Homecoming for local star playing Gaston in 'Beauty and the Beast' at Walnut Street Theater

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Friday, December 22, 2023
Homecoming for local star playing Gaston in 'Beauty and the Beast'
Homecoming for local star playing Gaston in 'Beauty and the Beast'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's a tale as old as time!

Disney's "Beauty and The Beast" is on stage right now at the Walnut Street Theatre.

It's a real homecoming for one of the stars, who plays one of the most loved and loathed villains of all time: Gaston.

Gloucester Township's Chris Stevens said he's having way too much fun with this role on a stage that's very dear to him.

"I walk out on stage every night and I feel right at home," Stevens said. "It's perfect. I couldn't think of a more magical place to be this holiday season."

He says playing a villain is "a lot more fun."

"With Gaston, it's tricky because you have to come out in the beginning, and you want everyone to like you," he said. "But by the end, you have to get them to hate you. It's all pure comedy gold."

The musical theater star grew up in Philadelphia's Mayfair section and his family later moved to Gloucester County, New Jersey.

This moment is very full circle for him. He saw his very first musical at the Walnut Street Theatre.

"It was 'The Sound of Music' and it was actually with my mother and my mother's mother, Irene," he recalled. "I can still tell you the three seats we sat in.

I sat there watching and I remember turning my Mom-Mom and saying, 'I want to be one of those von Trapp kids!' She said, 'Well then, you got to work hard. You can do it!'"

Add to this feeling of fate, "Beauty and the Beast" was the first show he ever saw on Broadway.

"It's been fantastic to be home for the holidays," Stevens said. "Luckily, it's the second year in a row. Last year, I was here with the 'Tina Turner' national tour."

Stevens is spending this time at home honoring his now late grandmother Irene, with an imitative he calls Mom-Mom's Merry Messengers.

"We actually raised 10,701 cards that have all been donated to different assisted living and memory care facilities, hospitals and retirement homes," Stevens said, "all in the memory of my grandma who loved Christmas."

Speaking of the holiday, here's how he's spending Christmas.

"I'm actually singing for the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Day," he said. "I am going to be singing the national anthem at the Eagles game. So, that's happening!"

"Beauty and The Beast" is at the Walnut Street Theatre through December 31.