April 26, 2011

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Jeff Madden from Toronto to Down Under as a Jersey Boy, Part One!

April 26th, 2011

I recently had a blast via email catching up with Jeff Madden, who has been spending the last three months as the two-show “Frankie” in the JERSEY BOYS Syndey cast! In Part One of his two-part interview, Jeff fills us in on what was going on after his phenomenal run as Frankie in JB Toronto; how the Sydney offer came about; what he had to do to prepare for the big opportunity; settling in across the globe with a brand new company, and so much more!

Jersey Boys Blog: Before we get started talking about your time in Sydney, I’ve been curious: After playing your Dora Award-winning Frankie role for slightly under two years in Jersey Boys Toronto (Dec. 2008 through Aug. 2010), what was it like for you when it was over? With such a super exciting and demanding role, was it almost like ‘Wait a minute, I need to do my warm-ups; I need to be in rehearsal…’ Was it kind of like withdrawal for you? What had you been doing since JB Toronto ended its phenomenal run?

Jeff Madden: Well, when Jersey Boys closed in Toronto, I had real mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was so proud of all we accomplished and felt so great about how we left the show – stronger than ever, with sold out crowds and lots of buzz. The closing night performance was absolutely mind-blowing for everyone concerned – cast, crew, and audience alike. I’ll never forget that five minute-long standing ovation, and then the extra curtain call that Dan, Mike, Quinn and I had in front of all those screaming fans. But, on the other hand, I was a bit exhausted, truth be told! That probably had as much to do with the travails of having a two-year old and a four-year old daughter as it did the show. But, sure, the grind of playing an enormous part every day can wear you out a bit, no question.

So, when it was over, I gladly took time off and hung out with my family. It was just what I needed. After a while, I started auditioning for television and film projects in Toronto, and I got a couple gigs out of that, so that was cool. And I performed in a few concerts, which was a lot of fun, too. Then, out of the blue, Jersey Boys called me up and asked if I would be interested in going to Australia.

JBB: How did the Frankie in JB Sydney opportunity come about?

JM: Well, I may not have the whole story, but I think it goes like this. Basically, the Australian production of Jersey Boys found themselves in a position where two cast members were leaving the show at about the same time. One was the two-show Frankie (the “alternate”) and one was the Swing who also covered Frankie. So they were in a tough position and needed to get some replacements into the company very quickly. They decided to ask two guys who’ve played Frankie before in other companies to join the cast here temporarily, until they can replace us with two Australian actors for the long-term. My agent got a phone call from New York asking me to be the “alternate” here for three months, and the rest is history. Graham Fenton, who was a two-show Frankie and a Swing in previous contracts, got the call to be the Swing here for the same time period. We finish next week, May 1st.

JBB: Was it an immediate “Yes” when you were offered the role Down Under?

JM: I was extremely flattered to get the call, and was very excited about the idea of re-joining the show. But, I had a lot of things to think about, especially how it would impact my family. We took a few days to weigh the pros and cons and then I decided to take the offer. It was a very generous offer, too, and I am grateful for that!

JBB: So, after accepting the offer, what did you have to do while still in Toronto to prepare for the big move and to prepare yourself to return to the Frankie role?

JM: There were a lot of things to do. I needed to renew my Passport, get my Working Visa, decide on a place to stay in Sydney, set up a bank account etc…, all on top of getting back into the swing of things to play Frankie. I had about a month’s notice, but it overlapped Christmas and New Year’s, so the time really flew by quickly.

JBB: Considering you had not been playing Frankie for five months, what did you have to do to get ready to replay the Frankie role—both physically & mentally?

JM: Yeah, even though I had done about 500 shows in Toronto, five months without thinking about the show is an awfully long time! Just long enough to forget everything! The first thing I did was re-read my script and all the notes I had received from the creative team over the last two years. I found that the lines and the accent came back first. That was the easiest part – the story, the character, the choices I made in each scene were all very clear in my mind. The music came back really quickly, too. But the range and the power and the stamina, well… that took a bit longer! I worked out a systematic approach to building it up slowly, and then started taking voice lessons with Katie Agresta again on Skype which really helped a lot. I started slowly, like 30 minutes a day in week one, 45 minutes in week two, 60 minutes in week three, etc. It worked out great. The only thing I had trouble with was remembering all the choreography! That stuff never stays in my brain!

JBB: Once you arrived in Sydney, tell us about the process. Did you have a while to settle in before rehearsals?

