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Jersey Boy's Acura is a veteran performer

The Acura is Jeff Madden’s first car.

JENNIFER ROBERTS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

Jeff Madden is no stranger to the stage.

After eight consecutive seasons at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., he now stars as the legendary Frankie Valli in the Canadian musical production of Jersey Boys .

Madden is equally at ease on the stage and on the road. He commutes daily from his home in Oakville, Ont., to the Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York. But he doesn't drive a flashy new car; he drives an old one - a 1998 Acura Integra GSR.

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"That's my little baby. I've had it for eight years. It was three years old when I bought it.

"I was 25 at the time and looking for something sleek, sporty, but also reliable. It matched my personality and what I was looking for. It's a fun, sporty little car."

"It's not your standard, basic model. It's slightly more sophisticated. But it's not over-the-top.

"There are really nice Acuras out there - but this is not a really, really nice Acura. But it's a good one. I'm not afraid to pay a little bit more for elegance and sophistication, but I like my money too much to blow a whole bunch on a car. After all, it's still a car."

Madden is hooked on Japanese vehicles. "I have a bias toward Japanese cars. I find them to be really dependable, really reliable - more so than North American and European cars.

"For me, being a guy that doesn't do a lot of hands-on stuff, that's really important," says the 34-year-old actor and singer. "I like a worry-free car and that's one of the reasons I got the Acura because they're legendary for their reliability."

He prefers a car that falls under the radar. "I'm not a really showy person. I've never been that person where I've got to have the shiniest, trendiest car.

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"I like to be able to walk down the street and not have people look at me. I like my privacy," says Madden, who caught the theatre bug at 15 after a class trip to Les Misérables .

The Integra GSR is Madden's first car. When he bought it, he didn't know how to drive a stick.

"My wife [Christine]is the one who taught me how to drive a manual transmission. I drove it once or twice horribly. And I said, 'I don't know, can I do this?' She was like 'Oh, come on. I'll teach you how to drive.'" Now as the father of two young girls - Sydney, 2, and Emily, 1 - his views are changing. "I really love the manual and it's a lot of fun to drive. But with kids it can get a bit hairy in the car when you're driving. It would be good right now to have one less thing to worry about.

"Eventually, 10 years from now, I would go back to a manual; they're a lot of fun to drive!"

Madden loves road trips. He often listens to show tunes, jazz, rock and dance to pass the time on long drives. He also rehearses for Jersey Boys .

"I use the first bit of the drive to decompress from being at home with the kids and being daddy. And then, the rest of the drive I do warm-up exercises and I do all sorts of crazy stuff like singing in the car.

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"I'm sure people are looking at me, but whatever. It's my job and I got to do it.

"I've got to sing for two hours straight, the most ridiculous ranges known to man - it's a really, really demanding thing.

"I have to be careful of how much I use my voice during the day because I don't want to tire it out at night time. I do a lot of warm-up exercises. It's like if you're going for a 10k run you don't just roll out of bed, throw on shoes and take off. You got to get your body ready - warm up, eat right, stretch and all that stuff.

"I'm doing those types of things for my vocal chords, my throat and my breathing. It's technical [stuff] But the fact is when I'm driving to work, I'm getting ready for the show."

Madden admits the Integra isn't the most family-friendly car. "This car is great for that young, single guy who wants to zoom around town. But it doesn't suit my needs any more," says Madden who released his debut CD called Taking the Wheel in 2007.

"I'm in the market for a new car. I've got two little girls and I'm looking at different things.

"Now I'm looking more for flexibility. I've got to fit two big car seats into the back seat. I'm looking for more space in the back seat and in the trunk for strollers and stuff like that. And more safety features."

The Mazda3 has caught his eye. "They're sporty, but they have a kind of elegance and sophistication to them. They look flashier than the standard small sedan.

"The question is how much do you spend on a car? … You look at some of the upscale cars - Bimmers and Acuras. They're beautiful to look at and drive amazing, but it's just another whole price point. Jersey Boys isn't going to last forever - I got to figure out what I can afford long-term."

If it was a long-term gig, he might splurge on his dream wheels.

"I've always loved, ever since I was a kid, the Porsche 911; it still has a special spot in my heart. Nowadays, I think the Porsche Carrera. It's around 100 grand. It would be … a lot of fun to drive! That would be my No. 1 choice."

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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