I have the utmost respect for Broadway swings. A person who can learn the ins and outs of multiple roles and fill in at a moment’s notice? I can only dream of being a Broadway swing one day. So that’s why I kind of freaked out at the opportunity to catch up with Chris Rice, current swing for Book of Mormon. He was so wonderful to talk to, it was a joy to talk about his experience as a swing and leading up to him being a swing! Check it out!
What was you’re “aha!” moment that you realized you wanted to be on stage?
My church growing up did a giant, Broadway-style musical every year with dancing, costumes, pyrotechnics, the works! That was pretty captivating as a child. I think the first time I realized you could do “this” for a living was when I saw the National Tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for my 13th birthday. It blew my mind.
You’ve been in two national tours and now made your Broadway debut as a swing for the biggest show on Broadway, Book of Mormon. How do those lives differ?
Well, life on the road and life in New York are completely different. When you are living in hotels with your cast, it can feel like a grown-up version of summer camp because you see the same people everyday in really close quarters. You experience the new city with your cast and crew then pack up and move on to the next city. Doing a Broadway show feels a little bit more like a job because everyone has their life and then comes to work at night to perform. When in New York, you aren’t necessarily surrounded by the cast and crew daily.
Also, in my tour rehearsals, I learned the show with a group of people or even along with the entire cast. In Mormon, I was in rehearsals with one other actor, or at times just with the Dance Captain or Assistant Dance Captain. It is a good challenge to learn a show by yourself and learn all about your piece of the puzzle then be placed into the show. You really see what part you play in the big picture.
How many tracks do you cover for Book of Mormon, and what’s it like to have to be ready at a moments notice?
At this time, I cover seven different “Mormon Boys.” This is my debut on Broadway and as a swing and both experiences are teaching me a lot. I am getting used to life on Broadway but life as a swing is a continual learning process for me. I have officially learned all of my material and now I am in the process of keeping it all straight! It is been a good challenge for me and I am learning a lot about trusting myself and trusting those around me in a very different ways than I have in the past. It has been a huge blessing to be a swing in a show with such a supportive cast and team.
When being on tour, did you find that you got close to your cast mates faster than in Mormon?
On tour, you are with a lot of people all the time so you naturally bond quicker. When joining a long-running show in New York, it was definitely a different experience. So yes, but I am thankful everyone welcomed me into the Mormon family with open arms.
What has been your favorite moment of any production you’ve been in?
I don’t know if I can pick just one… so I won’t. I’ll pick two.
-Hearing the opening notes of the “Prologue” from West Side Story every night.
-The first time and EVERY time I ever did the kick line at the end of “One” in A Chorus Line.
Do you prefer being in classics, such as West Side, A Chorus Line, or do you prefer contemporary like The Book of Mormon?
Classic shows and contemporary shows are wonderful and beautiful in extremely different ways. I enjoy the both quite a lot. As audience member, I crave different types of shows at different times. I think that is why new shows continue to be written… there are new stories to tell, new people to reach, and different issues that need to be addressed.
Best (or worst) onstage mess up?
There is a line as one of the Elders that is supposed to be said really quickly. I got caught up over my words and forgot what I was trying to say. I tried to cover it but it was just embarrassing.
What would be in your Spooky Mormon Hell Dream?
Well, I’ve already had nightmares about not being able to get in my costume in time for a number and missing the scene. The “Actor Nightmares” are pretty much my hell dreams.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I love travelling and would love to see England soon. For vacation spots though, all I need is a beach!
What is your favorite show that’s currently running on Broadway?
For a new musical, I am pretty partial to Matilda. It is stunning. For a revival, check out Pippin. Both have fantastic casts and tell their stories in such fun and inventive ways.
What show would you do next, if you could pick any show coming up in the 2013-14 season or one running now?
Oh, man! There are so many great shows out there! I respect and admire so many shows currently playing right now! Newsies is a favorite, but originating a show would be fun too. I am up for whatever God has in store for me! I am looking forward to my journey!
Don’t Think, Just Answer!
Favorite leisure activity?
Best part about your job?
Performing on a Broadway stage every night and seeing the smiling faces at the stage door after the performances.
Best advice ever given to you?
Be nice to everyone. Stay humble.
Advice to up-and-coming actors?
Along with the advice I was given, I would say believe in yourself. If you believe every person that tells you that you aren’t good enough, then you are proving that they are right. I can give you a long list of people who didn’t believe in me and I am thrilled that my belief in myself outweighed all of their opinions! It is your journey and no one else’s. Keep working hard and believe that you can make your dreams a reality.