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, July 6, 2009

The Night I Won My DORA Award

I imagine by now, most of you have already heard the news... but in case you haven't:
I won the DORA award for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role – Musical!

It is such an honour to be recognized by my peers in this way, and a week later, I'm still kinda of stunned. I have received tonnes of emails and facebook messages from you all wishing me congratulations. Thank you all so much, from the bottom of my heart. It means so much to have the support of friends and family. However, in lieu of sending a hundred individual emails thanking you all and telling you how it went, this blog post is my attempt to do just that.

My lovely wife Christine and I showed up under an umbrella at the Dora-Nominees VIP Reception at the Rosewater Supper Club at about 6pm. It was well attended, with both floors packed with beautiful theatre, dance, and opera people eating, drinking and laughing before the big show. Excitement was definitely in the air.

Christine was looking especially gorgeous, in a fancy black frock and I was wearing my new summery suit. (No, Harry Rosen didn't provide me with the George Clooney-inspired duds as ETalk suggested.) Everybody was dressed to the nines. It was a special night, after all. There were a couple short speeches and then we were asked to walk the few blocks over to the Winter Garden Theatre for the real reason for the season. Luckily, it had stopped raining.

We filed in right at 8pm and were seated down in the third row with the rest of the Dancap people. These were the 30th annual DORA Awards, and were hosted by Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio One's flagship arts show "Q". (But perhaps most notably infamous for his interview with actor-turned-Tom Petty-wannabe Billy Bob Thornton a month back.) Jian used to be in the folky-pop a Capella group Moxy Fruvous, back in the day. Remember them? ("Once I was the King of Spain, now I eat humble pie...") I had their tape. I'm dating myself. As a good friend used to say, 'Well if I won't, who will?'

But I digress. Like most awards shows, the host opened with a song - but not just any song - "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You". My heart started beating really fast. Partly flattered, partly nervous he was going to make fun of it/us/our show. He didn't. It was a nice tribute, which segued into a comedy piece where he walked into the crowd and made fun of Ross Petty, mastermind of the Christmas Pantos (sample lyric: 'God knows why Karen Kain is with you...').

The show moved along nicely with some winners saying how they'd been nominated 5 or 10 times and this was their first win; and others winning for their first nominations. That humbled me instantly. Most winners surprisingly hadn't prepared a speech at all, while others delivered their rehearsed speeches with verve and passion.

It was about 9:30pm by the time JERSEY BOYS' 1st category came up. When Sergio Trujillo didn't win for Best Choreography, my heart sank a bit. I thought, 'Oh no, maybe it's not our night!'. But that feeling quickly disappeared when we won our 2nd and 3rd categories; Des McAnuff won for his brilliant direction, and then JERSEY BOYS won the coveted Audience Choice Award for Best Show.

It must have been 10:30pm when they finally got to my category. Cast mates and fellow nominees Michael Lomenda and Quinn VanAntwerp sat to my immediate left and right. We three shared a nice glance at each other as the presenters came on stage. It was a special moment for me, one that showed our support and respect for each other. (Jeremy was dearly missed on this night, as he remained at home in New York with his very pregnant wife Jenny Lee Stern.)

C. David Johnson and Cynthia Dale (both of "Street Legal" fame) read out the nominees in alphabetical order, and in the pause before "and the Dora goes to..." you could hear a pin drop. I know I was holding my breath. It's interesting - I don't remember looking at the stage when I heard my name being called. I'm still not even sure which presenter said my name. In that moment before my name was called, I went somewhere... it felt like I was dreaming.

But, it was no dream. I did hear my name. And I remember hearing applause, and feeling Michael pat my left arm. I turned to my right and looked at Christine, then hugged her and kissed her. I stood up, and there were my parents, proud as could be. I kissed my Mom and shook my Dad's hand as I made my way out the aisle to go up the stairs to the right of the stage.

Once I crossed to centre stage I began to come back to reality a bit. I heard the applause quite clearly now and felt the bright lights shining in my eyes. Cynthia Dale handed my the beautiful (and heavy) statue - I think I kissed her too, on the cheek - not like Adrian Brody on Halle Berry at the Oscars a few years back - that would have been weird. But enjoyable. For her. Kidding. Uh, moving on.

As I walked to the mic down stage I pulled my speech out of my suit jacket pocket. (I like to be prepared:)) I was really happy with how I delivered my speech, and how well it went over. (If you're interested in reading it, it will appear in its entirety in the following blog post.)

Once finished, I exit into the wings Stage Left and am whisked away to a table where I'm given a bottle of champagne and some congratulations. The first photos of me with MY new DORA are taken. I'm interviewed for something live in front of the camera, but it's all a blur. 'How does it feel? What do you have to say?' 'Uh, duh, um, wow, its great...' You know the routine.

The last category of the night is for Best Musical and somehow we didn't win. The Sound Of Music won despite only having one nominated actor (we had four), and losing best direction and the audience choice award to us. But, honestly - you can't find two shows more different than each other, each appealing to two completely different audiences. Apples and Oranges. Both yummy. And good for you. And fruity. (Hey, maybe they're not that different after all.)

The three-hour show comes to an end and I rejoin my colleagues. Lots of hugs and kisses and congratulations from everyone. Some people tell me how great my speech was, and I'm surprised. I guess it touched some people. I realize now that when delivering it, I was very moved up there. I spoke from the heart about how great an honour it is to do what I do, and how lucky I am to be able to follow my dream. I got choked up a bit, I'm not gonna lie.

