Jonah Platt on channeling his inner Beast for a holiday Beauty
You could say that Jonah Platt comes from a musical family. His brother Ben Platt won a Tony Award this year for his lead performance in “Dear Evan Hansen,” and his father, Marc Platt, produced the movie musical “La La Land.”
Now Jonah, a 31-year-old actor, writer, musician and producer, will costar in the Lythgoe Family Productions’ newest holiday panto, “Beauty and the Beast — A Christmas Rose,” starting Wednesday at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Here, in this edited conversation, he opens up about his theatrical family, creative ambitions and single gift hopes will be waiting for him. (Hint: It relieves muscle cramps.)
You have two sisters and two brothers, and musical performance is the family trade. What are family gatherings like at your house?
There’s a lot of singing. At every family event — weddings, bar mitzvahs — we always sing something. Everyone calls us the Von Platts [as in the Von Trapps in “The Sound of Music”]. We all love the performing arts in theater; it’s what we were raised on. It’s our favorite thing to go see together and talk about.
How do you spend the holidays?
We typically go on vacation somewhere. Now that I’m married, I spend Christmas with my wife’s family in Long Island, then meet up with my family — usually somewhere hot and sunny on a beach. This year we’ll be in Mexico, in Punta Mita.
Do you cook?
Sure. My wife and I love to entertain. We’re having the whole family over for Hanukkah soon. There will be latkes.
Tell us about playing the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast — A Christmas Rose.”
It’s a lot of fun to play a big bombastic animal-man! I’ve never had to really act with my with voice and my body in quite this way. It’s such a big theater, and I’m wearing this big beast helmet, and you can’t see my face; so I have to really physicalize it and put on my Beast voice.
Is it impossibly hot in the Beast helmet?
The helmet’s not so bad. What’s hot are the furry gloves and the fur on my legs. But the helmet’s pretty airy.
The show is a form of panto, the British Christmas tradition dating to the 1700s. It’s musical comedy, with classic fairy tales mixed with modern pop songs. What’s the stickiest song that won’t exit your head?
Well — and I say this without bias — my solo, “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur. “Animals” by Maroon 5 is pretty catchy. There’s some Coldplay, Bee Gees, some Lionel Richie — hits from the ’70s to today that everybody loves.
Your wife, Courtney Platt, is a dancer and was a finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Can you hold your own on the dance floor?
Yeah, I’ll cut up a rug for sure. I love dancing. Before I met her, I was the great dancer in the family. But now no one knows I’m there.
You’ve appeared in “Wicked” on Broadway and “Hair” at the Hollywood Bowl, among other musicals. Do you have ambitions for drama or television?
Absolutely. I was just in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and an episode of “Superstore.” So I’m trying. Pie in the sky, though? “The Light in the Piazza” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” onstage.
What’s your next big project?
The next big thing is the musical I’ve been writing for the past several years, “The Giver.” It’s an adaptation of the bestselling novel “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. It’s a dystopian society that’s sort of blown wide open by a young man who sees a better way to experience life than the way things currently are.
Silliest moment to come out of “One Night Stand,” the improvised musical you directed, produced and performed in a few years ago?
When a two-headed alien had to conceive a child with itself. That was insane.
Requisite guilty-pleasure question. What’s yours?
I don’t like to be guilty about anything. I like to enjoy what I do.
Current musical inspiration?
I don’t really listen to music. I do it so much in my own life that when it’s time to relax, I don’t really listen to music. Unless it’s musical theater. I’m getting back into “The Light in the Piazza.” Adam Guettel always inspires me. But not so much contemporary music.
If you could have one thing under the tree waiting for you …
I think I’m gonna get it because I was very vocal about it. It’s called a TheraGun. It’s a massage gun, a high-speed massager that totally breaks up all knots and tension in your muscles. Which, as a performer, I get all the time. I so hope I get it. I want to feel limber and happy all the time.
Tell us something unexpected about you.
I appeared on “Jeopardy.” It hasn’t aired yet. I shot it last week. It was insane, pretty crazy experience.
How’d you do?
I’m not allowed to say. You’ll have to tune in late March!
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‘Beauty and the Beast — A Christmas Rose’
Where: Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena
When: Wednesday-Dec. 24
Info: (626) 449-7360, www.americanpanto.com
Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin
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