Nick and I were able to collide in London while he was on holiday and I was still boppin’ around the West End 🙂 And we had a blast! Obviously I took him straight to Roots Juicery and then we wandered the London streets finding awesome spots for his photoshoot and a million selfies. haha… as Americans do in London. We are also insanely similar in our beliefs about health and fitness so soak up the wealth of knowledge Nick’s sharing about building a healthy, positive body & life that is Fit for Broadway!
NOTE FROM NICK: Hi everyone! I’m Nick Rehberger. I’m playing Fyedka in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. I got to meet Jane while on vacation in London and I’m so happy I did. She’s the best! I’s so grateful to be a part of all of the wonderful things happening at Fit For Broadway.
“Built for Broadway” from Fit for Broadway Apparel
(click HERE or click the picture)
Q: Nick!! What are the chances that we’d get to collide across the pond for your photoshoot?! London serendipity!! Lets jog back to the beginning.. What was your journey to Broadway?
A: I loved meeting you there, it was so much fun! I have so much jet lag! Good question… I had a funny way into this crazy business. I tried out for my first show in the 7th grade—because most of my friends were in the musicals. I actually mouthed the words to most of the show because I didn’t think I could sing and I was very shy. Even so, being onstage with all of these amazing people began to bring me out of my shell and the theater became the place where I found my voice. I joined choir and I started to take voice lessons. I had help from amazing teachers. Sophomore year of high school I got my first lead role, and I realized that I really had a passion for this. In order to pursue it further, I went to a summer camp at the University of Michigan where I learned what a career in this business would mean and how to audition for college theater programs. Then I was lucky enough to go to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where I really became an actor. I think my training there was invaluable both as an artist and because it and it allowed me access to representation when I moved to New York. Once I got here, I was cast as the cover for the two men in The Glass Menagerie on Broadway. Not only was this an incredible opportunity but it was the perfect place to learn how a Broadway show works—I truly got to study and learn from the best people in the business from behind the scenes. Then I had a bit of a slow year trying to figure out where I fit in, with a couple jobs in TV and film, and now I’m in Fiddler on the Roof with, once again, some of the best people in the business.
Q: How have fitness and health become integrated into your career as a performer?
A: I’ve been on this health journey for a long time! When I was younger, I was the kid who got sick once a month. I ALWAYS had a cold and I was over-medicated—constantly taking antibiotics—so my gut health and immune system were totally shot. This is terrible obviously, but especially for an actor. It wasn’t until I found a functional medicine doctor in college that I really started to figure out what was going on. This doc was really interested in what I was eating and how that might be affecting my health (I wish more doctors were!). We took an allergy panel, and I found out that I am allergic to casein, a protein in most dairy products. I cut that out and it was like magic—I instantly felt better and for months afterward I wasn’t getting sick. She also told me that I was sensitive to gluten, and that I should “just try” cutting it out for 30 days to see how I felt. Now, I was still not totally sold on the whole “gluten-free fad,” and even now I think a lot of gluten-free products are pure marketing and not actually very healthy for you. But I cut out wheat and all gluten for 30 days, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I stopped getting constant stomach aches and headaches which I thought were just part of life (nope), my acne cleared up, and I felt lighter and happier and more energetic. After that I couldn’t go back, and I’ve stuck with it for several years now. Now, I basically follow the Paleo diet—organic meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds—and I avoid dairy, gluten, and processed sugar. While it can be kind of challenging socially (it’s not always fun to be the guy who won’t eat pizza or drink beer), I find that if something works for you and you go about it confidently and with little fuss, people will respect it. Growing up as a kid who was constantly sick, it’s very empowering to feel like I have some control over my health. I’m not a crazy person who eschews modern medicine, just think it’s super helpful to think of diet and exercise and primary paths to heath. Now, I rarely get sick (maybe once a year) and I always avoid the bug that’s being passed around my roommates or the folks at the theater. I sleep better and wake up without needing to drain the several cups of coffee I used to drink. Plus, I was always a bigger kid growing up and for much of college—now it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight.
The fitness part of the question is a little newer for me. I was never a particularly athletic kid, so I’m not naturally inclined toward any specific sport or exercise. In the past year I’ve discovered weightlifting and am just now making lifting heavy a part of my weekly routine. I’ve really gotten into the swing of things with the help of a trainer, so now I’m working out and lifting heavy several times a week and this is really new as of the last few months. I try to add in functional things like yoga when possible. Again, this is something I can control, which is huge as an actor and is very empowering. Check back with me in another few months 🙂
Q: Can we play “My Workout Week?”
A: My workout week…
- M — Monday is my day off! So I generally make it my day off from working out too. Sometimes I’ll do this exercise called Cornucopia, where you do 1 pull up, 2 push ups, and 3 air squats 100 times in a row for time. So you end up doing 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, and 300 squats relatively quickly. It takes a half hour or so (the first time it took me 45 minutes) and is a pretty challenging full-body workout that you can do at home!
- T — I’ll spend an hour at the gym doing a full body workout to include squats, deadlifts, and other lower body exercises.
- W — If I’m feeling up to it I’ll hit the gym between shows for some cardio and abs.
- T — Hour at the gym, full body workout to include chest, back, abs.
- F — Walk or some kind of activity to get the blood going. (I’m going to start doing more yoga—does wanting to do yoga on Fridays count? ;))
- S — Gym between shows, if I can.
- S — Night off. Fun activity with friends like a post-show dinner or movie.
I don’t really stick to the same thing every week. My (ex) dresser Mikey Goodmark and I used to do an abs routine every intermission (he betrayed me and moved to Cats ;)). But I try to find some challenging physical activity to do during the show every day, go to the gym at least 3-4 times a week, and do SOMETHING active every other day.
