Performing in high budget, high energy musical theatre is like doing several workouts back-to-back, often twice a day. So it’s not surprising the people who star in them have plenty of
clever ideas when it comes to staying healthy under pressure, and warding off exhaustion, sickness and injury in the process.
Given tomorrow is Bastille Day (the French National Day commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789), we thought it perfect timing to talk to two stars of the current Australian production of the epic French tale, LES MISERABLES, about how they stay in top shape every day.
Close friends Emily Langridge and Kerrie Anne Greenland play key characters in Cameron Mackintosh’s phenomenal production of the legendary musical, which has already celebrated triumphant seasons in Melbourne and Perth and is playing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, before moving to Brisbane in November. (For those of you who know the show’s characters, Emily plays Cosette and Kerrie Anne plays Epione.)
1. What else do you do outside rehearsals and performing to stay fit?
Emily: “I go to a lot of yoga and Pilates. I’ve moved house and there’s a big gym in my complex now and a pool so I swim a lot. I do weights and a lot of ab-work, because I wear tight corsets for my role and they mean your abdominals aren’t working at all.”
Kerrie Anne: “I find this show very exhausting and sometimes I get motivated to exercise, but a lot of the time I just rest and stretch. But I’ve also had this awesome realisation that because I’m so mentally so happy with what I do and satisfied with my life, I automatically feel physically better, and my body feels better for that. Being happy in your life does affect your body.”
2. What do you eat to stay as healthy as possible?
[Sporteluxe notes there are two Lucky You Cleanse juices sitting on Emily’s backstage dressing room table where we chat – one green, half-drunk, and one nut-based – which she later she admits to buying at Woolworths for an energy boost.]
Emily: “I started seeing a good naturopath because I was getting run down and exhausted. It turns out I had a lot of food allergies I didn’t know about, so I’ve had to turn my diet around quite a lot and cut out sugar, processed carbs, gluten, dairy. It’s made such a difference to my energy for work.”
Kerrie Anne: “I quite famously love burgers, but I figure with a good burger, you’ve got some carbs, red meat, salad, cheese. It’s more about portion control and knowing when I’m done for me than about what I eat.”
Emily: “We have both done hundreds of these shows now… and for me, my biggest issue is costume. I wear a corset and giant skirts that are actually very heavy, so they put a lot of pressure on your joints and my muscles seize up to protect them, so I really need to stretch out afterwards.”
Kerrie Anne: “My character Eponine does a lot of running around. All of my entrances and exits, except for one, are running and I have a lot of fights throughout the show. The role has helped keep me fit, rather than the other way around. The main thing for me is stretching the right way so I don’t get locked up during my fight scenes.”
5. What do you do to ward off exhaustion and injury?
Emily: “This is the hardest show I’ve ever done, purely because of the length and has so much emotional depth… It is draining. My naturopath is really helping me with managing stress and my sleep patterns. Our job is amazing, but it’s stressful, so sleep is important. If you look at a regular 9-5 job, ours is flipped around and we do a lot of physical work at night, so it’s sometimes hard to sleep.”
Kerrie Anne: “I’ve always had a lot of energy, but doing things to keep mentally happy really helps me, even away from the work. Funny, but for this show, exhaustion is actually quite useful in terms of acting. It’s always good to make the most of how you’re feeling and put that into your role on stage, even if you’re not feeling great. Have you seen that new movie ‘Inside Out’? It’s all about saying, ‘it’s OK to feel sad or anxious’ and let them out because you’ll be better for it.”
6. Do you have any great anti-flu or cold remedies?
Emily: “You know when it’s flu season when you’re on stage because when it’s quiet you can all the people hear the audience coughing! We’re pretty big on the ginger and honey – they’re both great antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. We always have Manuka honey around the dressing rooms. It’s great whenever I feel my voice is a bit tired or scratchy as well. Vicks on the bottom of your feet works. I do that whenever I feel something coming on. Some of the other cast members take ArmaForce [a herbal immune booster] and that really nips things in the bud then if you’re feeling sick.”
Kerrie Anne: “And you may have seen our space ship [pointing to a humidifier nearby]. When you think about it, with the tool we use at work – our voice – can’t be helped with cold and flu tablets, so getting steam in there really helps to relax your chords. It’s that’s something we all do.”
7. How do you keep your skin looking so clear while you’re working?
Emily: “I use a spa-grade range called Aspect. There’s very little preservatives, no parabens and they’re quite natural, with lots of active ingredients. That’s been really great for my skin. I’ll sometimes sit in my dressing room and put my skin over my steam vaporiser too.
Kerrie Anne: “For Les Mis, we wear a lot of stage dirt rather than makeup, which brings its own set of skin problems. We’re really big on coconut oil here to get make-up off and then to also moisturise afterwards, because it’s so natural and anti-microbial. Coconut oil is great for your hair, your skin, everything.”
8. What have you loved most about being part of this Les Miserables production?
Emily: “It’s amazing to be part of a long-running show that’s stayed so successful. When you’re starting out in this industry, you say to yourself, ‘That’s the kind of epic show I want to do one day’, so it’s been amazing to kind of tick that off.”
Kerrie Anne: “Everyone in the cast and crew are such great people, but the best thing for me is the show itself. It’s the longest-running musical in the history of musicals. I’m still finding things (about my character and performance) after 400 shows – that’s the beauty of this musical. It’s so well written.”
TIP: Whether you’ve been to a production of LES MISERABLES before (or maybe just seen Hugh Jackman’s fabulous movie version), it’s still absolutely worth going to this production – the staging is totally unique, with modernised music and dazzling reimagined scenery. It also heralds the 50-year show business anniversary of Cameron Macintosh, who has produced more musicals worldwide than anyone else in history.