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DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.” He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!” So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.” He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!” So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, online interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.” He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!” So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, online interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

DEREK HOUGH, sales who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, healing interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)

D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, order on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.” He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!” So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, online interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

DEREK HOUGH, sales who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, healing interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)

D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, order on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

DEREK HOUGH, pharm who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)

D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London: “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.” He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!” So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”
DEREK HOUGH, information pills who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, online interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)
D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

DEREK HOUGH, sales who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, healing interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)

D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, order on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London : “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

DEREK HOUGH, pharm who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)

D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London: “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

DEREK HOUGH, ed who made his London stage debut in 2006 in the West End premiere of FOOTLOOSE — THE MUSICAL, prescription interviewed by me then!  (Interview date: April 2006)

D. Hough(Ren)solo 126_2672Age: 20 (Turns 21 next month, abortion on May 17)
Currently: Starring as Ren McCormack in the West End premiere of the 1998 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1984 film Footloose at the Novello Theatre, in a new production directed and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce. It is Derek’s first professional principal role.
Hometown: “I’m originally from Salt Lake City , Utah ,” says Derek – “a very Mormon populated community, where there are beautiful mountains; it’s a great place. And actually the film Footloose was filmed in Utah – in fact, I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed. That was the claim to fame of the area, being in Footloose!” But he doesn’t remember it: He wasn’t even born till 1985, a year after it was released!
And in 1998, when he was just 12, he moved to London and has stayed here ever since. It was thanks to a combination of pursuing his then-developing passion for Latin-American dance and difficulties at home that brought him here. “I’d started out doing Latin-American dance when I was about ten, and did competitions in New York and LA. These world champion coachers, Corky and Shirley Ballas were travelling around the world teaching, and they saw at this school in Utah and saw my potential. Plus they had a son, Mark, and thought they could help train me up and also be a companion for their son. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and they wanted to get me out of that environment which was a bit rough. During the whole trauma of it, I went to six different schools – I was a troubled kid who would bunk off school a lot. So it was fate or serendipity, I guess you could call it, that they brought me to England . I was only supposed to come over for a couple of months, but eight years later, I’m still here!”
Culture shock: Coming to London in those circumstances and at that age must be a bit of a shock. “It was, big time! The food, the weather, just everything was completely different.” It wasn’t what he expected: “Being naïve and stupid, I thought when I came over I was going to see people with little eye-glasses and horse carriages and stuff, like you see in the movies.” But it was also the making of him. The Ballas family provided him with security, an education and a profession. Their son was already at Italia Conti, a London performing arts school, “so I went there, too”, says Derek, where he achieved 8 GCSE’s. “It was great to be in an environment where I was being educated in something I was interested in, and I learnt everything over again.” But he was also being coached in Latin-American dancing, and the school let him pursue it: “They were very nice and understanding about the whole Latin thing – we were always off travelling around the world and they were very accommodating to let us do that.”
Band (and life) on the run: Meanwhile, Mark Ballas came to be like a surrogate brother – Derek has four sisters, three of them older than him, but no brothers, “so he’s like my brother.” They still write songs together and perform in a band, Almost Amy; but Mark has also gone on to become a musical actor, and is currently in a UK national tour of the musical Buddy. “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time. I was juggling school and travelling around doing Latin; and as well as our band and writing songs, we did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up, just for the experience.” At 14, that included a few weeks on the set of the first Harry Potter film. “I was only an extra, but you can see me very clearly in the first one – a ghost walks through me and I turn into an owl. It was really cool, being on this amazing set at Pinewood Studios.”
