Bryan Batt Press - NYC City Guide
NYC Official City Guide Magazine, January 31, 2002
NYC's theatre spotlight, Beauty and the Beast's BRYAN BATT
by Judith Segal

 

Lumiere
"When I was a little kid growing up in New Orleans I was very theatrical, but very shy with strangers," confides Bryan Batt who literally lights up the stage as the charming and hilarious candelabra, Lumiere, in the long-running Broadway hit, Beauty and the Beast. "That was unusual in my family because my grandmother ran a dance studio and, in the '30s, long before I was born, my grandfather operated an amusement park. There was always entertainment around me and I loved it."

To help alleviate his shyness Batt was enrolled at a local community theatre that had a summer children's program. "That's where I auditioned for my first role. I got it, although I had to lie my way in," he confesses. "They only took kids over 12 and I was just 10."

He was cast as a chorus boy in the musical Li'l Abner and, as with any good showbiz saga, young Batt got his "big break" the night the actor who played Dogpatch patriarch Pappy Yokum got sick and he went on for him. "So there I was, a 10-year-old wearing a bald cap," he recalls. Like Maxwell Smart, he might well add, "And loving it."

Since that auspicious beginning, Batt has become a wonderful and versatile actor, appearing in roles ranging from Joe Gillis (opposite Betty Buckley) in Sunset Boulevard to the Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also originated the part of Darius in Jeffrey and was among the cavalcade of performers (including Rosie O'Donnell) who played The Cat in the Hat in Seussical: the Musical on Broadway last season.

And now, in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, he is having more fun than he ever dreamed playing a role that calls for equal parts Maurice Chevalier and Steve Martin. Batt, however, sees Lumiere as half of a duet played with Jeff Brooks who is "brilliant" as the enchanted clock, Cogsworth. Indeed, the two are wonderfully matched (not to mention hysterically funny), in their moments together on stage.

Batt, who joined the cast this past August, went to see the show on the advice of his agent before committing to the project. It only took one viewing to convince him. "A lot of people have a preconceived and inaccurate notion of the show," explains the actor. "It's a sophisticated, beautifully-told story with a wonderful score, brilliant performances and incredible costumes and, when they see it, they have a great time."

To illustrate his point, Batt describes what happened right after the September 11th attack on the World Trade Towers: "At that time many theatres, including ours, were offering deeply-discounted tickets so a lot of 'theatre snobs' who, in ordinary times, would never have come to our show, did come and were surprised and overwhelmed by how much they enjoyed it."

Audience accolades aside, Batt admits the show does challenge the actors - particularly in the area of costumes. On his back, for example, he wears butane-filled tubes that feed the flames that appear on his hands, an arrangement that made him nervous until he got used to it. "The costumes look great, but sometimes they're not so comfortable," he concludes. "My candle hands weigh 8 1/2 pounds each. I never had muscular arms in my life, now I'm developing biceps."