Out actor Paul Crane may not be Belle, but he’s having a ball in Disney tour


FAIRY TALE THEATER | Crane, right, loves playing Belle’s father in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in part because his ‘daughter’ is a joy.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

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.”

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 8.11.06 PMAs Belle’s dad, though, Crane misses out on one of the most notable joys of Beauty and the Beast: The chance to wear one of the fantastical costumes.

“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.