For a muscle-popping, self-obsessed villain—perhaps the most ego-driven character in the entire Disney canon—Peter Huck can hold up his end of a pleasant conversation about being an unrepentant bad guy.
"Awesome," he says with a chuckle, about donning the extra ego of Gaston for Beauty and the Beast. "It's totally awesome." It must be: the Citadel's remount of the musical marks the third time he's played the character. He rounds out the antagonistic end of the classic tale: imprisoned in an ancient castle filled with objects come alive, Belle finds herself repulsed by, then drawn to understanding the imposing lord of the castle, cursed into a hideous form that hides his true self. Gaston, the local hero in Belle's town with more than a touch self-aggrandizing arrogance, acts as an outer-beauty/inner-monster foil to the Beast.
"They even have some of the same lines," Huck says, regarding the characters. "They're small, but they are present." It seems like careful analysis for someone playing one of the biggest characters in a spectacle-driven show that's also based on an animated film—not exactly a well-grounded platform to launch into scene study with. But Huck notes he's found a way to ground a cartoon in the real world performance.
"Gaston is always about creating pictures," he says. "It seems that the challenge inherent in that is making sure that you are meaning what you say: If you're playing a character that you have to embody a cartoon, whatever you're saying, whatever your intention is on the line, you kind of have to embody that physically and also with your voice. So not only do you have to be truthful but you also have to try to create a frame or a picture around that intention, that makes the audience see what that intention is."
A Grant MacEwan grad, Huck's back in Edmonton after further honing his chops at Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music, and working around New York. And Gaston might not get the girl, but Huck does: he's getting married in August.
From his perspective, the Disney story's still so beloved—enough so to see this stage version get a remount in Edmonton so soon after its initial run—because of the level of honesty in the writing that rings true in everyday life.
"I think we're all sort of on that same path in life," he says, "It makes us feel less alien, about some of the things that you have to experience or go through as a person … They sort of say, 'look, life isn't perfect, and here's how you can overcome obstacles to become beautiful or bigger or better'—in yourself I mean, not beautiful in terms of outside-in. Find happiness, find whatever it is that makes you happy. It's possible, and you're going to overcome obstacles in order to do that." V
Until Sun, May 30 (7:30 pm)
Beauty and the Beast
Written by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Linda Woolverton
Directed by Bob Baker
Starring Josée Boudreau, Réjean Cournoyer, Peter Huck
Citadel Theatre (9828 – 101A Ave) $60 – $90