Friday, January 29, 2010


Brendan Lemon

Gaston is the unbearably conceited stud in "Beauty and the Beast," and I think it's fair to say that for Nathaniel Hackmann, who plays him, the role's not a stretch. Just consider some of roles he's played in a still-young career fairly equally divided between opera and musical theater: Lancelot in "Camelot," Belcore in "Elixir of Love," the title role in "Don Giovanni."

"In my last bio," joked Hackmann, "it said, 'Other egomaniacal, misogynistic antagonists' I have played are..."

In the opera world, it's standard for a baritone to be the bad guy, or, at least, the personality with the shady past. But in the musical theater the baritone is just as often more heroic, a fact illustrated by digging deeper into Hackmann's roster of roles: Emile in "South Pacific," the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance."

Hackmann only completed his schooling (a Master's in Music from Central Michigan University in December 2006) a few years ago, but his back-and-forth between opera and musicals is second-nature. He explains: "During the entire time I was a student, I was putting myself through school by doing professional theater on the side. I'd rehearse opera during the day and do musicals at night."

For Hackmann, who grew up in Arizona, in a very musical family, juggling the two art forms can be a challenge. "It can be complicated to work out the scheduling," he admitted. "Operas will often cast two or three seasons ahead of time. Jobs in musicals happen more quickly." He said that for the "Beauty and the Beast" tour he had to ask for release from three of his upcoming opera contracts.

"It's worth it," he explained. "Everything about rehearsing for this tour has been amazing. The cast are incredibly giving, and the creative team is so deep in talent that you can always find someone to give you just the help you need."

For Hackmann, such a support staff is a luxury compared to the previous times he played Gaston. He did the part last year at the Cumberland County Playhouse, in Crossville, Tennessee, and in 2005 in summer stock in Findlay, Ohio. "Findlay was good experience," he said, "but I'd be singing and at the same time have to turn the set. For this new tour I can concentrate on performing."



  1. Just saw Beauty & the Beast in Dallas. LOVED Gaston and everyone else in the show as well. Amazing show. Thanks for coming to the big D.

  2. I caught B & B in Kansas City. Nathaniel WAS the show. Everyone was good, but he was in a different league. I'm excited to see what this guy does next!