Christopher Rice received his BFA in musical theatre performance from the University of Oklahoma, has done a handful of Regional Theater shows, National Tours and can do a Mickey Mouse impression. If that isn’t impressive enough, he recently starred and choreographed the “Cups” dance video that has been a YouTube sensation with over 1,600,000 views. To top it all off, he is a swing in the Broadway hit musical THE BOOK OF MORMON. Chris was kind enough to take the time and answer some questions, so for those of you who are dying for an inside look in the life of this talented young guy, here it is!
The Playbill Collector (TPC): Let’s start with how you got into musical theatre. Did you know at a young age that you wanted to perform?
Christopher Rice (CR): I always was putting on performances for my family in the living room, so the desire was there pretty early on. I took dance classes at local studios and did children’s theatre growing up. Fortunately, I grew up with a mother who loved the classic musical films and the Disney animated musicals. They really shaped my childhood and inspired my career.
TPC: Did you ever go to theatre or dance camp?
CR: I never went to a summer camp or anything but I did try to spend my summers performing if I had the opportunity. I did community theatre, children’s theatre, performing arts classes at local academies, and from time to time I would perform in shows at our local Equity theatre. I played roles like Winthrop in THE MUSIC MAN and Will Jr. in The Will Rogers FOLLIES. It was really a blessing to be exposed to such professional theatre at such a young age.
TPC: Who would you say was your biggest influence in getting into the business?
CR: I have had a lot of people believe in me and that has been such a blessing. My parents, some of my teachers, and my friends helped me to believe in myself. I have also had many people that didn’t think I could make it and didn’t believe in me. Those people unknowingly fueled me to work harder, train harder, give more, and really go for it. I honestly have both sets of people to sincerely thank. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
TPC: Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” song was a huge hit after the movie “Pitch Perfect”. Not gonna lie, I have seen it multiple times and swoon over Skylar Astin every single time. How did you get the idea to do a tap dance to the song and who did you bring along on the project?
CR: It is such a fun movie… and what a cast, right? The idea for the tap dance was in my head shortly after I saw the film but really started to develop backstage at THE BOOK OF MORMON when I wasn’t performing. I wanted to use my backstage time wisely and productively. I started choreographing a little bit and tossed around the idea of how many dancers I wanted to use. I taught two talented ladies some of the choreography and after I saw it on their bodies, I knew I wanted to shoot it and share it with the world. It made me smile and if I could share that smile with another person, it would be worth it! It was also a great excuse to get some of my close friends together and have a good time.
TPC: For those reading who do not know what a “swing” is, can you explain?
CR: You bet. A swing is someone who covers multiple roles in a show. Much like an understudy, they have to be ready to jump in for someone if they get hurt or sick at a moments notice. An understudy is usually in the show as a smaller part and covers a bigger role. A swing (usually) is not on stage every night and has to be ready to jump in for multiple roles at a moment’s notice. In my show, I cover 7 different tracks (people) ranging from Mormons, to Jesus, to Hitler… as you can tell by the sound of it, it is not your average musical.
CR: Making my Broadway debut was a really exciting night. It is one of those things that take a while to process. I had dreamed of being on Broadway since I was a child and I couldn’t be more grateful that it became a reality. Who could ask for a more fun show to step into? It was just a dream come true.
TPC: Outside of BOM, what are a few shows you are dying to be cast in?
CR: Oh gosh! There are so many great shows out there that I’d be lucky to be a part of! I’d also love to originate something or play a Gene Kelly- type role in something old-school!
TPC: When you win an award (every actor dreams of it!) who are the top people you can’t forget to thank?
CR: I would thank my parents and my family for believing in me, my high school acting teachers Chris and Cyndi Harrod for helping me shape my work ethic, and OU for giving me a great college education. I would also thank the casting team, creative team, my agent, and a few others.
TPC: You get one song to perform with one actor for a one-night-only performance. What song would you chose and who would be singing and dancing alongside you? They could be dead or alive.
CR: This is a tough one! I am going to pick two! Dead: Gene Kelly. We’d have to do an old-school song with a long tap break! Living: Sutton Foster. She is clearly one of the best and most respected female musical theatre performers of our time. I would love to feed off of her energy and collaborate on something fun and comical. We could dance together a little too.
TPC: Any advice for aspiring actors out there?
CR: Expose yourself to what is out there. Go see theatre! Go see good theatre! Go see bad theatre! Just go and expose yourself to the art of performing live. Find someone who you really respect and read every interview they have ever done. Youtube is such an amazing tool that wasn’t around when I was younger. Study the great performers of our industry.
Also, be a nice person. No one wants to hire or work with a jerk. Be nice to everyone! You never know where you or they are going to end up. Also, that positive outlook will help you when you are going through a rough patch in life. Kindness and positivity are the way to go.
For more on Christopher Rice, check out his website: http://www.christopherriceonline.com. On there you can see when he will be appearing on the Broadway stage and learn more about his career. Also, don’t forget to watch his YouTube video here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4FYNF02yEM .