horrible, monstrous beast.” Which means, that this poor young man has been judged, for years, because of his outer appearance. Just think how it should feel to any person to be described as “horrible” and “frightening” and “monstrous.” And (sadly) because the beast looks so scary, people treat him as such. So in this story you have two people who are treated as “outsiders.” Belle because of the way that she acts, and the Beast because of the way that he looks. I think that any child could connect to that going through school”
C.W.B. How did you get the part?
S.H. I was singing and acting since I was very little, my first acting class was at age 7, and I started voice lesson when I was 13. I always knew that acting was what I wanted to do, but “Beauty and the Beast” was out of my radar when I was in High School and in my early college days. But them I moved to New York, about three years ago from Nebraska where I am originally from, and began going to as many auditions as I could. In my three years in New York I continued missing the auditions for this show (This is the six year of its tour). But this last Summer when I was teaching at a theatre’s Camp there, one of the Casting Associates for the Casting Director of “Beauty and the Beast” asked me if I wanted to audition for the show. I went to the audition in in July (2015) and started rehearsals in August.”
C.W.B. After you got the part of the "Beast" how did you approach your character?
S.H. “Because the show has been on tour for so long, I was familiar with the design of the show, so as an actor I wanted to challenge myself by telling the story of the Beast physically. I am about 6 foot three and when I put on“the Disney Magic” (as he calls his costume) I am six feet seven, so I really challenged myself to use my entire body to show (the Beast) expressions: happiness, sadness. and how to show them , with my body.
“I am aware that anybody who has been teased knows that when people calls you “names” you start to believe those things, and that If you hear somebody describe you as something, or if you hear somebody tell you something for a long time, you are going to start believing it, so when you meet the Beast at the beginning of the show, he believes that he is a hideous monster . so I acted that way.”
C.W.B. You seem to understand how and why the Beast feels and act as he does, but as an actor, how do you represent his psychological side?
S.H. As an actor, (to represent the beast feelings) I had to embrace the times in my life when I was picked on and remember the anger that you felt when people makes you feel like an outsider. When I was teased, the embarrassment I felt about that. At the beginning of the movie, the show and the book, the Beast is referred as a “young prince”, so I played the Beast as an adolescent who is facing all this “new” emotion: learning how to love, for the first time. It is scary for him, but it is also exciting, and nerve-racking.
C.W.B. What is for you the most difficult part of the role?
S.H. “I would say that the most difficult part for me was to learn to stay (in character) as a Beast, both physically and emotionally, and then become human again. It is a difficult transformation. When you (the audience) first meet him, (the Beast) he is hunched over, animalistic, leaping from platform to platform on his throne. But, slowly, he learns to walk upright and you (the audience) need to stop seeing him (acting) as an animal and see that this monster, is a human being trapped inside. To let the audience see the Beast transforming, little by little, from animal to human, for me, it was definitely a challenge.”
C.W.B. In playing your relationship with Belle what was your difficulty?
S.H. “The incredible thing about Belle (played in this show by BROOKE QUINTANA) as a character, is that she is a strong-willed single-minded person who only trusts her own heart. Because of it, she is the only person, that sees this Beast directly past this monstrous exterior and finds his heart. She even learns to fall in love with him. Belle, is such an important role model for young girls and for everybody, because she stays true to herself. Her name is Belle (beautiful) and she is beautiful outside and inside. She can be with somebody like the Beast because she is the only one who understand him”
S.H. “There is nothing not to like about Gaston. He is handsome, he is wealthy, he is well built. Our ensemble will just knock you off your feet when you hear them singing his song. Is hysterical. The truth about Gaston is that this entire town worships at this man’s feet. Every woman wants to be with him, and every man wants to be like him, But as the story goes on, we realize that there is one thing that he cannot get: Belle. There is this one girl that has caught his attention but she does not want him. And that drives him crazy, so crazy, that little by little he becomes a monster. So as the Beast is learning to stand up and walk upright, Gaston is turning more hunched over, becoming more physically aggressive more angry, more beast like. At the end of the show, the role of these two men have been reversed.”
Beauty and the Beast will be shown from April 1st to April 3rd at the SAN JOSE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS in San Jose. Tickets for the production can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com, in person at the City National Civic Centre Box Office, 150 San Carlos St. San Jose or by calling 1-800- 982 ARTS (1-800-982-2787).