Romantic complications: During his Latin championship dancing days, he had six dancing partners in turn. “That’s a lot – normally people don’t have that many, but what happened is that I outgrew the first three, and the last two I fell deeply and madly in love with, and that always goes wrong! When you’re travelling with each other, you’re going to these places in great romantic settings and earning good money; we were having fun and the time of our lives, but it broke my heart. I was devastated for a while!” But he’s not single now: “I have a beautiful, stunning talented girlfriend who is actually in Las Vegas right now, where I should be, too. I bought us some tickets there for a two week holiday when I didn’t know we were going to be here in the West End ! But I told her to go – she’s never been to America , and my mom has a beautiful house up on the mountain. She’s going to have a blast!”
Panto and flying cars: Derek found a different home for his talents in the theatre. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing till two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor . Wayne Sleep was in it, and I was the last guy on the left and I also played the giant. I was 18.” Then he then made his West End debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in the show for its final six months at the London Palladium. “I was the last guy on the left again. It was pretty crazy – it wasn’t my type of show, really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  Then he played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar – “for the experience, because I love the music so much” – and in the midst of that, there was a round of auditions for Footloose: “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour, and I went up for it but I didn’t get it, actually. But the next time around, I’d improved a lot since then, and I was seen again, and this time they wanted me! I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and I want to do it as much justice as I possibly can, to my greatest power.”
Let’s Hear it for the Boy: Playing the lead now – the first time he has done so in the West End – is quite a responsibility, and a very demanding one. “This show is like running a marathon – you have to dance full-on and then bust out a song, and then do quite a serious scene, especially towards the end.” But he’s very excited by it: “The music’s really energetic and fun, and to be in a show of such high-energy and with such a modern feel to it is great.” And it has a particular personal resonance for him, too: “The story is very close to home for me. Growing up in quite a repressive community is very much like this story. And obviously being moved away from home at a young age, and my character’s father leaving him, is an absence I can relate to. It feels good and truthful to play that.”
He’s also delighted to finally have his own dressing room: “The biggest perk about doing this show is having my own dressing room. Not that I have anything about being in a dressing room with others, but I came from doing Chitty where there were ten of us in one room which was smaller than the one we’re in now. Especially in the summer when it was so hot! And backstage at the London Palladium is pretty derelict!”
A work-out: How does he stay in shape? “By doing the show! By the end of it, man, I’ve had a work-out. As far as cardio-vascular goes, I can’t do more than what I’m doing. As far as weights and stuff to build up my body, it’s difficult because I’m nervous and don’t want to strain anything, because the second I do I’m messed up. Actually, I’ve lost about eight pounds since we started the show. It’s difficult to keep the food coming in and the energy going out. But now that I’m in town, I think I’ll be able to eat more, and will start going to the gym.”
Ambitions and leisure time: And when he’s not working or working out? “The first thing I try to do is write music. To be honest, that’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to write music and be in a band doing that. I’m still growing and developing as a person, and discovering what I want and what I don’t as far as being happy goes. There are these three things in my life – theatre, Latin and music, and I kind of want to do it all!”
So the best thing might be starring in a Latin musical that he’s written? “Quite possibly! That would be pretty interesting!” But otherwise, one of his favourite hobbies is watersports, “though I’ll never have the time doing this play. When I go to America , we have a houseboat, and all my cousins and I go there and do wakeboarding, which is where you get pulled behind a boat on a board and you curve in and out of the waves. It’s the fun-est thing in the world! But it’s not the best thing to do when you’re dancing, in case you get injured!”
Living in and loving London: “I still live in the same place I’ve lived in since I was a kid, in Dulwich. I’m very, very fortunate, because it’s a very beautiful place and a very nice house.” He loves London . “It’s such a great city – especially when the sun shines. Because it’s quite rare, you appreciate it so much. And when it does, because it is so green from the rain, it just looks fantastic. I love it that I’m still finding stuff out – walking today from rehearsals to Covent Garden, I had no idea it was that close. And I love going to Leicester Square – that’s my favourite place, because I’m the biggest movie buff.”

You can see Kevin Spacey reprising his performance as legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow at the Old Vic Theatre at the moment. We also recently had the chilling, view thrilling musical The Scottsboro Boys at the Garrick (itself now unjustly replaced by Let It Be), which told the true story of nine young black men falsely accused of murder in 1930s Alabama.

Those theatrical versions of real-life stories cast long shadows about injustice, and the Scottsboro Boys only recently got a long overdue pardon  more than 80 years later in 2013.

terri-paddockBut over the last 15 months, I’ve been absorbed, both professionally and personally, in following a more immediate case of injustice, regarding my friend and former colleague Terri Paddock, summarily dismissed in December 2013 from the company she had co-founded and we had worked on together for a number of years, after the site had been acquired by new owners Theatermania almost exactly a year earlier. (Shares were owed to Terri on the anniversary date, but never received following her dismissal).

