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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Eve

Wanna get a sneak peak of the Canadian Cast of JERSEY BOYS, LIVE ON TV?

You're in luck!

Yours truly will be front and centre as we ring in the New Year on CITY TV live from Nathan Phillips Square. We begin with Auld Lang Syne at Midnight, followed by 10 minutes of the most exciting Musical Theatre you'll see anywhere.

Catch us live, tape us on your PVR, DVR, and if you're still living in the 90's your VCR.
You don't want to miss it.

CITY TV's New Year's Eve Bash entertains up to 40,000 people live at Nathan Phillips Square, and it's live broadcast reaches up to 500,000 Canadians across the country. It begins at 10:30pm, and runs till about 12:30am. You don't want to miss the action at midnight!

The secret will really be let out Wednesday night. Everyone will know why this show is such a hit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You want an update? Here, a Jersey Update.

Here we are, 10 shows in, and you're dying to know.

'Madden, how's it going NOW???', you ask.

In a word, Awesome.

The show is still a monster, still a major challenge just to get through in one piece, but now it seems do-able. What's more, it's starting to become enjoyable, rather than terrifying. (He said, half-joking.)

Don't get me wrong, I still screw stuff up, just about every show. I think I had one clean show, but in my books, until you do three or four clean shows in a row, you're still previewing. Which we're not really doing, but we still tell ourselves we are. Makes us feel better. More protected. I think it's fair. (BTW, I heard the major media all coming back to re-review the show mid-January, to compare the Toronto cast to the Touring production.)

Anyhoo, the biggest difference for me between show #1 and show #10 is that I have found places to breathe. Seriously. Those stupid-high falsetto notes come out easier if you actually have air in your lungs. Who knew? Yeah, when you relax just a bit, everything starts to work much better. Strange, that.

Another big difference is knowing how the crowd is going to react (or not react, as the case may be) at any given moment. After 10 shows we've pretty much seen and heard 95% of the probable reactions. (My 2nd year Stats class coming into play there... Parabolic curves, anyone?) This also helps me to relax a bit more, too.

Clearly, repetition helps everybody involved in the show tweak their business to make it better. It seems rather obvious, but the show becomes much more than the sum of its parts.

But, there's one more intangible at work here. Now, after 10 shows, I know I can do it. The show has this fabled split lead part - the Frankie's only do six shows a week, and an alternate does it twice a week. Ever since I heard about the show, I was aware of this. Nobody can do eight a week - it's too demanding. The guys who tried it all died horrible onstage deaths... well, maybe I'm exaggerating.

The point is, they drum it into your head that it's an impossibly difficult role, and that in the words of the original Broadway Frankie (Tony-award winning John Lloyd Young) you have to "live like a Monk" to pull it off night after night. But, the reality for me was, I worked my ass off like never before during my seven weeks of rehearsal, and at the end of the last week - the longest week of all, tech week - I did four shows in 48 hours and lived to tell the story.

With each passing show, everything - the scenes, the steps, the notes - has all sunk further into my body. I have to say, I'm really enjoying working with my incredibly talented cast and crew. And, the crowds have been incredibly enthusiastic - sometimes cheering mid-song, sometimes giving standing O's mid-show, sometimes tears flowing freely at the end.

It's such a great job, and I am so lucky to be doing it.
(*6 times a week)

Thanks to those of you who emailed me, or commented on the last blog. It's really nice to get feedback, especially from those of you who I don't know. Keep sending those post-show comments - I love hearing what you enjoyed most about the show.

Have a great holidays everyone! Raise one for me!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thrilling Moments

Sunday Night, December 14, 2008

It's true. The Canadian production of Jersey Boys is officially "Open". (I use the quotes because we're still rehearsing a couple times a week on top of doing shows. In other theatres, this is called the "Preview" period.) And we're not just "Open", we're a Hit. Since Friday night, we have given four shows, and have received four Standing Ovations!

The past seven days have been a whirlwind. Heck, the past seven weeks have been crazy. It feels strange sitting here on the other side of it all. It's hard to communicate just how intense this time has been. We're on top of the mountain now, after all the blood, sweat and tears spent doing the daily climb, and it feels oddly unsettling. My head's still spinning from it all.

Don't get me wrong, it feels great to be performing now. More than great. Thrilling. It's just, the rehearsal period was so intense, that it seems strange not to be going back to the grind of 10- to 12-hour days.

I've never experienced such an all-encompassing rehearsal period in my life. One reason could be the slightly shortened rehearsal period. There are five other productions of Jersey Boys playing in the world, and none of them have been put up in six weeks. But we somehow managed to do it. (Kudos to us Canadians, eh!)

Another reason for my perceived vertigo is probably the size of my role - it's enormous. For those of you who haven't seen the show, I'll try to give you an idea. Other than intermission, I see my dressing room exactly once during the whole show, for about two minutes. There simply is not enough time off-stage to make the trip any other time. I have 11 full or partial costume changes in the wings, the fastest of which is seven seconds. Of the 19 songs in Act 1, I sing in 13. In Act 2, I sing lead on all 12 songs. I am onstage for all but three minutes of Act 2. The sheer amount of material I had to understand, learn, and then master was enormous.

