Russell boys back on stage to­gether again

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Frank PEEBLES Cit­i­zen staff fpee­[email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

It used to be a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence to see all three of Judy Russell’s sons in the cast of a mu­si­cal the­atre pro­duc­tion.

The lo­cal chore­og­ra­pher-di­rec­tor-pro­ducer, and her sets-and-ef­fects hus­band Bill raised their boys in­side the­atres and stu­dios and they all took to the stages on which they were brought up.

As adults, though, they have all had their dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions to fol­low in life, with jobs and mar­riages and chil­dren and other in­ter­ests to pur­sue.

But An­drew, Matt and Jon are all con­verg­ing once again into the cast (and crew) of Beauty & The Beast.

The youngest of the three, Jon, is por­tray­ing the ti­tle role of The Beast. Although he is heav­ily in­volved in the sound, light­ing, sets and other back­stage el­e­ments of re­cent Judy Russell pro­duc­tions, he hasn’t had a part to play on stage since Spa­malot in 2014.

“I didn’t even know what part I was go­ing to get, I just went into it want­ing to get back on stage again, it had been long enough and I was feel­ing that pull,” said Jon. “And I get to be a bari­tone, which is rare. Char­ac­ters like this tend to be for tenors, so I love that I get this re­ally lovely song and it’s a bari­tone solo.”

Jon ob­served that Belle is the only true lead char­ac­ter in the show, de­spite The Beast be­ing in the ti­tle. “In true Dis­ney fashion, there are like six sub­plots all in­ter­wo­ven, so Matt’s char­ac­ter has as much stage time as I do, re­ally, or close to it,” he said.

Matt, the mid­dle of the three, plays Gas­ton, the loutish ladies’ man who overzeal­ously fix­ates on Belle. Matt has been the most con­sis­tently active of the three on stage in re­cent years, playing starring parts like Capt. Von Trapp in The Sound of Mu­sic and Ash in Evil Dead: The Mu­si­cal, but also sup­port­ing roles in other pro­duc­tions.

“Gas­ton is definitely a larger part than the one I had in Le­gally Blonde,” Matt said. “There is some meaty mu­sic to this role, there’s some com­edy to him, but he is es­sen­tially a vil­lain and I love that. I’ve never done a vil­lain be­fore, so I’m lov­ing that.”

An­drew spot­ted that all three of them were por­tray­ing vil­lains, in a way. The Beast starts out as the chief an­tag­o­nist of the show be­fore his per­son­al­ity trans­forms. Gas­ton is a brute from start to fin­ish. His own char­ac­ter, Mon­sieur Dark, “has his per­son­al­ity right in his name, and who doesn’t like to be the bad guy? It’s fun to be a vil­lain. The last time I got to be a vil­lain was in The Pro­duc­ers (in 2012, por­tray­ing flam­boy­ant neoNazi Franz Liebkind) and that was so com­i­cal. This one is a straightup Dis­ney car­i­ca­ture bad guy.”

An­drew was also in 2013’s Evil Dead: The Mu­si­cal, and the sup­port­ing cast of re­cent stag­ings of The Nutcracker, but that last time all three were in the same show was that edi­tion of The Pro­duc­ers seven years ago.

“I love work­ing with my broth­ers. We are very close, always have been, and that has never changed,” said An­drew. “It feels great to all be to­gether and to get back into a show, it re­ally does. I’m only dis­ap­pointed I couldn’t do it sooner. It’s like get­ting back on a bike, all the memories com­ing back and the mus­cles get­ting fa­mil­iar with it again. The pas­sion gets re-ig­nited. And I never stopped be­cause I didn’t want to do it any­more, I just had other com­mit­ments, it was a busy time with em­ploy­ment, adult­ing, just life has other pri­or­i­ties for awhile even if you don’t want it to.”

In true Russell pro­duc­tion fashion, all three (their wives, their friends, the other cast mem­bers, etc.) are also in­volved as much be­hind the scenes as they are on stage. The times be­tween re­hearsals and mem­o­riz­ing lines are spent paint­ing sets, cue­ing the lights, search­ing out props, and other prac­ti­cal­i­ties of putting on a the­atre show.

“It is true Vaudevil­lian spirit in ac­tion,” said Jon. “We don’t have an es­tab­lish­ment we are be­holden to, but then again, that means it’s all on us. Some­one’s got to do it, and we are those some­ones. That’s part of the fear and the re­ward about live the­atre.”

These good guys get to be their re­spec­tive bad guys start­ing tonight and run­ning to July 27 at the Prince George Play­house. Tick­ets to Beauty & The Beast are on sale now at all Cen­tral In­te­rior Tick­ets plat­forms, or at the door while sup­plies last.

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Jon and Matt Russell back stage at the Prince George Play­house. The three Russell boys are back on stage for the first time in a long while.

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