Performing on Broadway night after night requires a lot of strength and stamina — especially when actors perform extremely physical roles, like Dewey Finn, the rambunctious, wannabe rockstar teacher in "School of Rock."
Alex Brightman, the Tony-nominated star who originated Jack Black's role in the Broadway musical based on the movie, is now back on stage. He's starring in a new play based on another hit movie: the classic horror-comedy "Beetlejuice."
But how, exactly, does one fuel up for such a grueling gig that requires eight (yes, eight!) performances a week? TODAY Food spoke with Brightman about what a Broadway actor really eats.
Brightman said that his go-to meals are actually based on Whole30 principles. Not only did the plan help him lose weight, but he often restarts the popular diet whenever he feels like he needs to reboot. People who follow Whole30 can't eat processed foods and starchy carbs, but eating fresh proteins, healthy fats and lots of veggies is encouraged.
Brightman said that he first did the diet two years ago and lost 15 pounds in 30 days. "I felt great," he said, explaining that he's done it several times since with his wife. "If I feel like I’m going down a slippery Taco Bell/Wendy’s slope, we’ll do it."
Though he doesn't always follow it precisely (hey, giving up cheese is hard), he says it still works well for him, even if he does add a little cream to his coffee. He also appreciates that the diet taught him how to better understand food ingredient labels.
When he has time, Brightman said he enjoys cooking at home and creates a mean Whole30-approved shepherd's pie recipe, which swaps in nutrient-rich sweet potatoes for traditional white spuds.
"There’s something about prepping food that feels very zen," said Brightman. "I eat so much better when I’m cooking." He's also a fan of Trader Joe's, and his favorite thing to cook is chicken suizas enchiladas, which he makes from scratch ... except for the the tortillas.
When he's working on a show, Brightman said that he follows an eating regimen that won't aggravate his acid reflux, which can affect his singing voice. He suffers from a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which is an erosion of the stomach lining and esophagus due to acid reflux.
"One of the reasons I went on Whole30 was to completely clean up my diet and lessen that," he said. "It is a pre-cancerous condition that scared me into the idea of a diet."
However, the actor admitted he absolutely loves hot sauce and still enjoys it in moderation.
Now that he's back on stage full time, Brightman said that his daily regimen is more important than ever. He starts each day with a large breakfast, which he says is his favorite meal of the day. He usually makes or buys a breakfast wrap with lots of eggs, and then eats a light lunch, like a salad.
Backstage, the actor likes to keep plenty of healthy snacks with him at the theater, like unsalted almonds and Epic Bars (which are handy protein bars made with different meats), but he stops eating about two hours before any show. He also skips a post-dinner snack, because he said that aggravates his acid reflux.
While he's in "Beetlejuice," Brightman says he's also given up alcohol and goes to the gym every day to stay strong and energized. "The role is very angular and broken and physical, and I wanted to be able to have a strong core," he said. "I have to keep my body completely crooked half the time in the show."
But every show requires something a little different.
While performing in "School of Rock," Brightman said the role was so physical that he lost a pound or two every week. However, that role also required him to put on some weight, which he said he did not do in the healthiest way, so he would make some adjustments if a future role required him to bulk up again.
These days, however, he's pleased with the way he looks and feels. "Life’s good. I feel very healthy," he said. "I could stand to lose 10 more pounds. But I feel good."
"Beetlejuice" recently received eight Tony nominations, including one for best musical. Brightman was also nominated for his leading role as the wacky spirit with a wicked sense of humor.