Everyone knows the classic fairy tale. After a spell is cast upon a prince and his servants, the prince becomes a beast and his servants become a clock, a candelabra, a feather duster and a teapot.
Time is of the essence for the Beast, who must learn to love a woman (Belle) and earn her love before the last rose petal falls within an hourglass.
Time is the essence of James May's character, Cogsworth, the butler turned clock in the touring production of “Disney's Beauty and the Beast,” playing Monday night at the Embassy Theatre.
May, who has played the butler/clock for 2 1/2 years, spoke by phone from Sarasota, Fla., where that night's show was playing.
“What I like best is he's the stuffed shirt and naysayer and fussbucket,” May said. “It's easy to be unlikeable, but he's endearing. All the characters roll their eyes at him all the time. Everyone can relate to feelings to be on the outside and want to belong. That is the universal theme, and it hits home.”
Though the stage production is based on the 1991 film of the same name, May said there are differences between the two.
“Unlike the film, when the spell is cast, everyone is turned into inanimate objects,” he said. “In the stage show, we are slowly turning into the objects. We keep evolving, which makes more sense.”
There are additional songs in the stage production, and the Beast sings the song that closes Act 1.
“Some productions are padded, or it feels like it's longer for the sake of being longer,” he said. “All the added material in the musical is needed. When I re-watch the film, I miss stuff from the stage production.”
May said he does very little singing in the musical. “I love to sing, but I only sing one little snippet,” he said. “Most of what I do is scene work. For me, it's hardly a musical.”
May said the tour ends June 8, but it will come back in the fall. He didn't know whether he'd be extended another contract for the new season, but he said he'd be open to another run. He has performed as Cogsworth in 155 cities in 48 states and every Canadian province that borders the United States.
May, 27, also has performed in “Summer of Love,” “Cinderella,” “Hair,” “Rent” and “Falsettos” on stage and in the film “Boycrazy.” Besides Cogsworth, he enjoyed playing Whizzer in “Falsettos” and would film another movie.
“I would love to make another movie, but theater is more my passion,” he said. “It's where I fit. I get it. Not just on the artistic side but on the business side. … With film and TV, you shoot scenes all day, but you don't know how well you've done. You have no idea what the final product is going to be.”
He loves the Cogsworth character so much that he takes pictures of clocks in tour cities and posts them on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #cogsworthclocks.
“I can remember the whole city by the photo,” he said.