By Cynthia Sanz
June 13, 1994 12:00 PM

THE MOMENT IS PURE MAGIC: NEAR THE END OF Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast, the dying beast rises from the castle floor and begins twirling in midair. The music swells. Lights flash. Then—poof!—the hideous monster is transformed into a dashing prince.

The scene is astonishing to be sure—and at least part of the reason that the show, Disney’s $13 million adaptation of its wildly successful animated film, has been packing them in at the Palace Theatre since its opening on April 18. But no less wondrous is the transformation Terrence Mann goes through before the show every night. It’s like “taking 12 Angora cats and Velcro-ing them to your face,” jokes Mann, 42, “then putting on your two heaviest coats and running around the block for two hours.”

The hour-long process—that includes the application of nosepieces, a multitude of facial hairpieces, a wig, two lower beast teeth, a beast jacket complete with hairy arms, and foam-rubber butt-and thigh-enhancers to bulk up his physique—requires three assistants. And between numbers, Mann has to be cooled down with a frozen washcloth. Nevertheless the actor says his current outfit is a vast improvement over the fake teeth, facial prosthetics and heavier costume that he wore for a pre-Broadway tune-up in Houston. “I literally couldn’t breathe,” says Mann, who lost 15 pounds from all the sweating. “I couldn’t act. I couldn’t do anything.”

All that has changed. Even though the Broadway show received mixed reviews, The New York Times singled out Mann for praise, saying, “Somehow, despite the masses of matted fur, the padding and the protruding incisors, he actually manages to convey the delicacy of awakening love.” Consequently, Mann is a leading contender for a best actor award at the Tonys on June 12.

When he first hit the boards in high school in Clearwater, Fla., he was looking for another kind of satisfaction. “Acting became a way to meet girls and kiss them,” he admits. “I played Henry Higgins in the junior class play [My Fair Lady], and all of a sudden I was kind of hip.”

A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Mann moved to New York City in 1980 and within two weeks had landed a spot in the ensemble of Barnum, thanks in part to his ability to juggle and ride a unicycle. Bigger roles followed: He played the sexy rock-and-roll feline Rum Turn Tugger in Cats and won a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Javert in Les Misérables—along with appearances in movies (Critters, Big Top Pee-wee) and the soaps (Another World, As the World Turns). Divorced from Juliette Mann, a writer on the soap Loving, Mann shares a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his fiancée, dancer-actress Charlotte D’Amboise (daughter of dancer Jacques), and their two dogs.

Someday, he says, he would like to direct his own Broadway musical, but for now he is content to prowl his storybook castle. “I’ve been in three blockbuster hits, but this is the first one where I’ve had a chance to really create a role,” says Mann. “There will be 100 beasts out there eventually, each with his own brilliance, but I was the first.”


TOBY KAHN in New York City