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, February 23, 2009

So, the update: New stuff first.

Our new 'Mary Delgado' Jennifer Copping has had her first full week in the company. I really enjoy working with her, and she is doing a terrific job! She brings a new and slightly different energy to the role. We're literally 'playing' out there right now, figuring out as we go how best to play each moment with one another. (The truth is, she and I did our scenes together exactly ONE time before her first performance in front of 1500 people.)

I met NBA player and Toronto Raptor JASON KAPONO on Saturday night. He and his wife and some friends came to the show, and we had an impromptu photo session with him afterward. This dude is tall. He's probably got a foot on me. So, I Google him. He's listed as 6'8" and here's the kicker: his position is "Small Forward". Gotta love the NBA. He was charming and inquisitive, and he loved the show. So, we like him a lot.

That brings my Distinguished-Individual-Meetings (DIMs for short) to three, since beginning the show. On Opening night, actually, I met JEANNE BEKER, best known as host of CITY TV's ubiquitous 'Fashion Television' program on Opening night. She loooved the show, and was a lot of fun to talk to. In fact, my Dad chatted her up relentlessly after I was whisked away. There's probably a story there... Best leave that one right there.

The other, not to be outdone, is Canadian film and comedy icon EUGENE LEVY. Second City and SCTV alum, he is perhaps best known as the hapless Dad of one of the kids in the American Pie movies. But in the theatre world, he will always be remembered for "Waiting For Guffman", a mockumentary about a group of community theatre 'actors' who put on a show they think is headed for Broadway. It was his second time seeing the show (he saw the US Touring Production in the fall) and he said he preferred the new Canadian Cast. Of course he said that. We like him, too.

I saw in a newspaper ad that DANCAP is selling single tickets through April 19th now, which is very good. I believe they are taking group orders (more than eight seats) well beyond that, though. Which is even better.

I'm breaking out my 'Blue Steel' look. (Zoolander, anyone?) Tomorrow I'm doing a group photo shoot for Canadian Living Magazine, along with a bunch of boys from the JERSEY BOYS. I think it'll be out in time for Father's Day, so check the newsstands around May/June. I'll give you more info when I know it.

Some fundraisers are in the works at various venues around Toronto that I may be involved in. Details are still being worked out, so I'll give you more info when things are set in stone.


So many of you sent me your support, and some even sent your own sickness-at-work horror stories, and I want to thank you for that. It helped put things in perspective a bit. I mean, we're all human, everyone gets sick, even people who have to use their voice for a living.

I always been very sensitive to minute changes in my throat as it relates to speaking and singing, and I think that helped me catch it very early, and ease my way back sooner than expected. And once I was back, I was pretty careful not to overdue it for the first show or two. But, it feels soooo good to be 100% healthy again. Actually, the whole cast is back healthy again, and the show is really flying now. I love my job!!!

And along those lines, in closing, I have to share a story with you. Precisely as I'm beginning this blog post, I receive an email from a member of my extended family, Annette Mutch. When I read it, I knew I had to include it here. It's the mother of all 'sick-at-work' stories... here it is:

Bob is a commercial saturation diver for Global Divers in Louisiana. He performs underwater repairs on offshore drilling rigs.

Below is an E-mail he sent to his sister. She then sent it to radio station 103.5FM in Indiana, who was sponsoring a worst job experience contest. Needless to say, she won. Read his letter below.

~Hi Sue,
Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother.

Last week I had a bad day at the office. I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all. Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job.

As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wet suit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea. It heats it to a delightful temperature. It then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose, which is taped to the air hose.

Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints. What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wet suit.

This floods my whole suit with warm water. It's like working in a Jacuzzi. Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my butt started to itch. So, of course, I scratched it.

This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my ass started to burn. I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it, however, the crack of my ass was not as fortunate.

When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my ass.

I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His
instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, were all laughing hysterically. Needless to say, I aborted the dive.

I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totaling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my butt as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't shit for two days because my ass was swollen shut.

So, next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your ass. Now repeat to yourself, 'I love my job, I love my job, I love my job.' Whenever you have a bad day, ask yourself, is this a jellyfish-bad day?

