To start our #CrushWorthyWednesday interviews we could think of no one better than Christopher Rice. Currently he can be seen in the Book of Mormon on Broadway, he also moonlights as the modest creator of YouTube’s most popular Tap dance sensation #Tappy. Read on for his unique journey to finding his own spotlight on the Great White Way.
I really try to spread the love of Tap Dancing with those out there who maybe can’t make it to New York City to see a show. – Christopher Rice
So, where did it all begin for you?
My church growing up had a fantastic Fine Arts program. They offered ballet classes, had a big choir, and even put on a full Broadway-style musical every year. I loved it. I think that, and watching the classic Disney movie-musicals, really shaped my love of the art form.
Do you remember the first show you saw that you fell in love with as a child?
That big musical at my church was so much a part of my childhood. I watched the VHS during the year and at a very young age I would recite the lines along with the actors. I also remember my parents taking me to live productions of Oklahoma and Annie as a kid. Seeing those shows got me hooked.
Can you remember what it was about that show that spoke to you? Did you leave the theater with a different view on something?
Musicals were just always a part of my life. I was always swept up in the melodies and dancing. What’s great about theatre is that it can see you leave humming a tune or viewing things in a different light. When theatre inspires you or challenges the way you think, I believe, it is serving its highest purpose.
Have you always known you were creative and would end up working it in NYC? What was your experience as a child immersed in the arts?
I mean, when I was a kid I don’t think I really knew you could make a living as a performer other than in Hollywood. I had a very basic plan of “becoming a movie star” just because that’s what everyone told creative, theatrical, and outgoing kids back home. When I was in 8th grade, my mom took me to see the Broadway tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. That’s the first time I realized you could make a living as a performer in musicals. It was at that time I figured out I could enter the world of musical theatre and I would encompass all of the things I loved about the arts growing up- the music, the dancing, the acting- they were all a part of this profession and I jumped in head first.
Was there a time of adversity in your life, a time when people said no to you, or you doubted whether you were worthy of being successful? What was that like and how did you approach that situation?
Oh plenty. People think being a performer is all fun and games. They are sadly incorrect. 99% percent of it is rejection. Even before landing in NYC, I faced my fair share. I auditioned at many universities and programs around the USA and was rejected from all but 2 for Musical Theatre. I wasn’t good enough, honestly. But the unfortunate thing is people don’t often chose the eager kid… they chose the one that has mastered their skills. I wanted to master mine and I didn’t let anything stand in my way. I ended up choosing to go to a school and study Drama and re-audition for the Musical Theatre program. I was wait-listed and eventually let in the program. I had to work my way up and really prove that I was worthy of my spot in the program. It was a lot of work but in many ways all of that adversity and rejection helped me listen to my heart, make a plan, and work hard to achieve my goals. In the end, it paid off.
What is the greatest gift a life and education in the arts is bringing you?
There are too many to count, but I think problem solving has helped me in so many ways. As an actor, the job is to identity the character’s goal and the obstacles that are prohibiting the character from getting what they want. As a human being, we are faced with problems continually and we have to figure out what is stopping us and how to work through it. The arts have turned me into a pretty solid problem solver, if I do say so myself.
Can you briefly talk about the reaction you have had from young people in response to your #Tappy videos? What drove you to make these videos? What has surprised you in the process?
Oh man, I was so nervous when I first started. I asked my friends to dance in a fun, little tap video anew as nervous to teach them the choreography because I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Was it good enough? Did it make me look like a good choreographer or did my inexperience show? Thankfully, I am surrounded by some pretty awesome people who support me, believe in me, and encourage me to trust my gut. I released the 1st video and we hit 1 million views 8 days later. The response has been unbelievable. People from all of the world have contacted me telling me they have been inspired to take tap lessons or to get back into class. Teachers from special needs classes have sent me videos of their kids learning about music and rhythm through my videos. It has just blown my mind. I am so thrilled people think tap dancing is worth watching and even more thrilled with how many people have enjoyed themselves watching me and my friends do what we love. It really just makes me smile thinking about it!
I understand you are teaching more and more. Can you comment on what you personally get out of teaching??
I would be nowhere without the teachers who believed in me. I want to be someone who instills the love of dance to his students and who inspires them to keep working hard. I love working with the future generations of dancers and performers. They actually inspire me a lot! They help ME see things from different points of view. It really is a win-win, I hope!
What do you want out of life? What more do you hope to accomplish??
I want to live a fulfilled life. I want to look back and feel like I did all I could have, I worked hard, I played hard, and I got everything I could out of life. I think I am accomplishing that by doing what I love!