“Dreams Come True at Any Age” -MADELIN MARCHANTE

Madelin wants to inspire and instill in everyone, especially if you’re in your late 50’s or 60’s, that life has just begun.

 Who would have thought that a 62 year old Cuban born single mom from Miami, who had spent the last 21 years as a middle school Drama teacher for the public school system inspiring students to follow their dreams, would have taken a leap of faith and prematurely retired three months early in March of 2022 to do a musical in DC, at the Gala Theatre, getting rave reviews in- the Washington Post and other publications, in the meantime becoming a recurring guest star on the upcoming Apple + series, Bad Monkey, starring Vince Vaughn and created by multi-Emmy award winner Bill Larence(Ted Lasso) to go on the national tour in the musical, On Your Feet for 7 months? This is PROOF that you’re never too old for your dreams to come TRUE.  

At age 7, I began piano lessons. My mom saw me practicing on a paper where I had drawn the keyboard and soon bought me an upright piano for $70.00. Even though my parents had low income, they worked two jobs in order for me to attend a private school in Miami that also concentrated in the arts. Every time the acting teacher did a weekly class, I was all ears and gloated whenever she praised me. One day, she had me stay behind when class was over and looked and said, “Madelin, you’re very good. You’re a very good actress.”. That’s what I needed. Validation. Since then I was bitten by the “acting bug.” 

Who would have thought that at age 64, I would be living one of my life long dreams of being in a Broadway tour, On Your Feet,a musical about the life and music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, two Cuban immigrants just like me and about my same age? Yes, I am proof that you’re never to old to dream and to never, ever give up. Not one person or a piece of paper can determine your talent and worth.

I was born in Cuba to two Cuban born parents and I came to the United States when I was two years old. My parents, as immigrants and my entire family wanted to live in a free country where they can achieve the American dream as they had heard everyone speak, so they all made their way to Miami Florida in the early 1960s. I went to a private school when I was 7 years old that my parents could not afford. But my mother wanted the best for me. At this school, they focused on the arts and I begged my mother for piano lessons. Instead of physical education in my private school, they had ballet and Spanish dance class. I have to say that I hated putting on my tights and doing the barre exercises. But what I wanted to do was perform. Always keep your eye on the prize. And Go For It!

So at age 7, I did my first piano recital at a very famous venue called the Dade County Auditorium. And after I finished playing I got up, placed my left hand on the piano and I took a bow, the applause filled my ears and heart in ways that I could not explain. Soon after, I began volunteering to act in any class seen or skit that there are openings for. I realize I felt really comfortable on stage and whatever role was given to me, I made the most of it no matter how small, I made myself stand out. During this time, I discovered Shirley Temple, who as a famous child star from the 1930s, sang, danced and cried herself into the hearts of many through the great depression in America. I knew I wanted to be like her. But as I got older I realized that I couldn’t be like her, but instead, I wanted to teach kids to be like her. 

Even though I was obsessed with Shirley Temple tap dancing up and down stairs, I also became enamored with teaching children to do the same. I continued taking piano lessons during high school and charging $3.00 an hour to teach piano lessons to neighborhood children. Igave those $3.00 to my mother so she can buy milk and bread for the week. In high school I discovered the world of musical theater. I was 14 years old when I did my first musical, Anything Goes and I can honestly say at that very moment, I was bitten by the acting bug, to this very day. I continued acting in college and then after graduation I went to New York to become an actress on Broadway. But during that time, there is only one Latina actress on Broadway. It was Priscilla Lopez who was currently appearing as Morales in A Chorus Line on Broadway. I wanted that role but because the opportunities for Hispanics like me we’re not available, I became disheartened and I came back to Miami Florida to do production work. 

During this time, I never stopped acting whether it was on stage, film, TV or commercials, I did want to start a family so I got married and I had two beautiful girls. To add even more stability to my life, I decided to get my teaching certification and I became a Drama teacher for grades six through 12th. I interviewed for two middle school positions and I received an offer from both schools for the same position. 

So I accepted the position of the Theater Arts Director at South Miami Middle School, Center for the Arts. The school was a magnet program so students had to audition every year for entry into the middle school theater program. It was a dream job because I got to choose what students would spend the next three years with me learning everything about theater, on and off stage. I was not only their drama teacher/director/mentor/producer but a mother to each of these students and a friend to their parents. 