May you NEVER have a jellyfish bad day! !!!!
Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
Keep on Taking the Wheel, everybody.

Monday, February 9, 2009

“Hi. I’m Frankie Valli. I have bronchitis."

“Hi. I’m Frankie Valli. I have bronchitis. Nice to meet you. No, I won’t be doing the show tonight. You wouldn’t want to hear ‘Pop Hits Sung By Wild Dogs’, would you? Didn’t think so. I’ll be home “resting”, with my 2-year old Sydney and her ear infection, my 10-month old Emily and her fever of 102F, and my wife Christine who had somehow managed to keep illness at bay – for now.”

This past week has been, well, "such a god-damnned rollercoaster". I came down with a nasty upper-respiratory infection and was out of the show Tuesday through Friday. To those of you who bought tickets hoping to see me - including some of my good friends - I apologize with all my heart. It really tears me up, letting you all down like that.

OK – here’s some context. This has been one of the coldest, harshest winters I can remember here in Toronto. We started rehearsing like mad November 1st, and really didn’t let up until just a week or two ago, after the “Media Opening”. In that time, we have had lots of bugs rip through the company – mostly colds, but some sinus and bronchial infections too. Lots of people worked through it (bringing the bug in to work to share with everybody), and some called in sick. I mean, everyone I talked to - family, friends, their colleagues at work – everyone has been sick with something.

Well, "Jersey Boys - Toronto" was no exception. Last week, Bryan Hindle, our Joe Pesci ("yeah, that Joe Pesci") was out the whole week with bronchitis. Then, last Saturday night, Jeremy Kushnier (our incredible Tommy Devito) was starting to come down with something. And after the show, I noticed some unusual tightness in my upper chest – the intercostal muscles, the ones between the ribs. I did the show Sunday, and with the exception of a note or two, I was very happy with it. We had a couple drinks after the show, as is our Sunday tradition, and I went home.

Monday afternoon, I was sitting on the floor playing blocks with the kids, and when I stood up I saw stars. Right there, I knew something wasn’t right. I started slamming back the vitamin C and zinc lozenges, along with a double dose of denial. “I’m not sick, I’m Frankie Valli. I can sing really high. I don’t get sick.” Whatever…

Tuesday I began my regular pre-show warm-up routine (the subject of another blog post, I think) by riding an exercise bike for 15 minutes and vocalizing for 15 minutes. I quickly followed that with 10 minutes of panicking. My voice was not responding. The falsetto was fine, the chest voice was fine, but it was like everything in the middle was out of place.

I called my Stage Manager Cindy to inform her of the situation, and we set up a music rehearsal with our conductor Liz Baird for 6:30pm. Jeremy had already called out, his illness in full force. Grant Tilly, one of our awesome Swings (yes, the guy who filled in as Bob Gaudio for two weeks) would be in as Tommy for his first time ever.

Denial in full force, I got in the car and drove to work early. But, as I continued to warm up there, certain notes just could not be relied upon. Specifically, it was the top notes of my chest voice – F#, G, G#, A - that were uncharacteristically weak. I had good energy, and at the time I felt I could have gone on. Sick or not, I really wanted to do the show. But, Cindy and Liz asked me not to do the show, in hopes that I’d recover over night and be back strong Wednesday. After some discussion, I reluctantly agreed. My awesome alternate, Adrian Marchuk, would go on in my place.

Looking back at it now, I know they were absolutely right. If the role wasn’t so god-damned impossibly freakin’ hard to sing, it wouldn’t be a big deal – you could just get out there and work through it. We’ve all had colds and had to do a show – it’s no big deal, you just proceed carefully, you pace yourself through your scenes and songs and Bob’s your Uncle. Well, that ain’t gonna cut it here.

You see, those four weakened notes are needed throughout the show, but especially during the middle of Act 2. In the span of about 20 minutes, I have to sing all of the following songs, which rely heavily on those four notes: “Beggin’”, “Let’s Hang On”, “Bye Bye Baby”, “MaryAnne”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, “Workin’ My Way Back To You”. And to make matters worse, this is when Frankie begins to narrate the show. With all those monologues and scenes between those songs, there’s no time to rest the voice, no time to even run off-stage for water.

