Mention Peter Pan and “rock star” in the same sentence, and some people will roll their eyes.
Now, that’s not saying some rock stars may like the idea of never getting older. But that’s not Dustin Gaspard’s intention when he equated the Never Land boy to a rock star.
Gaspard plays Peter Pan in “Disney Junior Live! On Tour,” which will stop for two performances at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Baton Rouge River Center.
This particular set of shows will be a homecoming of sorts for Gaspard, whose native home is LaRose. And though his family members have attended his performances in surrounding cities, they’ll come to Baton Rouge to see him fly from ceiling to stage to rescue Disney’s Jack and his Yo Ho Pirates from Captain Hook.
“That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a rock star,” Gaspard says, laughing.
He speaks by phone from the tour’s stop in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
“Everyone knows Peter Pan,” Gaspard continues. “The adults in the audience grew up with him, and the kids in the audience are learning about him. And the moment I fly to the stage, everyone stops, because everyone knows and loves this character. I love seeing their expressions, because everyone is so captivated.”
Gaspard didn’t plan on starting his professional acting career as Peter Pan, but he didn’t hesitate when the opportunity was offered to him.
He earned his bachelor of science degree from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches in 2012, and immediately landed a job with the Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida. He soon was hired by DisneyWorld, where he played a variety of characters before auditioning for Disney’s entertainment division.
“They had auditions at the park, and I would have been happy to have landed a part in the ensemble,” Gaspard says. “I never really thought about being Peter Pan, and when they asked me if I wanted the part, I was definitely surprised. It’s been a great experience.”
Gaspard’s Peter Pan is only one of several notable characters in the show, which opens with Disney mice Mickey and Minnie leading the audience on an adventure beginning with Disney’s first little girl princess, Sofia, in the magical world of Enchancia, where the kingdom is preparing for the annual Friendship Festival.
Sofia has the honor of delivering the perfect gift to her royal subjects, and the princess of all princesses, Cinderella, visits the castle to help Sofia in her mission.
The story then segues to Never Land, where Jake and his Yo Ho Pirates are in a race against time to locate a mysterious, treasure-filled volcano. Danger arises when the young pirates must battle Captain Hook for the prize.
That’s when Peter Pan swoops in to save the day.
Gaspard has wielded his Peter Pan magic through many states.
“I’ve been with the show a year, and I did the math,” he says. “There are only 11 states out of the 50 that I haven’t yet experienced. Those include Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Idaho, so I’ve seen the country through this tour.”
But touring wasn’t easy at first. Cast and crew are allowed only two suitcases apiece, a thought that could be daunting for some. “It’s OK once you figure it out,” Gaspard says. “It’s not a bad trade-off, and it’s a fun life. It’s amazing.”
So amazing that Gaspard is considering a future of more children’s theater. He likes the honesty of children’s audiences, the way they react to the story and their amazement at the onstage magic.
“They’re such a fun audience,” he says. “And I am also interested in doing regional theater. I don’t necessarily know if I’ll go to New York, because that city is a monster. I think regional theater is more accessible to more people, and I would like to get to the point where I’m either running a regional theater or a regional dance company.”
That will happen when Peter Pan grows up, which won’t be for another year, the second in Gaspard’s two-year contract with “Disney Junior Live!.” He’ll have a chance to renew his contract after that or move on to another project.
In Baton Rouge, he’ll not only visit with family but have a chance to eat authentic Louisiana food.
“I always carry a Tony Chachere’s shaker with me wherever I go,” he says. “My friends in the tour will point out Cajun dishes at restaurants in other cities, and I’ll say, ‘You do know that isn’t authentic Louisiana food, don’t you?’ It’s not until they come to Louisiana that they understand. Having been all over the country, I can honestly say that Louisiana’s food is the best.”
And a rock star deserves nothing less.