Blue & Loving It

Carleton Place's Chad McNamara finds success as a Doodlebop..
ANN MARIE MCQUEEN, OTTAWA SUN

OTTAWA-BORN Chad McNamara couldn't have imagined he'd be dressed up a blue wig and makeup, dancing around on a children's television show and sparking a frenzy whenever he and his castmates appear in public.

But for a singer, dancer and actor who dreams of one day being a Broadway performer, achieving that kind of success incognito has a special, built-in bonus.

"I don't want to be pigeon-holed as a kids' performer," the 23-year-old McNamara says over the phone from Toronto. "And I get to go out and be Chad on the street every day."

If McNamara dressed up as Rooney, one-third of the smiley, technicolour cast of The Doodlebops -- which just wrapped its second season on CBC, is airing on The Disney Channel in the U.S. and stops at Centrepointe Theatre on Thursday for two sold-out shows -- and went out in public, he'd be mobbed.

HUGE DRAW

He knows because it's happened. When the cast went on a press tour in November, 3,000 people showed up for a CD signing in Edmonton. That's double the number the Black Eyed Peas drew when they appeared.

"It was nuts, every city we went to, Calgary, Edmonton, these kids would show up," he says. "We thought hopefully a hundred. These kids go crazy, they go berserk. I don't even know where to start."

And kids aren't the only ones.
"Even parents rush you with their kid," says McNamara. "All of a sudden we're out in the foyer and like we're doing autographs and all these moms are like dropping their infant on your knee."

McNamara grew up in Nepean, later moving with his parents and older brother to Carleton Place. He started doing jazz, tap and ballet when he was a pre-teen, cutting his acting chops with The Company musical theatre troupe. There, the late artistic director Peter Evans encouraged his ambitions, and his mom allowed them to happen.

"My mom used to drive 45 minutes home from Ottawa every night and then pick me up and take me back into the city, because I'd have to be at rehearsal at 6:30 p.m. for a show," he said.

McNamara snagged a swing role -- which involved learning nine different parts and filling them in as needed -- right out of high school in May 2000.

"After six callbacks, my poor parents driving me back and forth to Toronto," he recalls.

McNamara had just lost out on two important roles, including a near-miss in Toronto's Hairspray, when a choreographer encouraged him to audition for The Doodlebops. The show honchos ended up rewriting the character to suit his personality.

Little did he know The Doodlebops, which just wrapped its second season, would lead to heavy traffic fan sites, mass mall hysteria, CDs, DVDs, and plans for a feature film. The show, which is mostly about fun, music and movement, promotes positive life lessons as well.

McNamara thinks part of the success is the show doesn't throw those lessons in kids' faces.

'HIP AND COOL'

"It's just so hip and cool, I think when these kids that are six and seven are going to be 15 and 16, they're going to be like 'When I was six and seven I only listened to The Doodlebops, they were the coolest.' "

McNamara, who postponed his admission to the University of Toronto, where he might eventually study English and history and become a teacher, is just happy to go along for the ride.

As long as it ends up on Broadway. He's already gotten close, getting to the final audition for Hugh Jackman's Boy From Oz.

"It's a really good experience," he says. "It's crazy when you walk into a room and there's 200 people. I'll definitely end up there."

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