Looking back, had I gone on, the potential for disaster was actually quite high. But, at the time, I was pissed. No, not at Cindy and Liz. Just pissed - at myself maybe, for getting sick in the first place. Stupid, I know. We’re human. We all get sick. But, I love doing this show so much, I … I actually can not describe the joy it brings me. Yet, there I was, packing up and going home at 7pm on a show night, just as my cast-mates were showing up to work. I quickly raced out, knowing that if I had to explain myself, I would blow my cool. I wanted to keep the tears at bay, just below the surface.

So, Wednesday comes. Back in to the show, right? Hardly. I’m way worse. This thing is coming, not going. OK – denial is done. Time to get serious. I get me to a walk-in clinic, and take me some drugs. And I get some great help from a couple of friends whom I rely upon for support… Katie Agresta, my vocal instructor and general Guru (she coaches all the Frankie’s in all the Jersey Boys companies) and Joesph Leo Bwarie, the Frankie from the US Tour. They've both been there before, and were able to offer lots of practical advice to help my voice recover as fast as possible so that I can get back into the show.

On top of the vitamin C, zinc lozenges, Cold FX, and chicken soup, Katie and Joseph gave me a list of Homeopathic tinctures, specific herbs, fruits and vegetables, and homemade teas to get me back to normal. And Katie also gave me a series of vocal exercises to help get the lymphatic system draining. But, most of all, they gave me emotional support. All the Frankie’s have had to deal with this at one point or another. They told me it was not the end of the world to miss some shows.

The role of Frankie Valli may be the single hardest role in musical theatre to sing. (This would make a great debate, actually – yet another blog post?). Katie says to me, ‘Name me another role where someone has to sing 25 songs? 25 Pop-Rock songs? In that crazy range. Fahgittabowdit.’ (OK – I don't think she said 'fahgittabowdit' – I just wanted you all to get that she's from New York.)

Now, I’m not saying this to toot my own horn – believe me. I think it’s just a fact of nature. Either you have the type of voice and the technical skill to constantly manouver from a low C to a soprano F – sometimes in the space of two bars of music – or you don’t. In order for me to sing this role, I know I need to be virtually 100%, plain and simple.

Thursday comes. I’m still not better. Getting the rest I need at home is proving almost impossible. To make matter’s worse, a trip to the doctor reveals that Sydney’s bad cold has become an ear infection. Oh, and Emily has now started running a fever. Hoo-ray! Our entire condo is a cesspool of microorganisms. It never ends! This is me, folks, resting. Right...

Friday morning. I’m actually starting to feel almost normal. I think, “OK – I’m Back!” I’m all excited for my voice lesson with Katie, and within 30 seconds she says, “Oh well, not today”. WTF? After a few more minutes of vocalizing, I stop rationalizing and start to hear what it is she's hearing. She’s right. I’m basically back to where I was Tuesday night – sounding good except for those three or four shaky money notes. At least it’s progress. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes and there’s more improvement. Katie and I have another session "and then, she lays it on me". She says, ‘I’d prefer it if you'd wait another day, but if you had to, I think you could do the show tonight.’ Then, she adds ‘But, if you do, you may not be able to sing the show tomorrow.’ This lands with a thud. I call my stage manager.

Cindy strongly encourages me to do the show Saturday night. You see, now Matthew Brown (our Barry Belson) is sick and out of the show, meaning one of our other Swings Aaron MacKenzie (who went on as Frankie Wednesday night and is the only other Frankie understudy ready right now) has to go on for him. Since Mr. Marchuk is doing today's matinee and the company is extremely reluctant to have any Frankie do two shows in one day, it makes it a no brainer. I’m going back in.

By showtime, I feel about 90%. But I was nervous. Really nervous. Like, first run-through nervous. You see, I was in uncharted territory. I had no idea how my voice would hold up for 2.5 hours. I’d already sung about 45 minutes to test it out, and I knew I would tire easier than normal. The question was, when? And when it happens, what do I do?

As the opening number is playing, backstage I have a moment of clarity. Just breathe. That’s all. (No, not the Faith Hill song). Breathe, and be present. Give what I had to give. Nothing more.

