Getting to know performer Christopher Howard in the musical "Billy Elliot" with 10 questions for?

TAMPA - Are you ever curious about the real lives of politicians, celebrities, local newsmakers and athletes? Who are their mentors and who would they really like to meet?

Each Tuesday, ABC Action News asks 10 questions of a Bay area leader or celebrity. They're fun questions that let you get to know the person.

This week, we are thrilled to hear from a cast member of the "Billy Elliot the Musical" that performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall this past week: Christopher Howard!

Howard plays the older Elliot in this ten-time Tony winning musical.

The 26-year-old is living his dream although he didn't start pursuing dance until he was in college! He was actually more interested in music as a child but then switched to dance after college.

While some may call that a late start, Howard more than made up for it.

After attending the University of Buffalo, Howard studied at the prestigious Joffrey Ballet in New York City.

Howard said he was cast in "Billy Elliot" by chance.

He said he was not even a member of the acting union at the time but decided to for for it.

He said that performing in the musical is a dream. In fact, Howard said at first he didn't think he got the part. He auditioned, but didn't hear from the casting director until rehearsals began.

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1. What is your all-time favorite movie or song?

One of my favorite movies would have to be "White Christmas."  For years I've watched it over and over, especially for the incredible dancing.  It's just such a beautifully done movie and it is a style we don't see often anymore in modern cinematography.  On the converse, for a laugh, I could watch "Mean Girls" or "Easy A" over and over again.

2. Do you have a Smartphone? If so, what's your favorite app?

I do!  I have an iPhone 4 (not even a 4S, so I can't talk to Siri), and it's been a frequent lifesaver.  My favorite app would definitely be FourSquare.  It's an app that locates where you are and what you're near so you can "check-in" to a specific place.  Then you can see who else is there, what is recommended in the area, and even get special perks at some businesses.

3. Who do you count as your mentor(s)?

I find that my mentors change as my career advances.  I've had many in every stage of my life; there were those who thought I would succeed and pushed me to do so, and those who were maybe less enthusiastic who caused me to push myself along.  The great part about working in an ever-changing career is the people you get to meet and work with, who you learn from, and what you can take away from every experience.

4. What was your very first job?
    
Well, my VERY first job was raking leaves and cutting the lawn for an elderly neighbor, but soon after I started working at my local CVS/pharmacy as a photo lab technician and pharmacy assistant.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
    
If I could change something, I would want to be less critical of myself in many aspects of my life, but specifically in performance.  I'm always so hard on myself about how I'm doing; even when I have a really fantastic show, I find there is always something I wish I could have done better.  It would likely be a little less stressful mentally if I were able to let that go.  Oh, and I wish my legs were about two inches longer.

6. What do you consider your greatest success?

Up to this point in my career, I think my involvement with Billy Elliot has been my biggest success.  It is my first large-scale national tour, my first show as a member of Actor's Equity, and my first featured role in a show of this caliber.  I'm confident that this great success will only lead to bigger and better things in the future.

7. Tell us something about you most people don't know?
    
Despite my featured dance role in Billy Elliot, most people don't know that I didn't start training as a dancer until I was 18.  For most of my childhood I trained as a singer and an actor.  So at this point, too, most people don't realize that I'm a singer, and have been selected to choruses such as the NYS "All-State" choir, the NESC "All-Eastern" chorus, and as an apprentice with Albany Pro Musica, a professional choral group in upstate NY.

8. If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?
    
1.  Jerome Robbins - His life and career have always fascinated me.  I would love to be able to discuss with him how he got started as a dancer, his struggles to succeed, and his ability to break out as a world-renowned director and choreographer.  He was huge influence on the Golden Age of Broadway and I would want to hear what it was like first-hand.
2.  Hillary Clinton - I feel as though she'd be able to give me a clearer picture of what is truly going on in our country, what direction we are headed in, and what I can do as a citizen to keep us on the right track.  Too, I'd love to know about her experience and travels as a foreign diplomat and how our nation is viewed by the rest of the world.
3. 

Lady Gaga - I find her absolutely fascinating as both an artist and a person.  I just want to hear what she has to say about her music and about life in general.  Plus, I can't even imagine what she'd wear to dinner.

9. What is in your fridge right now?
    
Not much, unfortunately.  Being out on the road, we tend to eat out at restaurants a lot.  However, when I do have a refrigerator available, I always try to keep some Diet Coke, carrots and hummus as a snack, and some apples and bananas for breakfast.  Occasionally you might find a six pack of beer and/or a chocolate bar in there too.

10. If you could have a different career, other then what you're doing now, what would it be?
    
I actually almost went to school to be a pharmacist. I was accepted to the pharmacy program at SUNY Buffalo at the same time I was accepted to their Music Theatre program, and had a difficult decision to make.  Despite always being interested in medicine, I knew I had to try my hand at something artistic first, knowing if it didn't work out, I could always go back to school.  Ultimately, I know I made the right decision choosing a career in theatre.  I'm much happier.  Perhaps not as wealthy as if I had stuck with a pharmacy degree, but definitely much happier.

I want to thank the folks at Ruth Eckerd Hall and spokesperson Katie Pedretty who asked Howard to answer our 10 questions.

Just a quick note about Ruth Eckerd, according to Pedretty, the venue is consistently ranked as a top-five venue in the world with 2,500 seats or fewer by different organizations.

The venue was designed by the prestigious Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.


If you would like to suggest someone for 10 questions you can e-mail me at sfazan@abcactionnews.com. or "like" me on Facebook. To do that just head to abcactionnews.com/facebook ... and find me under the favorites tab and click the "like" button.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Sarina Fazan
News Anchor/Multimedia Journalist
 

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