JM: Yes, I did have a few days to settle into my apartment, get some groceries, get my bearings around the city, adjust to the time difference (16 hours ahead of Toronto!), that type of thing. Unlike in North American companies of Jersey Boys, in Australia they have a resident director, musical director and choreographer who stay with the show at all times. So Graham and I would rehearse with them during the daytime hours and then we’d watch the show at night. During the first week we focused a lot on the choreography, and that’s when the time difference and jet-lag really hit me. During those first few days, as soon as I would work up a sweat, I’d get light-headed and feel nauseous. I mean, it’s no wonder – by my body’s clock, I was at working hard at rehearsal from like midnight to six in the morning. But, after that first week, I became acclimatized and was feeling great again.

Unfortunately, during the second week of rehearsals, the creative team had to go on an extensive audition tour around Australia and New Zealand to find our permanent replacements, as well as a new Tommy DeVito. So, for about ten days, we were in a kind-of holding pattern, sometimes rehearsing on our own, sometimes working with the dance captain and the assistant musical director whenever they could squeeze us in. We couldn’t legally be put into the show until we had our full set of technical rehearsals, so it just took a bit longer than we thought.

JBB: As someone who had played a six-show Frankie for so long, what was like going to a completely new company as the alternate, across the globe?

JM: I’ve really enjoyed the experience. Enough time had passed from the end of Toronto’s production that I just assumed that ‘that was that.’ So when this gig worked out, I was very excited to go back into rehearsals with a totally new group of people. I love actors. There’s a never-ending desire to ‘play,’ to bounce things off each other on-stage and the Aussie cast is full of talented actors. They had fun adapting to me and my energy, and I had fun working off their mannerisms. We figured it out pretty quickly. I had a blast working with them all.

JBB: What are the big differences/challenges of going from the six-show Frankie to a two-show Frankie?

JM: In my opinion, playing Frankie is playing Frankie, whether you do it six times a week or once every six weeks. You have to know your stuff cold, you have to be aware of what you’re doing at every second, and you have to knock it out of the park. It’s a simple as that. Every actor has to do what it takes to get themselves ready for it. For some people, that might mean running the show in your dressing room once or twice a week, others might do it every day. You need to know yourself.

Personally, I’m loving the change – I don’t have to work so damn hard! But in all seriousness, because I did the show every day for almost two years, it just lives in my body. At first, I wondered whether my stamina would be affected from not doing the show every day, but that hasn’t been an issue at all. Actually, I find that I have more even more power and energy now being the alternate. And also, only doing two or three shows a week makes me appreciate every moment I have on-stage that much more. It’s awesome. I’m really going to miss it come May.

JBB: Considering many of the cast members had been together since JB Australia was created for Melbourne, describe the experience of being the new guy in the show.

JM: It’s been a wonderful experience. The Australian people are known for being very welcoming, very laid back, and very fun-loving. I found this to be true immediately. Actually, this is a cool story: The day after we arrived (which was the night before our first day of rehearsal) Graham and I were invited to a bar to join in on a cast party. Graham and I had only just met, and we didn’t know a soul in the cast. We decided to go, only to get lost trying to navigate our way there. When we finally arrived and found the group, we didn’t move more than two feet for the next four hours – everyone just swarmed around us, welcoming us with kind wishes, funny stories, lots of questions, and of course, a seemingly endless supply of cold Aussie Beer! That set the tone for the rest of our gig here.

As far as the show itself, it only took a few minutes at rehearsal with the cast before everyone felt really comfortable with each other. They knew what they were doing, and they knew what we’d done previously, so there were no nerves, really. We all wanted to make a good impression, of course, which we did.


  1. this was the best play i have seen in years and Jeff Madden was just amazing 3 cheers! i have seen the play 3 times and would go again when he comes back!

    Comment by pam franks — April 26, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

  2. I recently left the company of Jersey Boys here in Australia after nearly 2 years playing Mary Delgado. I had the pleasure of “playing” with Jeff as Frankie several times before I left and he really is an amazing talent.
    I know I speak on behalf of all the “Aussie” Jersey Boys, when I say that we feel very blessed to have been able to meet/work with Jeff, and he will be greatly missed!

    Comment by Lisa Adam — April 28, 2011 @ 4:38 am

  3. This was a great interview with Jeff Madden! It was a thrill to see him in Jersey Boys Toronto three times with my family & it’s really great to hear about his amazing time in Sydney playing Frankie.

    Looking forward to Part 2 of the interview. When will it be posted?

    Comment by Kerry — April 28, 2011 @ 8:12 am

  4. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Kerry. Part Two will be posted later today.

    Comment by Susie — April 28, 2011 @ 8:13 am

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