About Me

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
A long-time Toronto-area Actor and Singer, Jeff Madden is now focusing on Teaching acting and singing in the GTA. Jeff starred as "Frankie Valli" in both the Toronto and Australian productions of JERSEY BOYS, winning the DORA award for outstanding performance in a musical by a male actor. Jeff is busy back at school, getting his MEd at U of T's OISE.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ballet Beginnings

Yesterday I started rehearsals for West Side Story Suite, with the National Ballet of Canada. That’s right - Canada’s National Ballet company. No, I’ll not be wearing point shoes and a tutu, Jeté-ing across the stage singing “I Want To Live In America”, much as you’d all like to see, I'm sure.

The show is a 30-minute ballet piece that first premiered in 1996 with the New York City Ballet, and is part of a 3-act night of mini-ballets created by Jerome Robbins, the choreographer and director of the original musical West Side Story and the Oscar-winning movie.

The ballet company has been rehearsing this show for a couple months now, and I, along with four other female singers have been added in to the mix just nine days before opening night, November 8th, 2007.

I know what you’re thinking... So what exactly am I doing in this show? Answer: Not much. The show begins with the memorable Prologue, after which I sing the shows first song, “Something’s Coming” while the dancer portraying ‘Tony’ acts out his character’s story. Then I sit and watch. Later, I sing a short reprise of “Somewhere” in the finale, and take my bow. That's it. This could be the easiest gig I will ever have in the career.

We five singers will be singing into microphones from the orchestra pit. A 40-piece orchestra will provide the glorious music, and the dancers will provide the rest, including some singing and dialogue.

Yes, this element could be the most intriguing aspect of this production. Hmmm... ballet dancers singing and speaking. The best ballet dancers move us through of beauty of their movements. Relating all this passion through movement is accomplished by drilling the technique of dance, which, fundamentally goes counter to the technique of producing sound. To dance ballet is to hold your stomach tight, to suck in for all you’re worth, to be as long and elegant as possible. Alternatively, speaking and singing comes from being as relaxed as possible through the stomach, allowing the diaphragm to expand down and out. To see how these brilliant dancers can accomplish this seemingly impossible task will be something I look forward to during this run.

So, back to the details of yesterday’s rehearsal. After a quick sing-through with musical director and conductor David Briskin to solidify tempos, intros and harmonies, we gathered into the large rehearsal hall at the Walter Carson Centre. There, the dancers were running through some exercises, generally warming up before the “stumble-through”. (That's what we call it in the musical theatre world, although here, it seems rather ill-named). There was a palpable excitement as the two groups eyed one-another for the first time, anticipating what was about to happen. It felt like we were the Jets and they were the Sharks, only we were outnumbered 30 to five!

Greeting us was Rex Harrington, former star dancer, and Karen Kain, who besides being a former star dancer is the company’s current Artistic Director. (Interestingly, both Rex and Karen appeared acting and singing the Christmas Panto a few years ago, which was produced by her husband Ross Petty, lest we forget ... but I digress). And then, they’re off! Those memorable melodies floating out of the piano inspired some brilliant and passionate dancing, right before our eyes. Even in their rehearsal sweats, I could imagine the show coming together in front of 2000 raptured audience members. It was really cool to be literally five feet away from them, watching them work through their show, intensely focused, sweat dripping off their brows, encouraging one another on after each number. And I’m getting paid to do this!

Let me correct myself, this surely is the easiest gig I will ever have in my career. No doubt about it. Usually, it’s me up there, busting my butt trying to learn the steps, trying to find my spikes on the floor as I whip set pieces around the stage, legs cramping up at night, bruises blooming deep purple. Not this time! I look forward to the remaining 2.5 weeks of this job. And not just because I can sit back and watch their beautiful bodies do it. Because, later, I can tell everyone I did a show with the National Ballet.

Keep taking that wheel, everyone. Because if you don’t someone else is in control.



Sunday, October 28, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

Today, we close down Mack and Mabel after 124 fabulous performances. It’s a bittersweet time for most of us. On one hand, we must shed the skins of the characters that we put so much effort into creating - and wearing - for the last 8 months. We must say goodbye and leave behind the many friends that we’ve made, even if its only for a few months. On the other hand, however, we will have the lasting memories of the time spent entertaining the hundreds and hundreds of audience members day in and day out. We will have the laughter and joy that we shared together in those crazy backstage antics that just seem to follow us around in the theatre.

But in the end, everything has its season, and it is time to move on. Four performances a week over 24 weeks is enough of doing anything! That’s one of the great things about being an actor -- you never get too bored of your work. There’s always another job around the corner and with it comes a new character to play and a new world to live in.

In my case, my new job begins tomorrow morning! I’m thrilled to be starting West Side Story Suite with the National Ballet of Canada at the new opera house in downtown Toronto. It is part of a 3-act night of ballet featuring the dance pieces of renowned choreographer Jerome Robbins. I’ve never worked with a ballet company before - not many actors have, I can assure you - but I am ready for something new. I don’t know if I’ll be on-stage with them yet or not, but I do know that I will be singing with a 40-piece orchestra! I am really excited about that. More details to come on this one.

After West Side Story Suite finishes, I’ll be taking some time off to be Sydney’s full-time caregiver until the Christmas break. At that time, the three of us will be vacationing down south for a few weeks. Other plans for the winter include doing a little renovating in the basement and rubbing Christine’s feet as we get ready for another season at Shaw, and more importantly, another baby girl! Yes, by the end of March our family will have a 4th member. We are over the moon about it.

Until next time, keep on taking the wheel. If you don’t, somebody else is in control.