Actor Taye Diggs, who recently made the move from New York to Los Angeles, said that he was ecstatic when he landed the role of the macho villain, Gaston, in the Hollywood Bowl’s live-to-film “Beauty and the Beast” concert event.
“Gaston has always kind of been in my voice,” the 47-year-old actor said in a recent phone interview. “That’s a role that I could always sing along with because a lot of those roles that come around are for tenors and are a bit too high for me. But, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was something I would always sing along to and to be able to literally take on that character is really a bit of a dream come true.”
Diggs will join fellow thespians with musical theater backgrounds including Kelsey Grammer, Zooey Deschanel, Rebel Wilson, Jane Krakowski and singer-songwriter Anthony Evans for the live-to-film adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Friday, May 25 and Saturday, May 26.
At the time of the interview, Diggs was just preparing to meet with the show choreographer and was getting ready to team up with Wilson for the first time as she lends her vocals to Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou.
“How great is that?” Diggs said about getting to work with Wilson, who is known best for her role as Fat Amy in the “Pitch Perfect” films. “I’m a huge fan of hers and who would have thought that the one way I’d be working with her was through music theater? That’s how weird this business is.”
Diggs has taken on numerous popular film and television roles including playing Dr. Sam Bennett on “Private Practice” and been a reoccurring character on “Murder in the First” and “Empire.” He also has an extensive background on Broadway, having starred in both “Rent” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
“I haven’t been on stage since ‘Hedwig’ on Broadway so it will be fun to just get back in the saddle,” he added.
He’s been prepping to become Gaston by listening to multiple versions of the “Gaston” song from the 1991 animated feature, the Broadway production and the live action remake starring Emma Watson that came out just last year. Admittedly he might be driving his 9-year-old son, Walker, a little crazy as he has been rehearsing around the house and even while driving around L.A. in the car.
“When I sing it in the car he just says, ‘Again?’,” Diggs said with a laugh. “It’s neat because at this stage, he’s getting old enough to where his dad is cool, but he’s also very aware of what isn’t cool and to be able to be in a performance such as this, it kinda puts me in the cool aisle again and leaves me there a little bit longer.”
Each of the celebrity performers will be tasked with singing and acting out their parts live along with a full orchestra as the animated classic is simultaneously projected on giant screens. The Hollywood Bowl will also be transformed into the Beast’s castle with the use of projected imagery, there will be a “Beauty and the Beast” costume contest and unique photo opp props for fans and families to take photos with during the event.
“Beauty and the Beast” is the latest film that the Hollywood Bowl has brought to life via these immersive concert experiences. Composer Danny Elfman brought “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to the iconic L.A. venue in 2015 and 2016. Also in 2016, the Hollywood Bowl produced “The Little Mermaid” for three nights and last year did live-to-film concerts of “La La Land” and “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” which starred John Stamos and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Deschanel will appropriately be playing the role of Belle during the “Beauty and the Beast” event. Grammer will be taking on the role of Lumière and singing “Be Our Guest,” Evans will provide the singing voice of the Beast and Krakowski plays Ms. Potts and will sing the film title track.
“It’s really great, selfishly, to be able to perform with all of these people with musical theater backgrounds,” Diggs said. “You kind of feel like you have to give that up when you come to L.A. It’s great to know that even though we’re all in this place that focuses on film and TV, we don’t have to, in any way, leave our song and dance backgrounds and we get to work with each other on more than one level. That part of this is really cool. When we all get to rehearsal we all know we’re in L.A. and we’re lucky to work in TV and film and to have found that success, but we also get to do that which started us all out. It’s kinda like being in a club. It’s something that you don’t really think you’ll get an opportunity to do again, to flex those muscles, but we do and it’s cool to be a part of this club and I’m very appreciative.”
Speaking of flexing muscles, Diggs isn’t just preparing himself vocally for the role of Gaston, he’s very much aware of the characters cocky attitude, muscular physique and his affinity for flexing his bulging biceps for the ladies.
“Hey now, I go to the gym so I’m prepared,” he said with a laugh. “I’m down to do whatever is needed.”
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” live-to-film concert
When: 8:15 p.m. Friday, May 25 and Saturday, May 26
Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles
Tickets: $42.50-$199.50 at 800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.
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