Fast forward almost 21 years, where I had an unforgettable time inspiring and guiding boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14, to learn about the performing arts and encourage them to continue honing their craft as they got older. At the same time, I kept going to auditions and submitting self tapes and every time I booked a role or a commercial, I would take the day off. I would share with my students my experiences and would perform my audition material for them and also having students after-school rehearse with me. It was a learning experience for teacher and students.

Many of my students continued their love of theater in high school and in college and to this day, many of my students are on Broadway shows, Broadway tours, regional theatres, movies, television shows, commercials, professional models as well as published playwrights. I am also grateful to have so many of these students still in my life. But now they are called alums. 

During my years at South Miami middle school, every March, I would take my eighth grade students along with their parents to New York City for a four day three night field trip to see Broadway shows, attend Broadway workshops and see the city. It is one particular year, where I met Luis Salgado and Denisse of Salgado Productions. 

Luis had just opened on Broadway with In the Heights and my students took a dance and song workshop with him and an acting workshop with Carlos Gomez, an old college friend of mine who also happened to be in In the Heights. The time was March 2008. It was then that every year until 2020, we would take a workshop with Luis Salgado on our annual 8th grade trips to NYC. I watched these workshops wide-eyed and I listened with my mind and heart as well as my ears. Luis Salgado did not only inspire the students, but he inspired me. I loved teaching, directing and choreographing as well as coaching my students for high school auditions but deep down I knew eventually I wanted to act full time. I decided to retire in June of 2022. I only had 4 months left of the school year when I received a phone call from Luis Salgado in February of 2022. 

He mentioned that I had not submitted for On Your Feet in Spanish that was being presented at the Gala Theatre in Washington DC and directed by Luis Salgado. I quickly explained to him that I was still in the middle of a school year but I only had four months to go. He said, I know you mentioned that you wanted to start acting full time and I said yes but I only have four months to go I can’t quit right now and in our next minutes of conversations with very few words spoke, I read between the lines and I kept hearing in my head, These opportunities only come once in a lifetime. I then, Yes go ahead and send me the script. I received the script Thursday night, I submitted my self tape on Friday evening, on Saturday I received an offer and on Sunday I received a contract. Then I walked into my principals office on Monday morning with a resignation letter and telling her, “ I am leaving In 30 days after almost 21 years.” And I never looked back. 

The next few weeks we’re crazy busy trying to pack as much of my teachings into the brains of these middle schoolers but I was excited to finally begin to live my dream out. 

On March 31, 2022 at 3 PM I left my theatre classroom for the last time and at 6 PM I boarded a flight to New York City, as my first day of rehearsal with On Your Feet in Spanish was the next day, April 1. 

The next month was pure magic as Luis Salgado integrated this incredible story in its official language. As I was playing Abuela Consuelo, Gloria Estefans’ grandmother, who was the epitome of a stage mom and was her biggest cheerleader, this hot home for me as my grandmothers name was Consuelo and my mom, who had passed away, was also my biggest supporter although she didn’t know the business. But I made them proud up there in heaven. 

Emilio, Gloria her sister Rebecca and her husband, came to see the show and they were very moved by this production because it was the first time to hear it in it’s native language.

Hearing them onstage after the show ended and how it made them feel was surreal. We made them proud as well. 

I was receiving a standing ovation every evening during my bow but I was also Nominated for a Helen Hayes award for Supporting Actress. That was an honor in itself. To add an even more exceptional triumph, I was mentioned in a review in The Washington Post as well as a picture of me onstage was added. 

The show continued to be sold out until we closed on June 5 where on that last day, my father, at 86 years old took an early morning flight from Miami to DC, saw the matinee and flew back to Miami at night.

Watching me on stage once again, especially playing this character, my father was convinced, that I should continue to live my dream of being an actress because, “Tu tienes mucho, mucho talento.”, he whispered in my ear several times as he hugged me after the show. That was the last time he would get to see me on stage 

The show closed in June of 2022 and now what? 

I was ready to jump into the next project which just so happened that they were having auditions for the second national tour of the musical On Your Feet, in English. I submitted for the role of Consuelo once again, feeling very positive about getting that role. Found out a few weeks later, that someone else was off of the rule but I was grateful and so pleasantly surprised to have received an offer to be part of the ensemble and to understudy the role of Consuelo. So now, another adventure begins. 