And sure enough, holding back slightly here and there, I was able to get through the tough spots in Act 1 without noticeably screwing up. (Phew.) But in the scary Act 2? Same approach, same philosophy, same result… except for the sandpaper start to “Can’t Take” (I actually sounded like Tom Waits on the first three notes), and a couple really pitchy notes in “Working My Way…” (I heard someone ask ‘was that Bette Midler?’) I managed to get through it.

In the wings after the blackout, I was incredibly relieved! In fact, I was so relieved, I nearly forgot to come out for the curtain call. Then, in the Bows (the reprise of “Oh What A Night”) I started losing focus and screwed up my choreo as bad as I’ve ever done it. Oh well! “I’m Frankie Valli – I can sing really high! Who cares how I dance???” Whatever…

The Sunday matinee was even better, which was awfully nice. That Sunday post-show drink tasted very good. I love my job so much. I think I might go crazy if I couldn’t do it anymore. But at the end of the week, it sure is nice to hang out with the wife and kids all day… even though Christine is now sick as a dog, Emily’s got the ear infection, and Sydney’s… aw, you get the picture.

So, now it's your turn:
Anyone got stories of preforming while sick?
Anyone want to read how I get ready/warm-up before a show?
Anyone want to add their two cents to my assertion that Frankie may be the hardest role to sing in the musical theatre cannon?
Your comments are greatly appreciated.

Go on, click the COMMENT link just below, type away in the blue box on the right, sign your name if you like, click the circle next to ANONYMOUS, click the PUBLISH button and you're done.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's Been A While


So much has happened lately that I haven’t written a word since our official “Media Opening”. At first, I was kind of avoiding acknowledging the whole thing. I will say this: It was a great night, in that the audience was very involved in the show, the cast was on top of our game, and we had a good party after. That's what every opening night should feel like.

As many of you know, I generally don’t read the reviews of shows I’m in. While I’m interested to learn the critical response in a general way, I find that the devil is in the details. I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve had the experience before when the tiniest little words or phrases from some review get stuck in my brain while I’m performing, making the scenes excruciating and ultimately less honest. Acting is hard enough with your own thoughts judging yourself as you go along, it's virtually impossible if you add other people's opinions on top.

So, suffice to say that I have not read them. I do however know that Jersey Boys was received very well, as this AD will attest. I’m very pleased, and I hope it makes lots of curious people out there buy tickets to come see us.

In the time since, I’ve had the pleasure of watching my younger daughter Emily start walking. This must be one of the absolute highlights of parenthood – watching your little baby take their first steps. And I was home to see it!

The first day, she took two steps to me before realizing she was on her own, and didn’t like it. She sat down immediately, then spent the rest of the day crawling. The next day, she took two more steps, almost to see whether she still felt the same way about it. Turns out she did feel the same. Spend the rest of the day crawling.

Then, something clicked. Within a few days, she was walking about 15 steps across the room, unassisted. Amazing. Even Sydney got caught up in our joy, cheering her on. It was a special moment. And the other day, Sydney actually starting mimicking Emily’s awkward walking style, pretending to be just walking for the first time herself. Could this be yet another sign that Sydney is a budding performer?


Well, there’s another cast change coming your way for Jersey Boys Toronto. For the rest of this week and most of next, our female swing Victoria Lamond will be playing Mary Delgado, Frankie Valli’s first wife. Jenny Lee Stern, who had been playing this role – brilliantly, I might add – is leaving the company. Her eventual replacement Jennifer Copping is rehearsing with us right now and will go on the first time Feb 13th. Should be exciting.


This is pretty cool - Two different radio stations recently featured songs from my CD, “Taking The Wheel”. I’m always honoured when someone takes the time to play something from my CD. A few of you emailed saying you heard it live. Thanks for listening!

Last Saturday on AM 740, Michael Engelbert featured my recording of “What Is It About Her” from Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party, and David Yazbek’s “Man” from The Full Monty.

And the week before that on 103.9 Proud FM, Mark Andrew Lawrence featured the haunting “One Face” from Tristan, written by Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey. Congrats, boys, on writing such an incredible song.