Playbill continues its five-part documentary series that focuses on the actors who bring The Lady Ms of Moulin Rouge! The Musical to vibrant life with Jeigh Madjus, who makes his Broadway debut as Babydoll.
In the video above, which was filmed in February and subsequently seven months into the pandemic, Madjus, who says he was "born to dance" but "lives for singing," discusses the effect of seeing Miss Saigon at the age of nine, the support of his parents, his lengthy makeup preparation for Moulin Rouge!, the "recipe" for Babydoll, and more.
Below, Playbill checks in with Madjus, who is residing in Canada while the Tony-nominated new musical is on hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic.
What is your typical day like now?
I’m currently living with my parents in Toronto. My days vary, but I mainly keep busy with stuff around the house. I’ve been doing a lot of home improvement work. Playing Babydoll in Moulin Rouge! The Musical, I may not come off as someone handy. But if you need a light switch/outlet changed, cracks in your ceiling patched, or new crown molding and baseboards installed, I can do that for you. My parents even got me a cute tool belt for my birthday, this summer. I still wake up at 10:30-11 AM every day because beauty sleep is essential for every aspect of recovery and because I’m unemployed and usually stay up until 4 AM online shopping for things I cannot afford (like my dream farmhouse with a pool).
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Everyone should be watching, listening, and reading whatever teaches/reminds us to be better humans. But especially during this difficult time, stuff that brings you joy. I’ve gone through trashy reality TV, documentaries, sci-fi, and rom-coms. Everything from Drag Race to Watchmen and Lovecraft Country to Emily in Paris. I love TV. I always have. I’m a binge watcher and can watch an entire season of a show in one day! In terms of reading, I’m working on a project with my besties, Kelvin Moon Loh and Conrad Ricamora, so I’m reading books on that process.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
As an Asian POC, I’m happy that we are undergoing a serious awakening and reckoning regarding the situation for BIPOC people in our industry, but more importantly the world. The plight of BIPOC artists in the theatre industry is only a fraction of the deep systemic issues that need to be resolved. My hope is that the undiscovered and untold stories, especially by BIPOC folks, are produced. That we can be treated and respected as equal participants and not just tokens. When you invite someone from a marginalized community into your show, you have to acknowledge and honor the gifts, talents, and personal experiences they bring with them. Also, there needs to be a more comprehensive way of drawing in a more diverse audience and making it affordable to them. If theatre is completely out of reach to certain communities, how will they (especially kids) ever think there is a chance of becoming a part of it? I believed I had a slim chance because my parents saved and bought tickets in the upper balcony of Miss Saigon when I was nine years old, where I saw Asian actors on stage. So, for my fellow BIPOCs out there—when the work is produced, we need to show up.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I find myself constantly trying to cope with our current situation. I’m living with my parents, but sometimes I’m so lost in my thoughts that I feel pretty isolated from everything—especially New York. It helps being honest with my feelings and allowing myself to work through my struggles. It also helps to share with those who care about you. We can be physically alone, but we still have the ability to stay and be connected—and, more than just liking each other’s social media. Check in with your friends and loved ones. I don’t get replies sometimes, but we’re all going through our own personal journeys right now. We’re all experiencing the same cause, but with many different outcomes. I always try to be open, honest, and understanding. I’ve also neglected exercise during this time, but I'm slowly getting back to it. I’m remembering how important it is to my mental health.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Painting furniture has been very meditative for me. I sing with my favorite playlists and shows every day and occasionally have a solo dance party in my bedroom. I try to stay prepared and stocked. I have watercolor and acrylic paints, a sewing machine, and I’ve acquired some power tools (table saw, miter saw, drills, nail gun, etc. for building things). My next project is making new clothes out of old clothes I find around the house. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m trying to be eco-friendly, while still remaining fashionably driven and economically conscious. I’m writing songs, too. I haven’t actively written music since I was in college, 15 years ago. I’d like to record and put some music out in the near future.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Since 2010, I have been a part of the development of a musical called Prison Dancer. It’s based on the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, in the Philippines, and their famous dancing inmates. Citadel Theatre, in Edmonton, is developing the show further with the writers, Romeo Candido and Carmen De Jesus. I’m learning new songs to record new demos, and we may be doing a virtual reading of the new songs and script sometime soon.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I would recommend folks to donate locally. Research and donate to organizations in your community that help marginalized children (whether it be food programs, education, or the arts). Also, organizations that are fighting climate change, racism, and injustices towards the LGBTQIA+ community.