I should stress that Terri and I have, over the years, had our differences — mainly after I left whatsonstage.com to pursue an interest in a rival website that had newly set up shop in London.

But these things happen in life and in business, and given how small the London journalistic community that reports on theatre is, we had patched these differences up (whatsonstage.com, by the way, had emerged the victor in the battle of the rival websites in the end; broadway.com, who came to London to set up theatre.com, folded it around a year later).

Then in November 2013 I was hit with a bombshell when I was summarily and suddenly dismissed, after over 11 years service, from the Sunday Express, following an allegation that the appearance of some naked photographs of me — taken some 15 years earlier — had suddenly surfaced, or at least been brought to the editor’s attention, and were deemed to have had the potential to bring the company into disrepute (even though it was a widely known fact that the parent company of the paper was known for its own trading in pornography).

Less than three weeks later, Terri found herself unexpectedly being given her own marching orders — and was escorted from the building — following events that were alleged to have taken place at the annual public launch of the Whatsonstage’s annual awards, and then the private office Christmas party.

Both Terri and I separately launched cases for unfair dismissal against our now former employers, and as we both faced these events together, we bonded in an unexpected way, suppporting each other through long and arduous months of filing and fighting our claims. Mine came before the tribunal a few weeks ahead of hers, in August 2014, and she came to support me in the tribunal one day (filing this excellent report of what she’d witnessed)

A few weeks later, in mid-September, Terri had her own day(s) in court – though hers were in Holborn, not dismal West Croydon as mine had been — and I attended several days of the hearing for myself. It was partly about supporting Terri through a process I knew from personal experience was gruelling — but also turned out to be the best offsite theatre I’d seen all year.

To watch the whatsonstage.com case against Terri serially collapse was both spectacularly embarrassing (for Whatsonstage and Gretchen Shugart, CEO of parent company TheaterMania, CFO Joe Yurcik and board member Mr Lee Simonson, all of whom had flown to London from New York specially to give evidence) and validating (for Terri and the hell she’d been put through).

Terri, like me, was fired on the grounds of bringing the company into disrepute, the main charge for which revolved around an event at the private office Christmas party, held at Brown’s restaurant in St Martin’s Lane, when Terri was alleged to have reached across the dining table, “touching with her right hand the outer clothing covering the left breast of Ms Laura Norman, an employee of the company and more junior than the claimant”, in the words of the tribunal judgement.

Shugart entirely relied on hearsay around this — she was sitting right beside Terri, but didn’t witness it herself (she also told the tribunal she’s “legally blind and can’t see out of my right eye”), but hearsay, it turned out, wasn’t necessary for the court to find out what happened. Terri had secured CCTV footage from Brown’s restaurant of the whole lunch — and it proved that the event was rather different, in both length and sequence, to the one that TheaterMania were relying on to trigger a summary dismissal.

Firstly, as Terri testified, it was part of a long-standing joke between she and Norman, and indeed was initiated by the latter (who never filed a complaint against Paddock at all before her dismissal, and was not summonsed as a witness by Theatermania at any stage). As the tribunal judge noted, “If Laura Norman had jiggled her breast and it was a continuing of a joke between them, it might indicate that Laura had started the joke off on that occasion.”

The respondent’s lawyer interrogated Terri extensively on the the matter, and asked her directly, “Do you think that you should have touched her?” ??Terri replied, “I can only refer you to watch the CCTV. It was light hearted banter with someone. I find it offensive that someone who I cared about and worked with for so long, that I should be accused of harassing her.”

At which point the judge intervened to ask the respondent’s lawyer, “You are pursuing this evidence that, contrary to what the witness says, it was an inappropriate thing to do, There was no complaint from Ms Norman and on the CCTV footage it looks as though Ms Norman has seen the claimant coming over and presented her chest? You are still saying that banter in a clearly convivial meal – that is something someone can lose her job over?”

