Most of you already know that I wrote five diaries for the National Post newspaper. They ran last week in the Arts and Minds section in a somewhat edited fashion. I've decided to run them here, too. This is what I wrote, word for word. I'd love to hear your comments.
1) MONDAY'S POST - MY INTRODUCTION
How does a Human Biology Major wind up playing ‘Frankie Valli’ in JERSEY BOYS?
I’ve loved music ever since I was a kid. I started piano lessons at age seven and trumpet lessons at 10. I can't remember when I started singing, but I sang in lots of choirs (boy soprano, at that!). I come from a musical family – siblings, parents, aunts, and grandparents - so it always felt normal to play music. Most were amateur and did it for fun. I admire that.
I also loved science and math, and did really well in school. So, I figured I'd follow the family fold and get a 'real' job while playing music on the side for fun.
I dabbled in theatre and continued to play in bands while getting migraines finishing my degree at U of T. By third year, I still couldn't figure out what I wanted to be. So, I quit the arts entirely to focus on my studies and find my career path.
The migraines got worse. Something wasn't right. I wasn't happy anymore. It wasn't just the responsibilities of ‘growing up’; it was Nature trying to tell me something. I wasn't being true to what was in my heart.
2.5 credits away from my degree, and I decide to take acting classes, dance classes, and singing lessons. Something clicked. I ‘found’ my career path. I finished my degree, but I've been following my dreams ever since, and it's been a pretty darn good ride.
And you know what, being an artist IS a 'real' job. It takes dedication, years of hard work, training, and honing your craft. And, it has real value - yes, to the economy - but more importantly, to the soul. What we do moves people, makes them feel, think, question life and their place in it. I admire that, too.
2) TUESDAY'S POST - CHILDREN
The biggest challenge I face right now is balancing the demands of being a father with the demands of playing ‘Frankie Valli’ in JERSEY BOYS.
This past week was a rough one for me. My eldest daughter Sydney caught the flu, and being 2.5 yrs old, meant that she needed around the clock care. Which makes it difficult for my wife and I, because her one-year-old sister Emily also needs around the clock care.
As any parents of young children will tell you, even with healthy kids it's a struggle just to function. When they're sick, it can be a nightmare. Schedules go out the window, and you get by on ‘survival mode’.
I've discovered (the hard way) that I need at least six hours of sleep and a light physical and vocal warm-up mid-day to perform optimally. If not, doing the show is like running up a mountain for 2.5 hours.
My wife Christine is incredibly understanding and supportive of my needs, and I try to be as helpful as I can. She is an incredible woman, and an amazing mother. I'm a really lucky guy. I've got a great family and a great job. What else could I ask for?
3) WEDNESDAY'S POST - THE DAY OFF
This past day off was great. By 9:30am my girls and I are downstairs 'rolling some balls' in our condo’s Billiard Room, checking the mail, and watching Kids’ shows on the Party Room TV.
By 11am I'm feeding Emily lunch when Sydney, naked from the waist down, proudly walks into the room carrying wet socks. "Daddy, have to put in washing machine," she exclaims. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
Between 11-1pm I get each kid some lunch and Emily down for her nap. This gives me a chance to check my email, confirm two interviews, and download two songs I’m learning for an upcoming concert.
1:30pm Christine comes home and I’m off to do groceries. 3:30pm brings more phone calls to set-up rehearsals, interviews and photo-shoots. 5pm is dinnertime for the kids, and packing for our big trip... to a Hotel!
6pm Take the kids for a swim. 7pm Bath time for the kids while we wait for Room Service to arrive. 7:30pm Scarf down our eats while keeping the kids from destroying the room. 8pm Take the kids home, get them to sleep. 9pm Babysitter arrives, and we're free! It’s been five weeks since our last real date.
Back at the Hotel, we open some mini-bar wine and unashamedly enjoy finishing off our cold room service dinners. And try not to fall asleep!
4) THURSDAY'S POST - WHO AM I?
I've gotten lots of great comments from people who've seen JERSEY BOYS. Things like, "That role is perfect for you", or "You were born to play that part". I take these comments as they were intended, as a compliment.
But, what about the other roles I’ve played. Does this discount my work in those shows? Was my creative vision less fulfilled?
And further, actors rarely get the chance to create something original. The parts we play came out of somebody else's mind first. It seems to me, if you write - novels, music, plays, and screenplays - you are truly creating.
Last year I released a CD called "Taking the Wheel". Although I wrote none of the songs, I still felt as though I was creating something unique. I chose the songs, arrangers, musicians, style etc. But, is someone who merely interprets the work of others still creating?
Who, then, is Jeff Madden, as an artist? Am I a combination of all the parts I play, the songs I sing? I wonder if I’ll ever know.
5) FRIDAY'S POST - WHY I LOVE MY JOB
Last night was a great show. Everybody was connected, the pacing was crisp, and the crowd was awesome. JERSEY BOYS plays great to a subdued and quiet crowd, but when a energetic, near-capacity crowd is digging it, laughing loudly, cheering wildly and going with us on the ride, it's an unbelievable feeling.
It's funny, though, sometimes ‘you never can tell’ (props to Mr. Shaw). Before the show, I wasn't feeling confident about how it might go for me personally. I hadn't had much sleep, and rushed my preparations before the curtain. Playing ‘Frankie Valli’ is an incredibly demanding role vocally, both singing and speaking. And then there’s the splits.
But, I nailed it last night. One of my best shows ever. The crazy falsetto stuff flew out of my mouth like I was ordering dinner. The chesty rocking stuff was strong and clear. I was emotionally connected every moment.
I tell you, there's nothing like it, when you know you're doing your best work.
COMMENT below, and let's keep the conversation going.
- Jeff Madden
- 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.