At Birchbox Man, we’re pretty geeky about routines—discovering new ones, executing perfect ones, and overhauling old ones. So we were thrilled to tag along with Bryce Pinkham, the star of the Broadway black comedy musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” during his pre-show rituals. Pinkham plays Monty Navarro in “Gentleman’s Guide,” a man of modest means in Edwardian England who discovers, after his mother’s passing, that he’s a member of the prestigious D’Ysquith family, and eighth in line for an Earldom. The prospect of wealth and title spur him to unspeakable acts, as he systematically kills off all the D’Ysquiths in his way. Sounds a bit…dark, right? Yes, it’s terribly dark, but the rags-to-riches sociopath at center—our pal Bryce Pinkham—is lovable and hilarious. See the show. Trust us, it’s a riot.
3 p.m. - The Workout
“What I like about CrossFit is that you can scale everything up or down. And there are no mirrors—no checking yourself out,” Pinkham says, admiring the array of kettlebells, gymnastic equipment, and monster truck tires in the converted warehouse space that houses CrossFit Virtuosity. “You’re getting at something that is more than cosmetic.” Indeed, there are no mirrors—just a few bearded and grunting men and their trainers. And ten visiting middle-schoolers doing lunges.
Pinkham’s getting ready to launch into a series of trainer-assisted forward somersaults on the rings when he recalls how he first came to CrossFit (the high-intensity regimen has a way of wooing lifelong converts). It began when he was cast in the musical adaptation of Ghost. With plenty of help from his trainer, Matthew Bernstein, he began preparing himself—and his abs—for the famous shirtless coffee-spill scene (Pinkham played the villain).
Mirrors or not, he was obviously glad all the work came with added cosmetic benefits—Beyoncé visited the cast backstage after the show on Broadway.
These days his regimen of rope-climbs, handstands, and tire-flips are mostly for fun. His eight weekly Gentleman’s Guide performances are plenty to stay fit. One scene in particular—Pinkham says it’s his favorite—seems designed to push him to his physical breaking point. Known simply as “the doors,” his character, Monty Navarro is frantic to appease two female callers separated by nothing but the double-doored vestibule of his apartment. Pinkham ping-pongs between them, leaning, dipping, lunging, and, of course, singing his heart out all the while.
“I like it because it's the perfect example of when musical theater works the best—when the song, story, and musicality all meet up in a sonic boom.”
4 p.m. - The Commute
“Jefferson calls it a ‘monastic existence,’” says Pinkham, referring to his co-star, Tony award-winner Jefferson Mays. “We don’t do much other than the show.”
Pinkham’s only days off are Sunday nights and Mondays. “At least Sunday brunch is on the table—brunch is communion,” he says.
We’re trekking through the snow to the L train, ultimately heading to the Lower East Side where Pinkham has a fitting at bespoke tailor Against Nature. In exchange for modeling for their look book, the actor scored a custom suit—not a bad barter.
Killing his way into the landed aristocracy, Monty Navarro isn't what you'd call the most scrupulous of characters. Pinkham, however, is a gentleman through-and-through. As a young actor, he takes the responsibility and the privilege of leading a show quite seriously: “You’re the head cheerleader, the morale officer,” he explains. "I don't take that lightly."
Pinkham's career has also taken him to some far-off places, most notably Madagascar, where he and an acting friend, Lucas Caleb Rooney, have founded Zara Aina, an NGO focused on teaching theater to kids and delivering school supplies.
Zara Aina’s workshops focus on storytelling and clowning—Pinkham’s first loves. The physical comedy greats—Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Bill Irwin—have had a huge influence on his own work (“the doors” scene in Gentleman’s Guide is surely proof of that), and Pinkham’s eyes bulge with excitement up when he speaks the educational value of storytelling without verbal communication. “ We use it as a way to build self-esteem. There's nothing like putting yourself out there in front of a group of strangers and seeing them respond and clap.” It’s clear Pinkham will head right back to Madagascar the next time he can.
5 p.m. - The Fitting
Pinkham takes a few laps around the curiosities-laden bespoke tailor Against Nature just to get the feel of this shawl-collar midnight blue tuxedo. It’s a unique take on black tie, complete with a throwback “swordsman’s cuffs,” an extra flash of satin at the end of the sleeve.
“A good suit makes you want to stand up and show it off,” he says standing tall and puffing out his chest.
We’re just a couple hours from show time and he hasn’t yet eaten dinner yet (he plans to grab a quick bite on the way to the theater), but he doesn’t seem nervous or rushed. The nightly curtain is a way of life. He’s used to it.
Still, it’s impossible not to ask the obvious: Do you ever get nervous before a show?
“Fear is a great question for an actor. Physiologically, fear and excitement are quite similar. The difference is you're not breathing when you’re scared. Try breathing through that fear and you'll realize you're actually excited. Make friends with the butterflies. I get nervous when I’m not nervous.”
6 p.m. - The Home Away from Home
Pinkham walks through the side entrance of Walter Kerr Theater, signs in, picks up a piece of fan mail waiting for him, and proceeds to his dressing room, greeting stage hands and costume designers amidst stacks of wigs and fake mustaches.
His cozy space contains a small vanity, couch, sink, and all the accoutrements of his character’s Edwardian costume—most notably Monty’s high-top boot spats. He’s incorporated plenty of his own personal flair too (big framed Buster Keaton poster, juggling clubs, dart board). There’s a motif of flying pigs throughout his dressing room, with a picture frame and hanging ornament (gifts from his mother) paying homage to a recurring theme of “Gentlemen’s Guide.”
When asked about the design choice he laughs. “For a young actor like myself to be on the marquee of a hit Broadway musical? Sometimes I feel like pigs really are flying around this place."
He starts boiling water for tea, flips on his humidifier, and changes into his trousers and suspenders. Time for a quick shave. “Makeup and a tiny bit of bravado keep me from shaving every single day. I try to stick to a regular schedule of every three days—my skin knows when it's a shaving day.”
As for pre-show rituals: “I try to check in with everybody before the show—the last place you want to see someone for the first time is onstage.” And he kisses co-star Jane Carr—Miss Shingle in the show—on the same cheek each night before curtain.
Pinkham’s own voice comes on over the loud speaker. It’s Monty’s recorded diary entry, a signal that show time is imminent. Miss Shingle should be stopping by soon.
With a face full of lather, Pinkham seems at ease, his movements so fluid and relaxed that in his half-costumed state it would be difficult for a stranger to say whether he was preparing for the show or recovering from it.
It’s easy to see he’s made friends with the butterflies.