Tag Archives: Nathaniel Hackmann

“Beauty and the Beast”

Liz Shivener as Belle and Justin Glaser as Beast (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” opened to a packed house Tuesday night at ASU Gammage in Tempe, where the crowd was a mix of grown-ups, teens and kids (including boys in lopsided neckties and girls in pint-size princess garb).

I sat between my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth and a delightful middle schooler named Amanda, who chatted with me about the many summers she’s enjoyed theater camp at Mesa Community College.

I ran into other college students we know after the show, who made a point of suggesting I review “The Taming of the Shrew” (at Mesa Community College Theatre Outback later this fall) and “Sugar” (currently on stage at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa).

Their directors would be proud — and I’m becoming a prime candidate for cloning.

Everyone I spoke with enjoyed Tuesday night’s performance of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”– despite a few sound glitches that seemed to strike whenever Nathaniel Hackmann (Gaston) had a particularly funny line.

Merritt David James as Lumiere (Photo: Joan Marcus)

We spoke with Hackmann and other cast members after the show, who were very gracious about doing the whole photo and autograph thing with fans old enough to stay up that late.

A mere 10 seconds or so into Hackmann’s first bit on stage, it felt like Elvis had just entered the building. There’s all that fawning by “ga-ga for Gaston” groupies — but also Hackmann’s own very real charisma.

Justin Glaser (Beast), Liz Shrivener (Belle) and Hackmann each delivered strong performances, engaging audience members of all ages. The rest of the cast was lovely, but no one performer really outshined the others.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” — presented here by NETworks — is over the top and grandiose in many ways.

Think Disney meets opera…meets Caesars Palace…meets Hee Haw…meets Cirque du Soleil. It’s all good, mind you, but there’s an awful lot going on.

Puppetry. Acrobatics. Strobe lights. Streamers. Pom poms in Sun Devil red and gold.

It seemed to take the audience a while to give themselves permission to really roll with it, but by the opening of Act II there was no stopping the laughter.

Liz Shivener and the cast of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a lavish production that’ll renew your faith in love and the goodness within each of us — even those who seem reluctant to reveal it.


Note: Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is being performed at ASU Gammage through Oct 24. When you attend, leave plenty of time for parking and getting seated.

Coming up: Art adventures in Queen Creek


Getting to know Gaston

Nathaniel Hackmann (Gaston) and Ensemble in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"

Belle isn’t particularly eager to get to know Gaston when they meet in the fictional French village of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” movie — which predates the Disney musical by many years.

Gaston is rather garish with a gargantuous ego — though the gaggles of girls who follow and fawn over him don’t seem to mind. But Belle, the “Beauty” to the story’s “Beast,” finds him ever so borish.

The actor who currently plays Gaston in the touring production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” seems an altogether different sort of fellow. We spoke by phone recently when the tour stopped in Hawaii.

I caught up with Nathaniel Hackmann as he was enjoying the view from atop Diamond Head in Honolulu, where my mom and I lived for a time when I was in my teens.

Anyone who’ll take a call atop Diamond Head is beyond gracious in my book. Talking with the press or taking in paradise? It’s not a tough choice.

Turns out Hackmann hails from Scottsdale and “grew up on the Mesa/Chandler border.” He attended Dobson High School before studying vocal performance and vocal education at Northern Arizona University.

When his local voice teacher moved to Michigan, Hackmann transfered to Central Michigan University, earning his masters degree in 2006.

Still, he’s got high praise for performing arts programs at Arizona’s three state universities — suggesting that students going through that lovely college admissions process look at the University of Arizona musical theatre program, the Northern Arizona University theatre education program and the performing arts programs at Arizona State University.

Gaston would gladly offer college advice without ever being asked for it, despite his apparent lack of literary luster. Hackmann, on the other hand, strikes me as a humble fellow who is happy to share with others in a giving, rather than self-glorifying, way.

So I asked him about the college audition process for aspiring performing arts majors. “The first ten seconds are crucial,” says Hackmann. “You have to find that something that will stick in their minds.” It never hurts when that something is confidence or a “good attitude.”

“Sing what you sing best,” recommends Hackmann. Don’t choose audition pieces based on “preconceived notions.”

I asked Hackmann about how he landed the role of Gaston. “I was in New York,” recalls Hackmann, “doing lots of auditions.” I like the “lots” part. Take note young job seekers — one or two applications or auditions here or there is unlikely to do the trick.

“The audition was a pretty grueling process,” admits Hackmann. But happily, he was picked in the “first round” — meaning he only went through five or so call backs compared to the 35 experienced by other contenders.

Competition for the role of Belle was expecially fierce — with about 3,000 women auditioning for the part — which makes me especially eager to see this performance. (There were about 5,ooo auditioners in all.)

Hackmann says this musical shares a common thread with all Disney productions: It has something for everyone. There’s romance and action — a combo that makes musicals appealing to boys and girls young and old.

“It has a really spectacular fight scene,” says Hackmann, adding that this is always a favorite with younger boys in the audience. Those who’ve studied or practiced stage combat will appreciate it on a whole other level.

Hackmann notes that the production features a fresh young cast plus several new staging elements he describes as “ethereal.” He says audience members “from nine months to 99 years old” have enjoyed the musical during this tour.

The preschool-age girls who dress like Belle or wear other princess costumes only add to the magic. Though I’m too old for dress up, I’ll be in the audience on opening night — and share a review of the show with you next week.

But don’t delay in getting your tickets. Disney musicals are beloved by many and I’d hate to see any young princesses at the show who are all dressed up with nowhere to go.


Nathaniel Hackmann

Note: Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” runs Oct 19-24 at ASU Gammage. It’s one of several musicals this season which have special appeal for children and families. Click here to learn about special offers — including a Disney princess costume event this Friday (where some will receive a free ticket to the show) and a “Beauty and the Beasts” event at the Phoenix Zoo this Saturday.

Coming up: Meet more stage moms, Fright night at the theater, Weekend arts roundup