Beach Reprises His Tony Winning Role for Theater of the Stars
Playing one dream role in a career is a chance that few get to accomplish, but Gary Beach has had the opportunity to play several, including his Tony Award®-nominated performance as Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the lead in La Cage aux Folles opposite of Robert Goulet. Now, he returns to Atlanta to reprise his Tony Award®-winning role of Roger DeBris in the Theater of the Stars production of The Producers.
After playing DeBris on Broadway and in 2005’s film version of the musical, Beach could have retired from ever taking the stage as DeBris again, and who would have blamed him? In fact, if it wasn’t for three performances at the Hollywood Bowl, he might not have returned to Atlanta, where his professional career took off.
“I just played [Roger DeBris] at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In fact, I think if I hadn’t done it then, I might not have done this,” Beach comments. “I didn’t realize I would have so much fun doing it. The audience was so much fun. “
That production has indirectly led him back to Atlanta to once again work with Theater of the Stars. Even in the blustery cold of January in Atlanta, Beach is excited to reprise the role for Atlanta audiences.
“I live in Palm Beach, Florida. It doesn’t get this cold, but I love Atlanta. I got my equity card here 400 years ago,” he says with a laugh. “So, it’s full circle. It’s great.”
Beach first worked with Theater of the Stars in the theater’s July 1968 production of Camelot, where he earned his equity card as a member of the chorus. The production starred Hal Holbrook as King Arthur.
The chance to work with the Theater of the Stars again means a lot to Beach, and after reuniting with the theater, he has nothing but praise for producer Chris Manos.
“It is good to see Chris Manos sitting there smiling, and the strange thing is he looks exactly the same as he did 40 years ago. I wish I could say the same,” Beach says. “He still enjoys it. He loves it. He’s done a lot for theater in Atlanta over the decades.”
But the real excitement for him comes from bringing the flamboyant DeBris to the stage again, and he is a character that Beach enjoys on several levels. “There’s a real art to the character. He starts at the beginning of the show and totally hasn’t changed in personality by the end of the show. It doesn’t happen in many musicals,” he comments.
Another aspect of the character that he enjoys is performing songs such as “Keep It Gay,” and the various costume changes for the show. “I have more costumes than Ethel Merman in this show,” he says. “I make my first entrance in a huge evening gown. Then, I end up in the second act wearing Adolf Hitler’s SS costume. It’s all over the place, and I love it.”
Of course DeBris is just one of the many colorful characters in this comedy, which played on Broadway for six years. Somewhat different from the original movie, the show has much of the same humor that made that movie such a classic. Beach comments, “It’s a smart show. The more you know coming into the show, the more you know in history in art and everything, the more you are going to enjoy it. Mel Brooks is a very smart man. It’s quite enjoyable.”
When asked what the audience will enjoy most about this production, Beach jokes, “I’m in it.” However, he goes on to praise the production value of the show. “I can honestly say this is basically the Broadway production. We are using the original set design and the original costume design,” he states. “It is put together by people who know what they are doing and who know the play backwards and forwards. It is well worth seeing. Quite honestly, if it wasn’t going to be like that I wouldn’t have done it.”
Theater of the Stars’ production of The Producers plays January 25 through January 31, 2013 at the Fox Theatre. For tickets, please visit www.foxatltix.com or Theater of the Stars’ website for more information about the show and other shows in the season.
By: Kenny Norton