Q: I’m a big believer in the #foodisfuel movement… How do make sure you’re fueling your body for Broadway?
A: Ah, me too! I’m like the poster boy for #foodisfuel. I have an almost obsessive interest in how different foods affect your body. Like I said, it’s super important as an actor to stay healthy, especially in an old theater filled with almost 100 working people at any given time. I don’t eat dairy, gluten, or much sugar. It sounds horribly restrictive but it’s really not and one thing it’s given me is an interest in cooking. I love cooking and I try to bring a dinner to the theater as much as possible. I’m also a total a bio-hacker. I have a whole cabinet full of supplements that I’ve discovered through various doctors or Paleo websites. For example, I used to treat my acid reflux (the bane of most singers’ lives) with Prilosec (Omeprazole), which is not great for you because—and this was confirmed even by the doc who prescribed it to me—acid reflux is caused by too little stomach acid not too much. So, in the long run, these drugs screw with your body’s ability to make and regulate a healthy amount of stomach acid. I was able to (very slowly) wean myself off of it through the dietary changes I’ve mentioned, taking a Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) chewable every morning, drinking an aloe shot every day, and taking digestive enzymes to help my body digest food naturally. I feel even BETTER than when I was on the Prilosec (bio-hacking FTW), and I don’t have to worry about a drug screwing up my stomach.
Q: If there was one thing you’d tell pre-Broadway Nick, what would it be?
A: The jobs will come, so try to enjoy it more. Find other things you like to do aside from acting. Read more. Write more. Work out more. Try to make your own work. I find that I am more motivated when I have a job. The trick is to motivate yourself when you DON’T. And, let’s face it, as actors, there will always be periods when you don’t. It’s easy to want to go the gym when you have to be shirtless on TV, for example. But when you’re running yourself ragged between your catering job and your desk job, you really don’t want to work out. So try to find a way to motivate yourself when a job isn’t.
Q: Did you ever have a moment when you felt like you wanted to give up? How were you able to push past those feelings and re-inspire your Broadway dream?
A: Oh yeah… I honestly think that, depending on your personality, most people in the business struggle with this. And at every level. It’s not an easy career. Even when you have a job, you constantly have to be thinking about what comes next and how to prepare for it. Sometimes I still kind of want to move to a farm in Montana and make tables out of wood… 😉 Truthfully, I’ve been really lucky so far. I got my first job as an understudy in The Glass Menagerie a couple months out of school and I’ve had a pretty good go of it so far and I’m very grateful for it. A big discovery for me has been that my Broadway dreams have changed. Of course I’ve seen incredible things on Broadway and been a part of two gorgeous Broadway shows, but some of the best things I’ve seen in New York have been off-Broadway or in unexpected places. The goal is to be in a position where I can follow the work that interests me and be less concerned about where that is happening, whether it be Broadway, off-Broadway, on TV, or on film. But, for now, I’m just happy to be a part of this community and excited to put the work into creating what happens next.
Q: 3 tips for young performers just starting out on their fitness and health journey?
- Start simple. If you’ve wanted to make some positive changes in your health or want to feel better about your body without going into an unhealthy mental space, try cutting out one thing for 30 days. (My recommendation for thing #1 would be PROCESSED SUGAR). You can do anything for 30 days. The small changes add up and then you have some control over how you are treating your body and what works for you.
- Move every day. If you don’t want to go to the gym, do 10 minutes of an ab routine or follow an at-home yoga video.
- Try to be comfortable with where you are. You can see that I’m not Arnold Schwarzenegger or about to run a marathon, but I’ve made some huge changes in my health that I’m really proud of. I’ve figured out some things that work for me very recently and I’m excited to see where it leads. But I’ve been cast in a show with the body I have now, so I just have to remember that wherever I am is OK.
- Bonus #4: Try Whole30. There’s nothing to buy so I’m not selling anything, but Whole30 is just a strict version of the Paleo diet that you follow for 30 days. (whole30.com) It was my first experience with Paleo and it was absolutely life-changing for me. Even if you don’t follow it for life, it’s a really easy way to lose weight without starving yourself (I lost 10 pounds and I was eating lots) and it makes you aware of what your body likes and doesn’t like.
A: I think I got through most shows in high school by watching a DVD of the particular show and copying everything the leading man did. Some of my favorites are Mandy Patinkin, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Page, Terrence Mann, and Danny Burstein (who I’m lucky to be working with now). I’ve always been a good mimic. I liked doing shows because they allowed me to be someone else and step into their shoes. So now the challenge and the fun is in finding my own voice. Fiddler has given me a lot in that regard.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about the wonderful world of Broadway?
A: I took a summer camp in high school at the University of Michigan with Alex Gemignani, and he told us to Eliminate The “X Factors.” So much of this business is out of our control. I’ve gotten feedback from auditions to the tune of “we wanted a guy with a beard,” “we wanted a guy who is shorter,” “we wanted a guy who could fit into so-and-so’s costumes,” “we wanted a guy with a different voice type.” These are things you can’t control. And most of the time, the reason you didn’t get the job was not because you weren’t super talented, it’s because they wanted to go in a different direction. The only thing you can do is eliminate anything that might be working against you that you actually can control. Treat people kindly and respectfully, be happy to be in the room, find practices that allow you to control your nerves, be smart about what you wear, have your materials printed off and prepared. The biggest part is preparation. I try to always be the most prepared person in the room. I like to be completely off-book for every audition. Unless you are a big name and you are getting two auditions a day, there is no excuse not to be. If you have a challenging singing audition coming up, sing an hour every day. I could go on and on, but take care of the “X Factors” so you have less to worry about and you can focus on what is important. The work is the best part of it, so enjoy the work. You can’t control what a casting director is looking for, but you can control ALL of those things and that gives you so much more freedom.