OK - Enough with the sappy shit! The night was just beginning! Immediately after the awards, we headed over to the After-Party in style - in a double-decker sight-seeing bus. Since it had recently stopped raining, we sat atop the bus in the open air. It was just perfect. We had a magical ride, floating along Yonge Street with it's lights and billboards, and everyone in great spirits only adding to the excitement.

The After-Party was great - more drinks, eats, photos, and partying. Two floors of fun. Lots more mingling and congratulations and even a surprise visit from my brother Joel, sporting his JERSEY BOYS hat. I guess they thought he was with the show because they let him right in! He gave me the biggest hug. And my agent and friend Kish was there by my side all night long too. He was beaming most of the night. He took a big chance on me when I was just starting out, and I owe him so much. It was really special being surrounded by so many friends and family.

The next day, I found this article online - from Now Magazine. Even the writer Jon Kaplan mentioned that I had one of the better speeches of the evening. Check out his wrap-up if you like. Now Magazine Article If the link doesn't work, go here: http://www.nowtoronto.com/daily/story.cfm?content=170170

I am a lucky man, indeed. It was a night I will not soon forget. The night I won my DORA. My Speech follows. Read it below.

My DORA Acceptance Speech

I've printing my acceptance speech here for a couple of good reasons. One, I've gotten a lot of wonderful feedback on the speech from people who were at the DORAS that night. I figured some of you might want to read it here.

But mostly, I've printed it here to send my thanks out to the Universe again, for this incredible honour that I've received. They give these awards to one person, but, no art is created in a vacuum. Theatre especially is collaborative and interpersonal. I owe so many people so many thanks for helping guide me to the point where I am at right now. So, if your name is mentioned here, I can't thank you enough. It means the world to me.

(Pulling my speech out of my suit jacket packet)
Wow, this is crazy. Honestly, it's unbelievable.

(Taking a big breath)
I want to thank TAPA and the DORA Selection Committee for giving me this honour.

(Knowing the clock is ticking on my 90 seconds)

Phew. OK, please bear with me because I have a million people to thank, because, well, there are a million people involved in putting on JERSEY BOYS.

First I want to thank Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice for writing such wonderful words to speak, and Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe for writing such amazing songs to sing.

And I want to thank Des McAnuff, Ron Melrose and Sergio Trujillo for shaping this masterpiece for the stage, who, along with Richard Hester, Michael Rafter, and everyone at the Dodgers in New York City entrusted me with this incredibly demanding role, for some absurd reason.

Thank you to Tara Rubin and Merri Sugarman, along with Sherry Dayton and Michael Walters for not casting, I don't know, Zac Efron or something.
(audience laughs)

And my amazing agent Kish for your continued ... (I get choked up, part 1)... belief in me and support. It means so much...

(Collecting myself, hurriedly)

I must thank West Hyler, Danny Austin and Liz Baird for busting my ass every minute of every hour of every day of rehearsal. You let me find my own way through this material, allowing me to shape my own version of "Frankie".

Thank you to our awesome stage managers Cindy, Zeph and Mel, our awesome and dedicated crew, and the best band anywhere - you guys make us all look and sound great up there.

Most of all, I want to thank Jeremy Kushnier, Michael Lomenda and Quinn VanAntwerp, and the entire cast of JERSEY BOYS for being the best cast anyone could hope for.

Thank you to Aubrey Dan and everyone at Dancap for having the brains, and lets face it, the balls to bring this show to the Toronto market at this time. Way to go!

(I get choked up, part 2) I wanna thank my Mom and Dad sitting right down here and my brothers Chris and Joel for your never-ending support... and lastly ...

*(The Get-Off-The-Stage Music starts to play - it's soft, and pretty, and believe it or not, it's 'Can't Take My Eyes Off of You' played on keyboard)*

(Ad Libbing)
Oh - this music is perfect for this part! (audience laughs)

(Calmly carrying on over the perfect musical underscore)
To my wife, Christine... (audience laughs)... you have made several huge sacrifices to allow me to follow my dream ... (I get choked up, part 3) and I can't begin to thank you enough. I love you so much.

(Growing brazen and Ad Libbing some more)

Look, I'm just a regular guy with a Science Degree who had a passion for performing. So, for all you Science students out there who want to get into show business (holding up my Dora) stick to it, you've still got a chance! (audience laughs)

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Who I Forgot To Thank:

I wish I had remembered to thank three very important singing teachers who have helped me enormously over the past 15 years. Andrew Seok, Carol Forte and Katie Agresta have taught me how to properly use my voice, enabling me to achieve the limits of my talent. I literally could not do this role without them.

Time Wouldn't Allow Me To Thank:

- Joseph Leo Bwarie, my first 'Frankie', for showing me the way and passing along some tricks of the trade
- My reading partners at my auditions in Toronto and New York City - all wonderful actors;
- My accompanist at my first auditions, Noreen Waibel;
- The musical mentors I've had in my life, including Paul Sportelli, Ryan DeSouza, and numerous piano teachers, trumpet teachers, band leaders in Etobicoke and Dartmouth;
- The acting mentors I've had in my life (whether they knew they were mentoring me or not) including literally dozens of Shaw Festival Ensemble actors and directors too numerous to mention - you have no idea how influential you were to my development;
- The crew at Hart House Theatre and all my friends at U of T in UC Follies who first put the idea of making this a career in my head, and gave me the fertile training ground I needed to develop.