the new york diet

Brian d’Arcy James of Shrek the Musical Doesn’t Eat Like an Ogre

"And I've just finished the most incredible meal here at Bistro Citron."Photo: Melissa Hom

Brian d'Arcy James remembers his first public performance: singing "Piano Man" by Billy Joel at a school function in eighth grade. Influenced by a theater-loving sister and Uncle Brian Kelly, who played Porter Ricks in the sixties series Flipper, D'Arcy James studied acting at Northwestern. He's now putting his pipes to work for his college pal, director Jason Moore, as the lead in Broadway's newly opened Shrek the Musical. It takes two hours of makeup application to transform svelte D'Arcy James into a portly ogre. At first, the costume's heft convinced D'Arcy James he might slim down. He was "eating like a champ" until he gained weight. "Shrek can be fat, but I should try not to be," the actor decided. Check out D'Arcy James's New York Diet to read how to hulk up during opening week.

Saturday, December 13
Usually my Saturdays, or any days, start with a trip to Starbucks or Lenny's — which is right around [the Broadway Theatre] for a bagel and cream cheese and a cup of coffee. Nothing fancy for breakfast; I always get a sesame-seed bagel. And if it's not that, I'll have a raspberry scone at Starbucks.

Saturdays is two shows so I don't eat too much. That usually gets me through the first show, believe it or not, and then I'll usually have Hale and Hearty soup. [I had] their chicken gumbo and half a turkey and cranberry sandwich.

That's usually my dinner. That doesn't sound like a lot and talking about it, it's not, but it usually gets me through two shows. The problem is when I get home I usually just snack on stuff. I can do some damage to a big old thing of hummus.

Sunday, December 14
On Sunday it was our opening and all our family was arriving, so it was a bit of a hectic morning. So again with the coffee and scone or bagel or something.

The party was my primary source of food that day. My nerves were up so my stomach wasn’t exactly jonesing for a lot prior to the show. It was an early curtain, so I had to be there at two o'clock. The party at the Plaza Hotel was incredible. They had a beautiful array of food. I had a plate of all kinds of things to taste: ravioli, a lot of carpaccio, a lot of different meats, salad, and they were passing out ice-cream bars. I thought that was pretty cool. They were just good old-fashioned, I think Häagen-Dazs bars, chocolate-covered ice cream. Those were going very quickly. But an opening-night party is really like your own wedding. You don't really get to eat much. And you end up just picking. I didn't really sit down, but the stuff I had was pretty great. I had a few sips of a Jack and Coke. I remember thinking I was sorry I couldn’t drink the whole thing. I'm also really kind of conscious about drinking too much with the show schedule. It's unfortunate because you want to let loose at those parties, but you know you have a show in a day. Drinking is something I just generally don't do, it's out of sheer protection.

Monday, December 15
Monday morning we all got together with my family at the hotel and horned in on their breakfast. They were staying at the Salisbury Hotel. All my little nieces and nephews were there, so we all just went down and had your typical breakfast fare: eggs and such and coffee. I went home after that and slept, so no lunch.

That was my night off, and we were tired from the night before, so we stayed in. My wife's a great cook, and she made a couple of quiches, spinach and sausage quiches, and a salad and some wine. My family was over and we all just kind of sat in my apartment and lounged around. That was Monday night.

Tuesday, December 15
Tuesday morning we all got up and went to Le Pain Quotidien and had oatmeal. Kind of funny, six people and we all got bowls of oatmeal, maybe it’s a Midwest thing. My siblings live in Chicago. And [I had] a café au lait. My wife and I take their bread home a lot.

Tuesday night was back at the show and I had my usual soup and half a sandwich before the show. I'm in the makeup chair two hours before curtain so I eat about two and a half hours before the show. I can't eat while they're applying the makeup because it demands me to be still. It takes an hour and a half to put the makeup on and about twenty minutes to put the costume on; there's a lot of different components to it, buttons and laces.

After the show. This is embarrassing. Since it was an early show, I got home earlier than usual and we got this bag of incredible popcorn-and-chocolate gift from my colleague Daniel Breaker, who plays Donkey. I'm ashamed to say I did some damage to that bag of chocolate popcorn. It's this Florida candy store called Peter Brooke. I laughed because there's a director Peter Brook — just a theater-geek joke.

Wednesday, December 17
I didn't have a coffee and scone. I had breakfast with my agent at Cafe Edison, a theater hangout, and had an omelette and coffee. My diet used to be more interesting. I used to do this diet called "Body for Life." Basically a workout regime and you eat six meals the size of your fist a day. When I can get on that, it's great. You're constantly burning really good fuel. When I get inspired-slash-in-trouble, I usually try to do that for four to six weeks. Otherwise I fall into this coffee-and-scone habit.

Wednesday we had two shows. my dresser, Jack, will go out and get me dinner, or my wife will do it because I can't go out. I'm locked in the theater with this Shrek head on. I had tomato-Cheddar soup and a half-sandwich. And usually I have a black-and-white cookie. That's kind of my other sore spot. At Hale and Hearty they have little packages of two, which is probably a clever way of making you eat just as much as a big one.

When I get home, I usually graze. I'm pretty good about not eating terrible stuff because that's when you get in trouble. And I'm pretty ravenous when I get home. I don't remember what I had. I feel like I just failed my homework. Actually, Jen and I just went to bed.

Thursday, December 18
I had a raspberry scone this morning and coffee. And I've just finished the most incredible meal here at Bistro Citron. It's kind of crazy the amount I've consumed. They have rack of lamb, coq au vin, which my wife, Jennifer, loves, a great scallop and shrimp dish with a vegetable casserole, a frog-leg appetizer. We come here quite a bit. They have a great bistro burger. For dessert, I'm having macaron parfait, which is funny because Donkey has a line in Shrek: "Everyone likes parfaits." Whoo, delicious.

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