Pursuing a Career

Derek Hough: Biography of a Song and Dance Man (continued)

Derek in Footloose


The Entertainment Business

Derek and Mark’s relationship as brother and friend continued.   “Growing up, we constantly did everything at the same time.  I was juggling school and traveling around. We did something new at every given opportunity. I would take any opportunity that came up—just for the experience.”

At the age of 14, they both had the opportunity to spend 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.”

 In 2003, Derek’s talents extended to the theatre, another avenue he began to pursue. “I hadn’t done the theatre thing until two years ago, so I went to do a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Windsor. Wayne Sleep was in it, but I was the last guy on the left…I also played the giant. I was 18.”

Derek then debuted in London’s West End in the show Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, appearing in it for its final six months at the London Palladium.

“It was one of my first musical theatre roles, in the Palladium you know – last guy in the back row on the left kinda thing, so it’s been a very big jump!  But a very happy one – the producers have taken a chance on me and I’m really grateful for the opportunity…. It wasn’t my type of show really, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”

Later, Derek played the title role in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  He was Jesus, and his best friend Mark was Judas. At the same time, there were a round of auditions for Footloose. “They were just changing a few guys for the last tour…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. This time they wanted me.”

Derek Jumping in Footloose


Leading Man

Landing the role of Ren in Footloose marked the first leading role for Derek in his professional career, and it was a doozy.  His role in London’s West End (the equivalent to Broadway) was a yearlong run in the leading role of Footloose. It is ironic that Derek ended up playing the role of Ren, the lead character.  For according to Derek, the storyline felt very similar to his own true-life story.

“The story is very close to home for me. I grew up in quite a repressive community, which was 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.”

“I’m originally from Salt Lake City, Utah,” says Derek. “It’s a very Mormon-populated community, where there are beautiful mountains.”  Coincidentally, the town served as the location for the filming of the 1984 movie Footloose. “I grew up literally in viewing distance of the mill where it was filmed,” Derek doesn’t remember the movie being made though.  The movie was released in 1984. His birth was in 1985.

Appearing in Footloose was the break-through moment for Derek’s career, as it was his first professional lead role.  His performances won him acclaim and praises.

“Let’s hear it for the boy!  The boy in question being Derek Hough. The floppy-haired, 20-year-old blond bombshell… almost single-handedly galvanises the musical version of Footloose into a riotous explosion of propulsive movement….”  -Mark Shenton, Reviewer –

 “…His performance brings home the Kevin Bacon.” – The Guardian –

“The production has a real star in Derek Hough who is an outstanding dancer but also portrays Ren as the epitome of cool. He and Lorna Want make engaging leads and carry the audience along on a tide of passion. On the opening night, there seemed to be no end to the energy as they carried on doing more and more encores.”   -Bronagh Taggert, Reviewer –

“Derek Hough is…a fine singer and dancer.” – The Times-

“As the boy who shakes things up, Derek Hough has real star power, singing and dancing up a storm and generally driving the energy and fun quality of the show.” – Gerald Berkow, Reviewer –

Derek Hough…described by Whatsonstage.com’s Michael Coveney as ‘an elasticated blond bombshell whose limbs seem to be treble-jointed and whose control and execution of moves at high speed is a wonder of the West End stage’.”  – Roger Foss –

“Lead man Derek Hough… proved that white men can dance.” – Ann Blackburn, writer  –



Derek’s stellar performance in Footloose also earned him a nomination for the Stuart Phillips London Newcomer of the Year award in December of 2006.  This is a category in the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards.  Over 12,000 theater goers (the general public), decide the contenders and eventual winners in over 20 categories.  He came in second out of six nominees.  Derek’s star had truly arrived, and he was only 21 years old.

In July of 2007, Derek was asked to be the choreographer for Bruno Tonioli’s dance team on the BBC TV show, Dance X.  Partly due to Derek’s ability to work with the dancers on his team, and to bring out their individual strengths and talents, Team Bruno won the competition!


The Biography of a Song and Dance Man continuesReturn to the States


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