Madalena Alberto was performing last summer at the London Coliseum as Gloria Fajardo (mother of Gloria Estefan) in On Your Feet!, which tells the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and she continued in the role for the UK tour which had opened in September at the Birmingham Hippodrome, with the tour being unable to continue due to theatres closing with the current pandemic. The previous year, Madalena had performed as Giulietta in Aspects of Love and Carmela in Ay, Carmela!, and among her many stage roles, she has played Eva Perón in Evita in the UK and internationally, Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium and Fantine in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Misérables. We caught up with Madalena about playing Gloria Fajardo in On Your Feet!, her time as Eva Perón in Evita and being part of the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Misérables.
What is it like playing Gloria Fajardo in On Your Feet! both in London and on tour?
It was great fun to play Gloria Fajardo, Gloria Estefan’s mum. A role that first felt very distant from myself, but stretched me a lot as a performer. It was also a great responsibility to play someone who was alive until very recently, and who was so important in Gloria’s life. It was amazing to have a good run at the Coliseum in London and then take it to different audiences around the country.
How was your experience in the production and being involved in a musical based around Gloria Estefan?
It was a great honour to be part of the show, to get to work with Gloria Estefan and hear her sharing her life stories. She was very open and generous and loved every aspect of the process. The audition was odd though, because she had to watch me be mean to her younger self!
In 2018, you played Giulietta in Aspects of Love, can you say about this?
Giulietta was a beautiful role and Aspects of Love was probably the Andrew Lloyd Webber show I was less familiar with, so it was amazing to discover it with such a brilliant cast and director.
Can you tell us about Ay, Carmela! and playing the role of Carmela?
Ay, Carmela! was one of my biggest challenges so far. It is a wonderful play with just two actors, so there’s a lot of text to learn and you depend on the other actor a lot! I learned so much from this experience! I also had to dig deeper into the historical situation of the Spanish Civil War and try to embody, to the best of my ability, Spanish mannerisms (I am Portuguese, so it is a quite different culture).
You’ve played Eva Perón in Evita in London and the UK and international tours, what is this role like to portray and what are some of your favourite memories from your time playing her?
Playing Eva Perón was a big milestone for me as a performer, I have great memories of the tours I have done (both UK and international) and of our stint at the Dominion Theatre. I think having Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber coming to watch it for the first time was very nerve-racking but affirming to me. I will also never forget the first run-through Bill Kenwright came to see and where he said he’d like to take me to the West End. I am very happy he could fulfil that wish!
How does it feel performing songs such as Don’t Cry For Me Argentina?
I am very lucky in that in most of the roles I have played have big songs! They are always fulfilling for me to sing and for the audience, who usually are familiar with the tunes. Don’t Cry For Me was lovely to perform, where I could address the audiences directly, even though sometimes they wouldn’t clap! The song went straight into a scene so I had to learn to take it as a good sign that they were following the story.
How was it playing The Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre in December 2016?
It was a very short run but fun to do a Christmas show! I don’t tend to do many of them. For me, this was particularly special because it was where I met my partner.
What was Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds like to be part of?
Again, a lot of fun and very different form anything I have done. The War of the Worlds is a concept album, usually performed in big arenas. It was great to try and give it more of a musical theatre vibe and the character I played was added especially for that effect.
Can you say about your time as Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium?
Another role where I had a great song to sing: Memory! I was very lucky to work with the original creative team on this one, and I realised how difficult the show is! I am in awe of all the dancers/singers who have been in it across the years! Grizabella has it quite easy comparing.
What was your time like as Fantine in the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary shows?
I was in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Misérables, so it was very special to me to able to rework this masterpiece with sightly different eyes. I Dreamed a Dream had just become even more well-known across the world at the time, due to a TV show, so there was a lot of pressure at the beginning, but then I could forget about it and enjoy the experience. It was amazing to be working with the composer on this one.
Can you tell us about some of your earlier roles?
My first role was as an ensemble member in Aladdin, at The Old Vic (the only pantomime I have done so far), and it was an amazing introduction to the industry. I have also been in Zorro the Musical, where not only I loved the show and the music, and working with genuine Spanish flamenco singers and dancers, it was also a great opportunity to learn because I was a swing and an understudy. Then I went on for other type of roles, Carmen in Fame and Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde, for example.
Had you always wanted to get into a theatre career and how did you start?
I always wanted to be an actress but hadn’t contemplated musical theatre until I was invited to come study Performing Arts in London.
We understand you’re also a singer-songwriter, how is it releasing music and do you have plans to release more?
I have written a lot of songs and released them previously. I would pick up my guitar and sing in dingy Camden bars or get together with friends, orchestrate the songs and record them. I haven’t really done much of it since the theatre career took off, but it’s definitely something I’d like to go back to in the future.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch?
My current favourite is The Band’s Visit.
What have you been up to while theatres have been closed?
I have been trying to keep busy doing workshops and classes (where I am the student). I have given a few masterclasses and done a few Instagram Lives where I had a couple of guests in. That was fun, but I am not focused on social media as much as maybe I should be. I have also co-written a show which will be performed in Portugal next month! The main thing has been to keep healthy both physically and mentally and be available to support friends and family in this time of change.
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