I say 'master'. Well, that is open for interpretation. Sure, there are hundreds of things I nail every run. Whatever, that's expected of me. But, there are still plenty of things I get wrong every time we do a run. Most are imperceptible to the audience, thank goodness, but some are not. The key is instantly forgetting the mistake - it's in the past, you can't change it anyway, just go forward, get back on track. This is easier said than done, sometimes. But, it is the key. Stay in the moment, whatever the moment turns out to be. And I know that very soon, I'll be nailing every moment every night.

I must say, I was quite nervous for our first audience Friday night. Although we had done three or four solid runs in the rehearsal hall, we had only done one run with full tech and costumes in the theatre before our first show. Let me spell it out. We rehearsed in a rehearsal hall for five weeks, before moving into the theatre for four days of technical rehearsals. During tech, there are dozens of tiny little changes to the feel of the show. Spike marks change slightly for set pieces we move. Instead of a bright rehearsal room, everthing is now dark. Instead of hearing the rehearsal piano, we now have a full band being mixed through speakers and monitors. Sometimes you hear them great, other times you can barely pick out what key your in. Actors you've become accustomed to seeing as themselves, now have wigs on. Drinks are now used, instead of miming, or using water. Your own voice sounds different because we're all wearing microphones. Virtually each of our senses has been affected in this move from rehearsal hall into the theatre. So it's only natural for nerves to be a part of the equation. It takes the first few shows for all this to gel.

That being said, Friday night was a huge success. The cast was obviously primed and ready to finally do what we've been working so hard at, and there was definitely a palpable energy in the crowd. Applause flowed after the opening number ("Ces Soirees-La") was finished. On my first entrance (during "Silhouettes") - literally skipping and snapping across a catwalk - there were cheers. I definitely did not expect that, and it filled me with confidence. Ditto for the applause after I finished my first song ("I Can't Give you Anything But Love"). Five minutes in, and the amazing Jeremy Kushnier is getting all his laughs in our first scene together. This puts me at ease. After this, I can feel my breath settling deeper.

I screw up my first bit of choreography in "I Go Ape". It was bound to happen at some point, and I remember actually feeling relieved that it happened in that number, which is supposed to be funny anyway. But, I'm find myself tense again for my next song, "Moody's Mood For Love", which is one of the hardest in the show. I barely get through it without showing signs of the flop sweat that instantly came over me. Anyway, forget that. Move forward. Be in the Moment.

Things get back on track leading up to the first big moment in the play, "Sherry", the Four Seasons first Number 1 hit. The audience goes crazy. Seriously. I would describe what I heard as a 'roar'. That was the first thrilling moment of the night. "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like A Man" followed, with a few minor mis-steps on my part, but the crowd goes wild again. Thrilling moment #2.

A few minutes off stage, a few more scenes and songs, and I remember thinking the cast is really 'On' tonight. I can tell it's a special evening. You can feel it in the air.

Act 2 is like a 55-minute roller-coaster for me. Literally one thing after another. It's pretty much a blur in my mind right now, as it is when I'm actually doing the show. There's just zero time to think, to process how things went, what could be done better next time, what's coming up, what notes I got from the director for that scene - all the stuff that you can usually think about during the show. I remember nailing my little dance-break leading into "Beggin'". I remember the 'Sit-down' scene going really well. You could hear a pin drop. And of course, I remember the response to "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You". You want to talk thrilling? That was definitely Thrilling Moment #1, #2, and #3 all put together. I will never forget that moment. I was truly loving singing it to them, and they were loving hearing it. That's really cool.

Later in the act, I remember hearing sobs, sniffles, and tiny coughs during the "Fallen Angel" scene. That kinda threw me a little but, because its a private moment, when I'm at my most vulnerable. But, thinking back on it, it will be welcome to hear those sounds because it lets me know they are connected to my story. This moment goes right into "Rag Doll" which has to be the hardest song in the world to get right after doing the previous 30 minutes. On it's own, it's easy. But not in sequence. I remember making one or two obvious mistakes in the choreo. Whatever. I moved on.

The Final sequence with "Who Loves You?" and the Bows ("Oh What A Night, Reprise")were the cherry on top. Thrilling Moments #4 + #5. What a night, indeed! Standing ovations are never tiresome, as far as I'm concerned. They literally leaped to their feet. And stayed there, clapping and singing along.

After the show, we had about an hour of notes from the production team, to help us right the wrongs for the next show Saturday afternoon. And with each show, there is a different energy from the crowd. Different things are nailed, different things go awry. That's all part of the process of learning how to run this show in the theatre. I'm proud to say I did both shows Saturday and the Sunday matinee, and each one got a little bit better.

I am incredibly lucky to be playing this part, being in this Tony award winning show, and sharing the stage with so many multi-talented actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. I know that the Thrilling Moments are gonna keep on coming.

I can't wait to share this show with you all. Come see it soon. And for those of you who have seen the new cast, what are your favorite moments? Comment below.