And despite Shugart and Yurick’s repeated insistence that the event lasted 30 seconds, the CCTV footage proves that it occurred across barely a second. Shugart also insisted in the tribunal that this was a form of sexual touching, because it involved the touching of what she defined as ‘the genitals’ of another woman. As Terri’s lawyer gently reminded her, “breasts are secondary sexual characteristics.”

Yet Shugart told the court, “I thought it was totally inappropriate and the touching and the conversation in a public place by the head of the company. The employer needs to be very careful with the employee. The employee is not in the position to say that they don’t like that.”

As the tribunal judgement notes, “It is clear from the video that Ms Norman was a willing participant in conversation that appeared to centre on breasts, first, with her cupping her own breasts and moving them — presumably thereby giving a demonstration of how she could “jiggle” her breasts — and then with her moving her upper body towards the advancing Claimant the better so that the Claimant could touch her breast.”

The tribunal judgement also notes of another witness put forward by TheaterMania, Leila Faiz, who was also present at the lunch where the event took place, “We were singularly unimpressed with the evidence of Ms Leila Faiz who asserted several times that one of the reasons she was giving evidence was so that she could be “a voice for my friend”, referring thereby to Ms Norman, and that her attendance at the Tribunal to give evidence represented her “giving people a voice if they don’t want to voice their concerns themselves”.

Yet, as the judgement notes, “when challenged as to why there was a discrepancy between her assertion the incident had caused Ms Norman to become upset and the absence of mention in her statement that such was the case, she claimed that detail was not her finest point in writing. We agree.”

Tom Teodorczuk, former arts reporter for the Evening Standard and now living in New York, puts it so succinctly I couldn’t improve on it: “It’s like something out of a badly-written David Mamet play circa 1987.”

But I also thought of another rather better written play as I heard the testimony and the serial accusations being made against Terri: Mike Bartlett’s Bull about office place bullying. Terri was hounded over a period of many months; at one point a new chart of reporting structures for the business was unveiled to Terri in front of the rest of her staff for the first time, showing they no longer reported to her; on another, the staff were invited to offer confidential reports to Shugart on how they felt about Terri that she wasn’t to see.

There were other yet more extraordinary claims against Terri’s behaviour that were made, such as her alleged drunkenness at the Whatsonstage launch party. Terri produced several industry witnesses who were able to comprehensively dismiss this, but Shugart herself never bothered to investigate whether it was really true.

In her own testimony, she tried to confusingly suggest that there were different degrees of drunkeness and saying at one point, “I don’t think anybody was sloppy drunk.” The judge would later say, “Before we were asked to differentiate between slurring and sloppy drunk, now we’re asked to see the difference between sloppy drunk and sloppy drunk?” (Has anyone in the theatre ever lost their jobs over drinking at an after-show party? There’s a certain irony in the fact that one critic, who has been known to fall asleep on the job after drinking too much, has retained a job on the same site despite this).

Another hilarious accusation against Terri was that she used a designated unisex changing room at the Awards launch to actually change in. Imagine! Shugart again: “That may be where they were meant to change but I doubt seriously that anyone meant to take their clothes off.” Huh?

But if there was disagreement over what a changing room was, Shugart suggested that there was also a disagreement over the type of business they were running between herself and Terri. She told the court, “I know Terri has this view that we are in the theatre business. We are not We are a service provider to the theatre business; we are not a theatre company. This is a professional business. There is a lot a risk and our behaviour is watched. We’re not putting on a show.”

Yet I would respectfully suggest this an attempt to have their cake and eat it. A show is precisely what the company does put on, every February in their awards show. And far from being outside the theatre industry, it seeks to actively embed itself within it via sponsorship that it seeks from it.

I am delighted to say that Terri has won her case for unfair dismissal. As Daphne Romney QC at Cloisters Chambers who represented Terri commented,

The employer’s handling of the disciplinary process was botched from beginning to end. It did not investigate the employee’s version of events, it ignored the clear CCTV evidence disproving the allegation of ‘a very serious piece of sexual harassment’, it does not seem to have involved the alleged victim at all and the appeal was obviously biased.

  • jay5555

    Couldnt be more pleased for Terri, delighted she fought and won.

  • Harry Burton

    Terri – finally catching up with the outcome. Absolutely delighted for you. HB x