Regards to Broadway

On 26 May 2024, Rob Madge should have been performing on Broadway. The smash hit autobiographical show “My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?)” should have been nearing its last few weeks on the Great White Way. It should have been a fitting crown atop a sparkly show that had already dazzled from its TikTok origins to become an Edinburgh show and a West End hit.

Experiencing something this magical is rare

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

When Rob announced that Broadway was going ‘on hold,’ it hurt. With a show this personal, the hurt felt even deeper. And not just for Rob, the creatives, and the production team. For the thousands of people who had seen themselves reflected in Rob’s home movies, heard their own conversations echoed in Rob’s words, it felt personal too.

On the 26 May 2024, these people filled the Garrick Theatre (home of the first West End run of MSAQ) for much-needed catharsis. Rob Madge’s Regards to Broadway was introduced as a very personal “therapy session.” It was therapy that had the required effect not just for those on stage, but for every emotionally invested fan in the room.

Stage 'warmth'

Rob Madge’s Regards to Broadway was a one-off. Two, if you count matinee and evening separately. Context and timing are integral to the story. Which means if you missed it, you’ve missed it. While this review can’t sell tickets, it can record Rob’s growth as both performer and writer.

On stage, Rob is a natural at ‘being on.’ Yell ‘tits and teeth’ and Rob may fling out jazz hands, Pavlov’s dog style. Cut Rob and you will see blood…. brothers. (Please don’t cut Rob!)

But Rob also has more than just stage presence. He exudes stage warmth. The story here may be tightly scripted, with requisite emotional arcs, but it is delivered with a natural intimacy. It could be your best friend – or the person you wish was your best friend – sipping a white wine spritzer and being their usual funny self.

Comic alchemy

Rob Madge’s Regards to Broadway contains fewer big musical numbers than MSAQ. There is music as underscore, played on piano by Pippa Cleary, whose creative input is cordially undermined in her role here as onstage patsy. And a few West End pastiches that can be added to the showreel to demonstrate aptitude for key change and breath capacity.

The real musicality is in the scripting. It often feels as though funny things have just popped to mind, interrupting the story’s flow as they’re shared. This ability to land laughs on seemingly throwaway lines recalls the comedy stylings of Victoria Wood, an inspiration acknowledged early on by Madge.

At one point, the comparison is explicit. A small white towel is tucked over the belt. A beat. An upward glance. The words “Two soups.” Howls of laughter. If you know, you know. And Madge certainly knows this audience.

As a scriptwriter, Madge shares Wood’s instinct for the 'mot juste'. Every word carefully chosen, fine-tuned, then rhythmically positioned to get the biggest laugh. Few writers know the funny words that are just funny for no discernible reason. Like knowing Cheadle is funny but Manchester isn’t. Or anorak is funnier than raincoat, but not as funny as pac-a-mac.

Being able to consistently choose the right word is a skill that can’t be taught. It is the gold of observational comedy and Rob may be one of its few alchemists.

The 'Madrigals'

The themes of MSAQ, and the theatrical detail behind the Broadway experience, have led to a fanbase high in empathy. As such, it’s unsurprising that many of stories shared in Rob Madge’s Regards to Broadway are more niche than mainstream. References to the everyday life of a working performer are plenty. Emotions experienced by queer and gender-questioning children come often.

In these areas, Madge has been cast as spokesperson for their audience and delivers accordingly. I should say that, if they don’t already, these fans have the sort of fervour that demands a collective noun. I’m going to suggest ‘The Madrigals.’ I like the nod to Armistead Maupin. I’ll just put it out there and see what happens.

In my review of MSAQ , I suggested that such specificity will always impede reach. I was called out by a number of Madrigals (I’m trying) for missing the point. Their argument was that just having the voice matters, that just being there matters. That’s fair and I’m not for a moment suggesting Rob should be straightwashed, or even queer-quietened. Moreso with Rob Madge's Regards to Broadway as Rob delivered precisely to these expectations.

I simply mean that Rob should be allowed to be more than a megaphone. I wouldn’t pretend to know Rob’s ambitions, but I do know when a performer has something that makes them more than “just a jobbing actress who scraped to put herself through the RADA” © V Wood. Rob has that something. In sparkly bucket loads.

Something magical

My Son’s a Queer is no longer just Madge’s story. The thousands of people who the show has touched now share ownership. That’s something to be proud of. Though Rob Madge’s Regards to Broadway is unlikely to be staged again, you will be able to catch the show at the centre of its tale when MSAQ tours the UK this year or when it returns to Edinburgh in August.

But Rob is also moving forward, as must be done. A recurrent headline role in the annual Palladium panto – from 2022’s Pat the Cow, Tink in ’23 and the Spirit of Sherwood in Robin Hood this year – means Madge has been seen by around half a million ‘mainstream’ eyes already. In September, they will be performing in Buyer & Cellar at the King’s Head: another one-person show, but this time fictional.

There’s more to Rob than being able to hit a high note or land a laugh. There is the ability to make everyone in the room feel special by feeling heard. The audience on Sunday hadn’t just come to see a show, they were here to catch up with a friend. They waited at stage door not just for an autograph, but for a hug.

Experiencing something this magical is rare. Great things can be done with great magic. And I for one want can’t wait to see the great impact this great magic will have.

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Simon Ximenez

National Theatre, Olivier Theatre

Mnemonic

★★★
Wyndham's Theatre

Next To Normal

★★★★
Punchdrunk

Viola's Room

★★★
Garrick Theatre

Regards to Broadway

★★★★★
Trafalgar Theatre

People, Places & Things

★★★★★
Lyttelton Theatre

London Tide

★★

Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

When Rob was 12 they used to put on shows in the living room. When Rob was 26 their show about putting on shows in the living room was meant to transfer to Broadway. When Rob was 27 this Broadway transfer got postponed. Join Rob as they return to their family home in the Midlands and experience the greatest humbling of their life. "They've come home at last" Nicole Scherzinger, 2023 Regards to Broadway is a new comedy play with music; written and performed by award-winning actor Rob Madge.

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