News and Features

An Interview with Lumière: Childhood Fantasy Completed

Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test…

Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes
They can sing, they can dance
After all, Miss, this is France…

OK, so maybe we’re not in France, but when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast takes to the stage tonight at the Winspear Opera House, it will be like the sweet spring air of Paris has swept in and we will all be transported to a fantastical time. One filled with soufflés and baguettes and ball gowns, and love and romance, and a dancing candelabra.

Lumière, Lefou, Belle, the Beast. These characters conjure up many memories of my childhood. I remember watching my VHS of Beauty and the Beast on repeat until I ran the tape down and my VCR spat the black ribbons back out at me. In protest, I think. As if it were daring me to play “Be Our Guest” or “Beauty and the Beast” one more time. But how could I not dance around my living room to Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts crooning, “Tale as old as time…”

"Be Our Guest" Photo by Amy Boyle, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

“Be Our Guest”
Photo by Amy Boyle, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

I’m sure we all have some similar memory when we think of this merry band of characters, but just in case you don’t know the story, here is a brief recap:

Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.

A classic love story, and one that ran on stage for more than 13 years on Broadway, won a Tony for best musical, was a mega-hit animated film, and is now on tour, Beauty and the Beast is set to entertain us here in Dallas from April 15-27.

And as the touring company makes their way here, I emailed back and forth with Hassan Nazari-Robati, who plays the loveable Lumière, to find out what it is like to be a part of a show that is so near and dear to many of us.

Hassan Nazari-Robati

Hassan Nazari-Robati

Danielle Georgiou: Beauty and the Beast is a truly loved show by both children and adults alike. I know it was one of my most beloved childhood movies, and it’s great to see it come to life on stage. What is your favorite part about the show?

Hassan Nazari-Robati: I would definitely have to say that my favorite part about the show is the message about the transformative power of love. Not only is there the obvious example of how love actually transforms the Beast back into a prince, but the great thing is that the show also expands on how this new found love changes who Belle is as well.

DG: How does it feel to play such a cherished character? Do you feel any major pressure?

HN-R: Having grown up with the film, it is a childhood dream come true to be able to bring Lumière to life every night, but it does definitely come with pressure.  It’s always a balancing act of giving the audience the character they’ve grown up loving while at the same time being true to the performer that I am and what comes honestly from me.

DG: Now that you have played Lumière for nearly two years, have you come to see any similarities between the two of you? Or have you noticed you becoming more like your character?

HN-R: I think from the beginning, I’ve connected with Lumière’s desire to see those around him happy.  I don’t know that I’ve become more like him in other ways, but there are times when I slip into the French accent in everyday conversation.

DG: And how difficult was it to get that French accent down?

HN-R: I can’t say that the accent was something that gave me tons of trouble.  I’m sort of lucky that in this production it’s not necessarily the goal to portray realistic accents, but rather American caricatures of the various accents.

DG: What’s your favorite number in the show?

HN-R: I would have to say that my favorite number in the show is “Human Again.”  It was recently added back into the movie, but I think in the play it has an even deeper meaning for the enchanted objects. In the show, the spell has life-or-death consequences for us, so for the characters it’s not just about regaining our human forms back, but also about our desire to keep on living.

DG: Can you describe to our readers what tour life is like? Is it an all-day sing-a-long, like I imagine it would be?

HN-R: While I’m sad to say that not every day is filled with sudden musical numbers and dance breaks, the great thing about tour is getting to be surrounded by an amazing group of people and forming your own family with them.

DG: What can the audience expect from the stage production? How does it differ, or how is it the same, to the film?

HN-R: The great thing about the show is that it takes everything you love in the movie and expands on it. You get more singing, more dancing, and more heart. It’s a true treat for anyone who holds this story near and dear to their heart.

DG: How did you first get involved with theatre and musical theatre? What made you fall in love with the craft?

HN-R: My first experiences with theater were all in school, starting with my fourth grade production of Santa Goes to Branson. I would have to say that I didn’t really fall in love with performing until high school. I think that’s when I first realized how much performing demanded of my whole being, and I loved just fully going on a journey with all these different people that I was portraying.

DG: You graduated from Oklahoma City University rather recently, and landed a major role on a national tour pretty much right out of school. What advice do you have for young actors?

HN-R: I think my biggest piece of advice is to trust in yourself and what you bring to the table. You have to see whichever character you want to be inside yourself before the person behind the table ever will.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs from April 15-27 at the Winspear Opera House.