LIGHT MY FIRE!!
Rick Hilsabeck (Lumiere in Beauty & the Beast) shed some light on a few things!
I grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). I was always around music (singing mostly). My mother has a beautiful soprano voice and also taught voice. She definitely could have had an opera career, but instead, happily chose to raise a family. I have two older brothers. My Dad was a wonderful man. He was a high school social studies teacher for many years in at Hinsdale Central H.S. He loved music as well. He played the trombone and loved all sorts of music. He and my mom have had the greatest influence on me. They will always remain my greatest heroes. They always encouraged me to follow my heart and my dreams. And that was to be on the stage. I always loved singing from an early age and was convinced by a good pal in H.S. to get into the choral program there. And that is where I discovered my calling I guess. The school was known for its high quality musicals and it was there I performed in my first full length shows. Also, my H.S. choral/voice teacher was a big influence. She first taught me the meaning and value of good discipline and healthy, correct singing. I was also a gymnast when I was young, which eventually led to my love of dance. (I spent eleven years in Chicago's acclaimed Hubbard Street Dance Company.)
I decided to leave concert dance and return to my first passion: musical theatre. I was very fortunate to have played the role of The Phantom in the 1st Nat'l Tour of "The Phantom of the Opera" for over four years. The reknowned director, Harold Prince was a huge influence on me as well. I owe him a great deal. Other influences: Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Dick Van Dyke, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Beethoven, Chopin, Puccini, Sondheim, etc. Watching and listening to the greats is one of the best things any performer can do.
My favorite Disney film has to be "Mary Poppins". Dick Van Dyke has always been a favorite. His timing is impeccable! (Mostly on his 1960's TV show...I have them all!)
As far as preparation for the role of Lumiere: I have to be warmed up physically (for carrying around those candlesticks!) and vocally. But most of all just to be in the right frame of mind. Lumiere is the optimistic, fun-loving, Don Juan-like, harlequin type who is the polar opposite of his compadre, Cogsworth. They make a good team. Bill Hartery and I have a really good working relationship and a lot of fun together. And yes, our costumes most definitely affect our performances. They certainly enhance the sense of fantasy! I must say, the candlesticks (being quite heavy) are a "challenge" at times. But the effect of real flames is pretty great. It has been really fun to play such a fun-loving, breezy character. I need to play "tortured and dark" some time soon to balance things out!
I have been an artist (painter) for many years. It is my other passion. It fulfills a part of my artistic side which is totally different from performing. It is extremely satisfying and calming. Very Zen. So when I'm not working, I can mostly be found painting. My medium is oil. I study and enjoy the Impressionists, but have been experimenting lately with the "Colorists" (for those of you who follow that sort of thing.) So that keeps me happy and content, as this business can challenge your resolve at times. Always good to have a "haven" to escape to. But I have been very fortunate to have made a living doing the things I love. And working at Westchester (last year, Herbie in GYPSY) has been wonderful. I hope to have the opportunity to work here again very soon!