On September 25, the cast of On Your Feet, met for the first time as we boarded a bus in NYC headed to Elmira New York where we would build the show. Five weeks later we performed our first show on November 1st, 2022 and officially kicked off the tour. We did it! We were a family onstage and off. 

But behind every cast member, every creative team are the producers. The people that believe in a product and want to share it with the world. So how great it is to see Salgado Productions listed as one of the producers of this tour and with the only Latino producer name on the playbill! 

Our fearless director and choreographer, Luis Salgado, always reminded us of the story that we’re telling. Whether it be with music, with movement, with songs, lyrics, and the script. To gather all those components and make it all come together so effortlessly, is the REAL talent. As a Latina actress, I am very grateful to be surrounded by those that lift us up, that believe in us. In turn, we take that love of life and love a theater and share it with our audiences to change their minds of how to perceive us, the Latinos, the Hispanics. Even though we speak the same language we’re not all the same. We come from different countries but we all are fighters and we all are dreamers. This tour has taught me patience, adaptability, and more respect for those that work backstage, whether they are a dresser or a stagehand, now more than ever. It has taught me how to use my time more wisely than ever, it has showed me that I have the stamina of a 25-year-old by running up and down stairs to and from my dressing room in heels. It allowed me to meet and appreciate all the locals working at the different venues and how much they love what they do and some do this as a second or third job. I’ve meet someone who were so kind and considerate that it made me tearful to say goodbye after a few days in their presence. 

Mostly, I learned to appreciate everyone’s uniqueness and quirks. I enjoyed watching everyone of my cast members in their moment onstage, whether as a dancer or singer or actor, they all have their strengths and when combined as an ensemble, we create this incredible bond as a family that it visible and transcends to the audience. 

One of the nicest things of being on tour all over the United States is discovering new cities and towns that I would probably never would have visited on my own. But the best thing was seeing family and friends in different cities that I don’t see regularly and many had not seen me onstage. Especially my two daughters, who have seen me in different cities than in our hometown of Miami. That is by far one of the biggest blessings. 

When this tour ends on April 13, 2024, at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida near my hometown of Miami, I would have performed the show over 250 times, whether as Ensemble Member #5 or Consuelo. The most beautiful and most welcome surprise of all, Is that I get to share the stage with Kristen Tarrago, who was my middle school student back when she was 14 years old. No where would we imagine that we would be on a Broadway tour together, two Cuban Girls from Miami. I’ve played Consuelo while she’s been Gloria Fajardo several times but this past Sunday as we closed our week 8 shows in Chicago at the CIBC theatre, Kristen got to go on as Gloria Estefan and me as her grandmother Consuelo. The magic and energy that we felt as we held hands on stage during our scenes or as we danced together in the opening of Act 2, cannot be experienced or replicated by anyone but us. It was truly a moment suspended in time. 

So this tour is never boring. Yes, of course it was tiring at times because of the traveling, especially one nighters. And double show days are also hard especially if you had a travel day the day before. But no complaints when you do what you love and love what you do. 

But every audience is different therefore your performance will always be different and received differently as well. 

It has been a whirlwind of audiences, venues, costume changes, hotels, buses, dressing rooms, wig changes, planes, lost luggage, foodie finds, Covid, outings, Doordash and Uber eats, birthday celebrations, pool parties, understudies and swing outs and too much to mention but that’s what life on the road is like. But we have made friendships and memories that will last forever. Seeing friends, family and new fans in the audience gives you the energy to get up and do it all again the next night. 

What’s next? I will be appearing as a recurring guest star in the upcoming Apple+ series, “Bad Monkey”starring Vince Vaughn. I get to play a Cuban mom, who continues to meddle in her daughter’s adult life.

At 64, I am just beginning this last phase of my life. In the meantime, I will keep auditioning and submitting myself for the next production. 50% of the job of the actor is to audition, the other 50% is to book the job. 

And my worldly advice to anyone is: Never ever give up. Never ever stop Dreaming. You are never too old for dreams to come true. 

And remember the mantra/mission of Salgado Productions/R.Evolución Latina: Dare to Go Beyond. 

So Dream and Dare and you will get to Do what you love and Love what you do. Abrazos y Suerte, 

Madelin Marchant 

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