Five Burning Questions with Cats Star Ricky Ubeda
February 23rd, 2017
by Josh Ferri
After winning season 11 of the hit reality competition So You Think You Can Dance, Ricky Ubeda made his Broadway debut as a sailor in the Tony-nominated revival of On the Town. Now, he stars as the showstopping (and magical) Mr. Mistoffelees in the first-ever Broadway revival of Cats. You have to get over to the Neil Simon Theatre to see him dancing up a storm in his colorful coat.
BroadwayBox caught up with Ricky to talk about keeping healthy for Cats, the craziness behind the scenes of So You Think You Can Dance and his dream revival to choreograph.
1. In a show as physical as Cats, what’s your key to staying healthy and fit?
The words Cats and fit definitely go together…healthy? Not so much. It’s a hard knock life doing a show this physical eight times a week (five-show weekends every weekend) and on a rake. We really have to put our trust in warming up, cooling down, and getting into PT as much as we can. Other things I do to stay on top of it is roll out OFTEN (usually while binge-watching in my living room), soaking in epsom salts and any other fancy stuff I can throw in my bath, and yoga to cross-train/get my mind right. As far as my diet goes, I wish I could tell you I followed some strict regime, but I don’t. I do eat a big dinner before the show, usually packed with protein for energy and drink a Matcha green tea for energy/focus. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a frequent flyer at Insomnia Cookies though because my sweet tooth is out of hand. Even with all this, we all still continually drop like flies because at the end of the day…#CATSISHARD.
2. What’s life like backstage at Cats? What would surprise me about what y’all are up to?
Oh, man. While a lot of shenanigans ensue backstage (and onstage) my favorite thing that me and my dressing roommate, Tyler Hanes, do is set up a theme for the “Tugger photo”. During the Rum Tum Tugger Playoff, we go into the audience and have this big camera (life-size, but if you were a cat) and take selfies with some of the audience members. So everyday we set different themes for the photo, like various pop culture influences and just down right random things. Don’t worry, we are always CATS af when we do this. The best part about this is that we have an actual camera in the camera, and those pictures get posted to Tugger's insta account. You can follow him at @rumtumtuggerofficial. It always gives me a good laugh to see those during a nightly scroll.
3. If you could choreograph a revival of any Broadway musical, what would you choose?
Honestly, West Side Story. First off, I think Jerome Robbins was/is/will always be on a level of his own. Second, I think one of the most exciting things about seeing a dance musical revived is the twist that the choreographers put on it. Are they going to stay completely true to what the original choreographer did? Are they going to do something completely different? Are they going to meet somewhere in the middle? I think the latest revival of Fiddler was so magical because the choreography by Hofesh Shechter was so authentic and true to Jerome, but something SO fresh, SO exciting, and completely stayed true to the voice of Hofesh as well. In a perfect world, where there is no pressure that I would ruin a Robbins masterpiece, I would do that to West Side Story. Maybe.
4. What was the So You Think You Can Dance moment that pushed you to your limits?
I think it always comes as a shock when I explain to people how hard people on the show have to work. You not only have the pressure of having to do multiple pieces you learned in a week in front of millions, but you are EXHAUSTED while doing it. I sometimes didn’t even know what I said during interviews until it aired on the live show; and I was like, “When did I say THAT?! I CRIED???” On live show days, we had to be downstairs around 4 AM and we wouldn’t go live until 5PM. During the last week of competition, we each had to learn four duets, a group number, and a solo…so needless to say, we were worked to the last drop LITERALLY. After our dress run, we were all more or less fainting and couldn’t get up off the floor (I know), and we all had to get put on IV drips while getting our hair done. Yes, you read that correctly. It was definitely the moment where I was like, “Is this REALLY happening? Am I gonna even make it to see the finale?” So dramatic, but in that moment, I just felt like the shell of a man. We all felt fine after the IV, it was like getting vitality shot through you, but it was just such a bizarre and now funny moment. On the flip side, we all felt like superheroes that day when we wrapped. Also, what better way to be bonded for life with your friends, right?
5. You’ve said you’re a big fan of HBO's Girls. Which character would you consider your spirit animal?
This may be my favorite interview question I’ve ever received! The answer to this question is a 100% Jessa.
For example this conversation:
Shoshana: Oh, wow. You look so whimsical-slash-beautiful.
Jessa: Thank you, I just bathed in the stream and then I ran through the field to dry myself.
In my head, I’m like, “I want that to be my life," But in reality I am probably more all over the place like Hannah.
Check out the magical Ricky Ubeda as Mistoffelees in 'Cats' at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre.