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Adrian Marchuk and Jeff Madden

"When you put it all together, Frankie Valli just had “it” - and people will always recognize that “it” factor when they see and hear it."

Courtesy of Adrian Marchuk and Jeff Madden

Joe Szekeres

A recent email conversation with Jeff Madden and Adrian Marchuk clarified how their personal lives and professional artistic careers must be well-planned in this sometimes challenging and uncertain performing arts industry.

Throughout this weaving web of gigs, shows, auditions, and discussion, what’s the most essential element in their lives?

They are, first and foremost, family men.

I like that.

They are currently touring in the concert show ‘How We Got to Jersey - A Tale of Two Frankies.’ I love the title because it says it all.

I saw Madden’s work as Frankie Valli several years ago in ‘Jersey Boys’ when it played at the North York Performing Arts Centre. I haven’t seen Marchuk’s work yet, but I look forward to attending the upcoming concert show in the next leg of its journey.

Adrian and Jeff call themselves theatre guys.

The former calls himself a theatre guy who loves creating, rehearsing, and performing in the medium. He loves bringing joy to a live audience during the show and receiving immediate feedback as an artist. Marchuk says, " [Theatre] is where I first felt really safe and where I like myself.”

Jeff says he, too, is a theatre animal and where he’s most at home. Nevertheless, he also realizes the only way to make work and earn a living as a performing artist in Toronto is to be available – and able- to do all kinds of work. Madden has worked on some television shows, voice-over gigs and commercials. He’s also just completed recording his first audiobook, which he says was fun. But he loves theatre so much.

Adrian began creating his own work about ten years into his career. He has four concert shows in his ‘Broadway Biographies’ series, all of which go behind the scenes to explore the life and work of the greatest composers of Broadway and Hollywood, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alan Menken (of Disney fame), Richard Rodgers, and Harold Arlen.

Jeff was involved in the Toronto production of ‘Come From Away’ before the pandemic shut it down. He also put together his first solo cabaret show, ‘My Life In Song’ and performed it a few times around the city with the great pianist David Atkinson. A few years later, Jeff created and performed his follow-up solo cabaret - My Life In Song - Act 2 during the pandemic, as a means of creating work for himself and lifting his spirits when the entire performing arts industry shut down.

What about Frankie Valli’s music keeps drawing audiences to hear the songs?

Jeff suggests that, in some ways, Pop music today is still quite like Pop music from the 1960s. It has a good, strong, up-tempo beat that makes you want to dance, incredible melodies that are earworms, pleasing harmonies, and great lyrics that tell the stories of finding love, struggling in a relationship, losing love, and hoping for love.

He also adds that maybe it’s Frankie’s unique voice, with his piercing falsetto, which is sometimes playful and exuding joy and sometimes growling with yearning passion. Perhaps it was the 10-piece band with a killer horn section. Maybe it’s because they kept recreating themselves musically, with their hits spanning through the teeny-bop era, the more sophisticated mid-60s pop-rock, the late-60s psychedelic-tinged classic rock, and even into the disco era of the mid-1970s. These guys were incredible, charismatic men of the times.

How did the concept of ‘How We Got to Jersey – A Tale of Two Frankies’ germinate?

Over the years, Adrian and Jeff have been asked to perform material from ‘Jersey Boys’ at events nationwide - even internationally. And sometimes, they’ve performed together with a couple of other guys at a corporate event. Jeff said the guys were killing time backstage one night before a show, talking about all the tribute acts and touring shows performing some of this iconic material. And he remembers just kind of casually blurting out rather off-the-cuff that they should put their own show together.

Madden added further:

“We didn’t exactly jump at the idea right away, but this particular idea stuck in the back of my mind. I remember thinking we were the OG Frankies in Canada; it would be hard to top what we could bring to the table.”

Adrian recalled being approached by the folks at Abbey Gardens, a venue in Haliburton, who were aware of the kinds of shows he already produced. The Abbey Gardens folks had a date they wanted him to come and do a show, and he pitched them a few ideas. They didn’t jump at his first couple of ideas.

But then, out of the blue, Marchuk pitched the idea for this concert show of the ‘Two Frankies’:

“When they [The Abbey Gardens folks] jumped at it, suddenly I was like, “Oh, crap! I better find out if Jeff is available!”. Thankfully, he was, despite his insanely busy schedule, and we got right to work. After that, the show came together quickly - we both had the same clear idea of how we wanted the show to take shape. We got it ready for its first performance in three months, which is fast!”

‘How We Got to Jersey’ is not just songs strung together. Adrian reiterated it’s his and Jeff’s story, their relationship with each other, and this career, all told through their experience of the insane roller coaster that was and is ‘Jersey Boys.’ Adrian re-iterates that, as opposed to fully staged musicals, concert shows are a bit easier to put up in a short amount of time, which means they can pick the show up and bring it anywhere. The show's intimacy and its direct, honest, and exciting connection with the audience is thrilling.

Jeff further adds to Adrian’s thought:

“[The show] is a bit of a hybrid piece - it could be considered a concert show, a tribute act, even a book musical. I’m most proud of how we tell our personal story, and how we use over 25 pieces of music - songs made famous by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - to help us tell our story. Some songs are used simply as underscoring; some are sung in part, and some in whole. Some have new arrangements; some are performed in the traditional arrangements you know and love.”

But what about life on the road and away from their families?

Marchuk says one of the main themes in “How We Got to Jersey” is the struggle to find the ideal work-life balance between being a performer and being a parent. Madden and Marchuk are both very dedicated to their families and their art. They’re both the stay-at-home parents to their kiddos, so doing an eight-show week or travelling across the country to work would be challenging. These shorter runs are an excellent way for them to have their cake and eat it, too!

Both men agree that the responses to the show have gone far beyond their expectations. The script is funny, personal, and interesting, and it draws the audience into the story. Audiences might be expecting that it’s a tribute act, but "How We Got to Jersey” is more than just that.

Jeff and Adrian hope for full houses for seven upcoming shows at Theatre Aquarius on June 6 for one show, Theatre Collingwood on June 11-14 for five, and Abbey Gardens on June 22 for one show, so please go to their websites and grab tickets!

What’s next for these two talented gentlemen outside the concert show?

Adrian teaches voice privately out of his studio in Toronto and continues to write new shows. He's working on one about George Michael and another about Kafka that one is non-musical - that he hopes to get up and running sometime next year. He has a tour of one of his Broadway Biographies shows happening in the fall of 2024 - Any Dream Will Do: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber will play in Markham, Barrie, and Oakville in early October 2024.

Jeff says he might rejoin the Toronto cast of a particularly successful, long-running Canadian musical about the kindness that an east coast community showed to travellers from afar in late September 2001. You know, the show with three words in the title and a blue and yellow poster with the planet Earth spinning on it.

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