Out actor Paul Crane may not be Belle, but he’s having a ball in Disney tour
Everyone in theater has to start out as the new guy some time. But Paul Crane never expected to be the oldest fella with the shortest resume.
A few years ago, Crane was a middle-aged Chicagoan, working in the corporate world, when something suddenly struck him: He didn’t really enjoy his life as much as he felt he should.
“Chicago’s a great town, but I was tired of the cold and wanted to move,” he says. That’s when he realized something else. “If I was in love with my job and with my career, I wouldn’t have left it just because of the weather.” In short, it was time to start afresh.
Crane packed up and moved to Florida without much of a plan or any new job lined up. While looking for employment, on a lark he went to an audition for a play.
“I always loved doing theater,” he says, having remaining active in it even during his white-collar businessman days. “So I went to an audition, and got my first professional job. It wasn’t a premeditated mid-life change — it just sort of happened. I tell people, I’m a lot poorer, but a lot happier.”
That was four years ago, and he’s been working steadily ever since, most recently in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which comes to the Winspear for a two-week run April 14. Touring is something new for Crane.
“I’ve got to go to places never in my life and see places I never would have seen … and occasionally know I’ll never want to see again!”
One of those is not Dallas, which he has been to several times, but never for such a long stint. Crane says he’s looking forward to exploring it — and as a single gay man, this is the time.
“The last time I was on tour I did have a partner, which was difficult.” The relationship he’s currently happiest with, though, it the one he plays onstage.
“I love the relationship I have with Belle, my daughter in the show,” Crane says. “Especially at the beginning, it’s all about us, going from town to town. I think it’s because I love her as a character and also the lady who plays her, who is absolutely glorious, that it’s such a good show. Her transformation is incredible, especially the moral where she looks beyond appearance to the person underneath.”
“Some time I do think I’m missing the fun. I’ve [joked with the producers], ‘Can’t you put me in the ‘Be Our Guest’ number as a sugar bowl?’”
One of the downsides of being on tour this year? This winter, it meant in frigid locales like Bangor, Maine and Detroit.
“I’ve been freezing my butt off — this isn’t supposed to be happening!” he laughs. At least Florida awaits.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 11, 2014.