Yes, there is milk involved.
There are certainly harder ways to get a six pack and defined pecs. You could obsessively chart your caloric intake, for example, or spend many grueling sessions at your local sweat box trying to sculpt your body. Or, of course, you could train for the majority of your life as a dancer, spend countless hours in a studio working on your balance, strength, and agility, and dance your ass off for two-and-a-half hours eight times a week in front of sold out crowds of 1,400 people. In a leotard. As a cat.
That's part of 19-year-old performer Giuseppe Bausilio's regimen for staying in shape for his role as Carbucketty in the musical Cats, now playing on Broadway.
"I can finally say I can do the show easily, I can get here and do it easily," Bausilio says backstage one late-summer Wednesday, an hour-and-a-half before a matinee performance. Which meant that after two months of rehearsals and now a month into the run, it took nearly a quarter of a year for the dancer's body to start feeling comfortable with the show's demanding choreography.
Bausilio is the show's youngest cast member, but he's already a veteran of the Great White Way, having starred as Billy in Elton John's Billy Elliot when he was just 12, then moving on to Newsies when he was 16, and Disney's Aladdin at 18. But performing was in his blood—both of Bausilio's parents are ballet dancers, as is his brother, and he started taking lessons at the age of four.
"I dance every morning, 10:00 A.M. dance class, six days a week," he says, noting that he needs a day of recovery once a week. This morning, he actually taught a class at his parent's dance school, AS Ballet, and on Saturdays—a two-show day—he starts the day teaching three-year-olds. "It's killer," he says, grinning.
In terms of extracurricular fitness, there isn't any. "Honestly, I'm not much of a gym guy," he says. "It's just dancing and my 60 push-ups a day. I try to do three sets of 20 throughout the day." Later Bausilio adds that he does pull-ups too, but other than that, his main source of physical activity comes from dancing.
Eat Like a Cat
When I ask him about his diet, while he's slathering his face in paint for the show, he laughs sheepishly. "It should be better. I try to eat as healthy as possible. I should eat more vegetables and fruit and nuts and stuff like that, but my diet is alright. Except for the occasional 2:00 A.M. pizza." Because of his odd work hours, i.e. dancing your heart out while most people are sitting down to dinner, Bausilio has had to work on timing. "My eating is pretty structured," he says. "I was finally able to figure out how to eat so I don't eat that much after the show. If I'm really hungry, I'll have a yogurt and some chocolate milk."
"Yeah. Actually, we've all been doing that because it's the best type of milk to have after a workout, because it has protein and it has all the enzymes you need." How very feline of them.
Other than that, Bausilio eats like a normal health-conscious person, picking up lighter fare on his way to the theater so he can eat before warming up and putting on his whiskers. "I’ll eat something light, like a wrap with turkey lettuce, and tomatoes. A light sandwich, a salad, oh, and sushi. I love sushi, all sushi all the time. For breakfast I’ll have two eggs. You know, I actually don’t eat that bad."
Staying healthy is an obsession for people who rely so thoroughly on their body. For example Bausilio drinks two packets of Emergen-C per day to keep his immune system up, plus magnesium ("to keep my muscles going"), vitamin D, and plenty of orange juice, and a green juice. "It's hard to find meals where I eat enough vegetables," he says. If he's ever sick, which is rare, he has a special recipe to feel better: garlic, lemon juice, an orange, honey, ginger, and a little oregano in a Bullet blender, with a little sugar to help get it down.
There is one commandment that he and the rest of the litter abide by when it comes to food: "At Cats we have a no Chipotle rule on two show days."
Upstairs, Bausilio shows us a warm-up and physical therapy room where other feline cast members are stretching, doing vocal warm-ups, and using foam rollers to loosen up. "Oh man, foam rollers save lives. Legit. I love them." he says. "Generally, I roll out my back and my IT bands, the side of your legs, that ligament that runs up the side of your leg, I have to make it's released. You really learn that your body is connected and everything goes hand-in-hand, if one thing is off, everything is affected."
He's also a huge advocate of the cool down, something he does after each show. And because he spends so much time on stage, in an unforgiving leotard, even his water intake has become a science. "I’ve given myself a water schedule so that I don’t drink right before the show. I’ll drink two glasses two hours before the show and go to the bathroom right before the show and drink during the show."
As showtime approaches, Bausilio is called to stage for a daily meeting and then to put on his costume and do the final check-in of his body, making sure that everything is where it needs to be. With his make-up and costume on and his body warm-up, he's as feline as he can get, ready to spend the next few hours entertaining a theater full of cat lovers and musical enthusiasts. "I'm so lucky," he says. "I can't believe this is my job." Meow.