June 7, 2012 | by Patrick Folliard
Sharing the stage

Matt Kopec, left, and David Baur. The actors and real-life partners say working together has not been problematic for their relationship and they actually prefer it. (Photo courtesy Center Stage Marketing)

‘Beauty and the Beast’
Through June 24
National Theatre
1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
800-447-7400

To hear young actor David Baur expound on the bliss of touring with the Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast” (now at National Theatre), you might think he is playing the lead or one of the more featured roles. In fact, he’s a member of the ensemble who’s best remembered as the tumbling carpet.

Still, he loves the part, and so much more. There’s the memorable score by Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (lyrics), a supportive cast and crew, and traveling from city to city. And, as any actor will tell you, it’s always great to be working, but it gets even better — Baur’s fiancé, actor Matt Kopec, is in the show too. Also an ensemble member, Kopec plays a townsperson, assorted enchanted objects (knife, pepper pot and gargoyle), and has a short featured bit as creepy Monsieur d’Arque, director of the local insane asylum.

The upbeat couple got together during their freshman year at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where they both studied theater. Since graduating in 2009, Baur and Kopec (who both turn 26 later this month) have worked in theater professionally without interruption and also managed jobs in the same shows more often than not, which is no easy thing to pull off.

“We’ve been with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for a while. I joined the show in January 2011,” Baur says. “And Matt joined six months later in July. Just before I left to go on tour, Matt and I exchanged rings. We wore them on our right hands. And then last Thanksgiving on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, when we talked seriously about marriage for the first time, we moved the rings to our left hands. When we actually do marry we’ll upgrade our bands. I’m thinking something from Tiffany’s.”

But is all this working and living together too much togetherness? “No,” Kopec says. “We built up to it. Although we didn’t live together in college, we spent a lot of time together in class during the day and performing at night. At school, we played arch enemies Bernardo and Riff opposite each other in ‘West Side Story.’ We learned how to separate our professional and personal lives early on.”

“Just after college, we worked for nine months together performing on cruise ships,” adds Baur. “After living on top of each other as roommates in the tight confines of our tiny room on the ship, we consider hotel rooms on the road are a luxury. If it were up to us, we’d always work together.”

“Beauty and the Beast” premiered on Broadway in 1994 and ran through 2007. It’s based on the same- titled 1991 Disney hit film that was adapted from the traditional fairy tale about beautiful Belle’s happily-ever-after romance with the kindly Prince/Beast. Baur and Kopec especially enjoy the show’s several rousing song and dance numbers. A former competitive gymnast, Baur brings tumbling skills to his role. Kopec describes himself as a singer/actor/dancer (in that order) and is taking advantage of the run to hone his dancing skills.

Baur rates the musical as his second favorite animated Disney feature just behind “Aladdin,” mainly because he had a crush on that film’s cutely drawn title character.

The upbeat couple plans to marry later this year in a quiet civil ceremony in New York. And sometime next year they’d like to include family and friends in a big celebration back in Ohio where their parents live just 30 minutes apart. “Plans are all a little tentative right now,” Baur says. “We’ll do it our own way and don’t feel any reason to rush. We know it will work out.”

For Baur and Kopec, the fairy tale tour will soon draw to a close. Their contracts ends in July after a three-week run in Toronto and neither actor plans to renew. Instead, they will return to New York and pursue more acting opportunities. Both realize they may not be cast in the same show again for years, or maybe never. But for now, they’re enjoying sharing the same stage.

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