We hear shamefully often from performers of colour that they never saw people that looked like themselves on screen or stage while they were growing up. For Chloé Zuel, who plays Elizabeth Schuyler in the Australian production of the world-famous musical, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack when it debuted in 2015 was the first time she had heard a chorus of voices that sounded like hers, too.
‘Hamilton has opened up the space to such diverse performers that may not have had this platform to be seen and heard before, which is so incredible,’ she says. ‘I love that I get to be a part of that movement in Australia.’
Chloé is Mauritian-Australian, and has talked candidly about the overt and casual racism that pervades the industry she loves and works in. But Hamilton has been a catalyst for worldwide change in a creative sector that has long suffered minority representation problems, and has even breathed cool new life into a form often dismissed as dorky. Such is its effect, it even bred new confidence into Chloé:
‘The pandemic was definitely a big moment of reflection for me. I wondered if the industry would ever come back and if it did, whether I would still have a place in it. Working in the industry for the amount of time that I have, I’ve had more “no’s” than “yes’s”, and it’s a constant struggle to remind yourself that ‘no’ means something else is coming,’ she says.
After receiving the news she had been cast, Chloé threw herself into preparation, reading the Alexander Hamilton biography that inspired the production, and listening to the Hamilcast podcast (true fans will know!). Rehearsal and routine became more important than ever.
But at the end of the day, no amount of work can fully prepare you to star in the most famous musical in the world. Chloé still gets nervous every day, about her voice, about her talent, about her right to be on stage.
But if there’s one thing audiences are certain of, it’s that Chloé was born to play this iconic role. And if they don’t already, the world’s gonna know her name!
I usually wake up between 8am and 9am. The first thing I do is snooze my alarm, drink water and kiss my husband!
I feel like I spend the first half of my yoga class yawning and then I’m present after that. I’m probably a little sluggish to start but I’m definitely not a morning monster.
During the week we do evening shows so I get to work usually no later than 5pm. On the weekends we do two double show days, meaning I’m usually there from around 11am and leave around 10.45/11pm.
I meditate every morning, even when I really don’t want to because it helps with my stage anxiety and also helps me to be present while I’m on stage and focused. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to force this task on myself, but I do because it’s for my own good.
Because I have an unusual schedule, finishing work quite late and therefore eating quite late I usually have my coffee around 11am so I don’t eat my first meal until midday usually. I’ll usually eat two boiled eggs, some greens, avo and a piece of toast or I’ll grab a veggie wrap from the cafe down the road if I’m being lazy.
I do life admin or catch up with people during the afternoons. I try to get to the beach most days too – even if it’s just to briefly look at the water and get some perspective. I do singing lessons once a week and on the days I don’t do a lesson I’ll do an afternoon vocal warm up to make sure I’m ready for the show that night.
I sometimes get a slump in the afternoon but I also wake up later than most people, so sometimes I’m still riding on a high from the day because it only started at 9.30am. Sometimes the afternoon can be a little overwhelming because the task ahead for my night feels huge, but I feel very grateful that I get to have my days free to enjoy the sunshine.
I get to the theatre around two hours before the show to warm up, sometimes have physio, eat dinner, do make up and just be in the space.
I eat dinner at 5pm before the shows and then eat something small during interval to avoid having to eat anything after the show. If I do eat after the show, I’ll try to have something small so that it doesn’t affect my sleep. I eat really boring things on show days- very plain so that I don’t feel sick while on stage. Most days I’ll have a protein with greens, sweet potato, brown rice and avocado and I eat in on the way to work or at my dressing table at work. Very glamorous!
I make sure I eat well before the show so that I have time to digest. Then I do make up and usually do my second mini warm-up at the same time. After that, we have a full-cast physical and vocal warm-up. I get my wig and mic on at the half hour call before the show and then costume and mic check at the five minute call.
Before most shows the three sisters will sing through ‘Schuyler Sisters‘ because it’s such a tough sing for us, and it’s also a nice time to connect with each other before we go on. I also often shove some chocolate in my mouth before I have to brush my teeth and put lipstick on. I should try to take that out of my routine to be honest…!
So many things happen while I’m on stage and it varies scene to scene and night to night. While I’m on stage I’m thinking about the scene I’m in and telling the story but I’m also thinking about my pitch and the music I’m hearing on stage along with spacing and lighting. I’m often figuring out how to navigate vocal and physical fatigue and also sometimes trying to remember my words… It’s a juggling act every show!
I finish work between 10.30 and 11pm. After the show I always shower at work and take my make up off there while doing a vocal cool down. On the 25 min drive home back to the beach I’ll listen to some chill music, the commute actually helps me unwind. I try to get into bed within half an hour of being home and I should stop looking at screens earlier than I do, but I’m still working on that!
I try my best to get home and be in bed no later than midnight. Often I won’t sleep until 12.30 but I’m always fighting to get into bed before 12am to get the most out of my sleep! My body needs at least 7 hours to be able to do the show and my voice definitely suffers when I have less than 7 hours. I aim for 8 hours a day.
Chloé in her sunny Clovelly apartment. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
To manage nerves and mindfulness, Chloé has started journalling in the mornings. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Given she works nights, Chloé’s day doesn’t start til around 9am when she wakes up. Then it’s some quick meditation, a coffee and some yoga! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Exercise is a very important daily activity for Chloé, professionally and personally! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
What a way to start every day! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Chloé’s days are upside down, she eats dinner at 5pm and then heads off to start work! After arriving at the theatre she does a physical warm-up, voice warm-up and starts on her makeup. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Chloé as Eliza Hamilton. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Costume, make up and hair are the first stop after the warm-up. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Perfection! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
The full cast on stage. Photo – Daniel Boud.