Fort Lauderdale's own Christian Thompson will be in the spotlight when the Broadway road tour of "Rent" plays the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Oct. 7-9.
Thompson, who plays Benny Coffin and understudies the Roger part, was "born and raised" in Oakland Park. He got the role after graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 2015 and stints in a regional productions of "West Side Story" and "Dreamgirls." Then there was a run of "After Midnight" on Norwegian Cruise Lines. After a move to New York City, he appeared in "Blood at the Root" in Harlem.
"He's truly engaging from the moment he walked in the audition room," recalls Evan Ensign, the director of this 20th anniversary tour. "He was one one of those people who walk in and you say, 'Who is he?' He has so many aspects: quirky and deep and interesting. There's something really cool about him. You know, some people just have an electricity when they come in and he was one of those people."
Here is more about Thompson, who turns 24 on Oct. 2, in a Q and A.
Where did you hangout when you lived here in South Florida?
Other than the theater at school, I was more than likely with my friends in the neighborhood. That, or at First Baptist Church in Pompano Beach.
Where did you go to school here?
I went to North Andrews Garden Elementary School. We lived right across the street. I could probably throw a stone and hit the building. I mainly did most of my theater through the magnet school program. I went to Parkway Middle School [of the Arts] before going to American Heritage School.
You're also a hip-hop dancer. When and how did that happen?
When I was nine years old I decided I wanted to do hip-hop. I saw Popstarz Inc perform. They were a hip-hop dance company, mostly kids to teens, based in South Florida. I told my mom I want to do that. That looks cool, really fun. I started dancing professionally in hip-hop when I was 9 or 10 years old. It wasn't until American Heritage that I started training in other styles, everything from ballet to modern and a tiny bit of tap. I did most of my tap training in college.
You also do some deejaying, right?
I love music. It's one of the reasons I gravitated toward musical theater. My dad was a drummer. Rhythm has always been a big thing for me. Deejaying was something I just picked up on the side in high school.
You must be thrilled that your family and friends get to see you in this show, right?
I've already warned my cast that I'll probably be sobbing all three nights. This is one of the best ways to say thank you to everyone who has helped me on my journey to succeed. To have those people ... see me succeed will be just a blessing. I give my mom a lot of credit. She was very supportive. I saw my first show at the Broward Center. I saw "Cats." She never made me feel that it was something I couldn't do. She never made me feel like it was a bad choice.
The tour just started earlier this month, so even though it's kind of early, what have you learned about the character of Benny?
Two big things. One is when you look at present day, Benny is right. All kinds of remodeling going on in neighborhoods, Starbucks on every corner. Gentrification. It's exactly what Benny is talking about. Benny has some really smart business insight. The other biggest thing is Benny means well and loved his friends. It interesting that you forget they were roommates ... and he's known some of the main characters longer than they have known each other. He's part of the family and he loved them dearly. He just does it in a way that they don't necessarily agree with. It's all coming from a place of love, just from a different scope.
What's your favorite part of the show?
My favorite part of the show is ... "Season of Love" and feeling the love that is being exchanged from the stage tot he audience and from the audience to the stage. It's unlike anything I've ever felt before. The music starts for that number and there's already electricity in the house.
"Rent - The 20th Anniversary Tour" runs Oct. 7-9 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. matinee Saturday and 1 p.m. matinee Sunday. Tickets cost $30-$90. To order, call 954-462-0222 or go to Browardcenter.org.
There will be a pre-show lottery at the box office for tickets in the first two rows. The limited number of tickets will cost $25, cash only (no ATM onsite).