Luke Evans shines as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast -- but it's far from the first time he's belted out a tune

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Beauty and the Beast, the live-action adaptation of the Disney classic, features a star-studded cast of actors bringing fan-favorite characters to life — and Luke Evans shines in the role of narcissistic villain Gaston.

Although he’s been known for recently taking on a string of action roles, this isn’t the Welsh-born actor’s first time belting out a few tunes. Read on to learn more about the star, and find out how he ended up playing Disney’s muscular baddie.

He got his start in London musicals

The 37-year-old started out on the West End playing parts in several well-known musicals. From Rent to Avenue Q and Miss Saigon, Evans made a name for himself in the theater world before he starred in his breakthrough role — the Boy George-penned musical Taboo.

“All you’d hear was other people’s opinions, ‘Oh, it was wonderful!’ And I’m thinking, ‘Was it? Which bit?’ ” the actor told The Guardian. “You want to dig them for more, but then you sound self-indulgent. I was desperate to know whether the audience could see what I was feeling – whether psychologically it was coming through.”

He became a full-blown action hero

After his success in theater, Evans booked his first major film role, playing the sun god Apollo in 2010’s Clash of the Titans. He took on Greek mythology again in 2011’s Immortals, where he was upgraded to the king of the gods, Zeus. He continued to take on more physical roles, acting alongside Jason Statham in Blitz and later starring in The Hobbit trilogy.

Credit: Everett

Playing dragon-slayer Bard the Bowman, Evans notched a new level of fame thanks to the blockbuster films.

“It was very weird because for a long a time no one really recognized me from my films, but The Hobbit has totally changed that and I’ve had some really special moments, especially with youngsters,” he told Collider.

Evans says he’s “happy” he gets the chance to showcase his chops as an action star — and his range as an actor. When asked by Women’s Wear Daily in 2014 about being a gay actor playing action-hero roles, he replied: “It’s good for people to look at me and think this guy is doing his thing and enjoying what he’s doing and successful at it and living his life. And that’s what I’m doing and I’m very happy.”

From Coinage: The Cost of Beauty & The Beast‘s Wedding Registry

He’s played a villain before

Evans snarled as a bad guy in the Fast and Furious franchise. He joined the franchise for its sixth installment, playing a London-based brute named Owen Shaw who tries to keep Vin Diesel‘s Dom from the presumed-dead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

After reuniting with Statham for Furious 7, the actor played the mysterious Scott Hipwell in the Emily Blunt-led The Girl on the Train.

For more on Dan Stevens and Beauty and the Beast, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now. And check out Entertainment Weekly’s special edition The Ultimate Guide to Beauty and the Beast, on sale now.

Credit: Entertainment Weekly

He came back to his musical roots for the Disney classic

Evans’ first love was always singing, which made signing on to play Gaston all the sweeter for the star. The actor arguably steals the show with his impeccable vocals, and makes the vile war hero vying for Belle’s affection seem almost charming.

Credit: Disney Enterprises Inc.

At the film’s premiere, the actor opened up to PEOPLE about Beauty and the Beast being the perfect way to show off his vocal skills again.

“I sang for nine years of my career, and I was looking for the project that I was able to merge my musical side with my film career. This was it,” he said.

“I met Bill Condon, the director, and I got to sing the song. I knew I could do it. I knew I could sing,” he added. “I knew I could do this role I was hungry to play, and I was also desperate to sing live on a performance stage, and this was it, and it just went really well.”

  • Reporting by ABBY STERN and KARA WARNER