During the 2020 lockdown, Rob Madge rediscovered their 2009 childhood dreams lovingly recorded on VHS tape. They turned the memories of a disastrous Disney Parade staged, for their grandma, in the magic kingdom of their own hallway into a hit one-person show, soon to be seen in the West End.
With the help of Pippa “Bake Off / Adrian Mole” Cleary’s music and input on lyrics, this recording captures the show.
Opening number “Anything Is Possible” sets the scene, a twinkling introduction to the story and pride in the simplicity of childhood imagination and glory of celebrating being different.
“Yellow Dress” as they tries on Belle (Beauty and the Beast’s) costume is a sad but hopeful hymn to breaking stereotypes. A sweet lyric for a strong question.
Letting us in on the fact “Stagecoach” Drama School was the place their parents put them in touch with their best feelings, “Pied Piper” flashes back to a village hall where Rob realised they is gay, and totally stage-struck locked in a fantasy world. Perhaps a song that works best on stage, it still provides context on record for the next number and has a little camp humour too.
“Pieces of My Heart” shatters their dreams, as reality causes Rob to put away the personality and trappings of their exuberance. Perhaps not the most complex lyric or tune but the piano tears are moving.
A “Conversation with Dad: A Wool Wig” sees them forgive their father for trying to put them in a Beast outfit when they wanted a Belle one. More touching reminiscences and realisation that other children led similar lives - and must be proud to do so. A touching message from another parent will make the listener angry; yet there is hope for a more tolerant future as their father’s reply is a simple philosophy underwriting the whole performance.
The strong music and lyric of “We Will Be Loved Anyway” provides a reminder that there is nothing to fear. It sums up the positivity of their queerness – the joy it can bring to others who are willing to connect. Put another way, where would the entire entertainment world be without Rob and every queer person whose talent and zest for life delight us all daily on stage, film and disc? Reject anyone on grounds of their identity means missing out, “come to the show, don’t leave it too late... there’s joy to be had if you choose to look” indeed.
With a little further conversation as Rob’s father remembers how he and his son worked together to get where they are, we are left with a warmth that glows through the upbeat reprise of an “Anything Is Possible” finale.
A little bonus track is the story of how Rob’s granny made them a Maleficent dress. A touching end to the tale and wise exhortation to “find the costume that works for you.”
This introduction to the stage version of Rob’s story should convince many to purchase tickets, and serve as a memento of a special individual growing into the person they are today via a joyfully creative childhood.
Click to pre-order the album now.
Details of the show at the Garrick Theatre.