“I can’t quite articulate how I feel about it all,” Rob Madge gushes from their dressing room across the Atlantic, halfway into makeup before playing Tink (formerly known as Tinkerbell) in Peter Pan at the London Palladium. “Broadway. It's the most overwhelming, mind-blowing concept to even consider.”
They’ve certainly done more than just consider it. A child star turned adult phenomenon, Madge is bringing their celebrated solo show, My Son's A Queer (But What Can You Do?), to Broadway for a 16-week run beginning February 27. This will be their Broadway debut. Playing at the Lyceum Theatre, the autobiographical solo show centers on Madge at age 12 as they attempt to create a full-scale Disney parade in their house for their grandmother. Along the way, Madge recounts their experience as a West End child actor (they made their debut at the age of 9), their blossoming non-binary identity, and how their family fostered their joyously queer upbringing in a culture that regularly punishes children for existing outside of the gender binary.
“When I wrote My Son’s A Queer, I was writing it for a pastime. It was a hobby, it was a way to keep me busy in lockdown. I didn't think anybody would see it, let alone move it to the heart of theatre!” Madge laughs. “Never in a million years would I have imagined that that would be my first time on Broadway. It's ridiculous. But I am so unbelievably thrilled.” Madge's credits since playing Michael Banks in Mary Poppins at the age of 9 includes Oliver! on the West End and the U.K. tour of Les Misérables.
Beginning with a selection of home video snippets shared online to an immediately rapt audience, My Son’s A Queer developed organically, taking shape as Madge parsed through their memories and mementos. A 2021 Off-West End production premiere soon snowballed into a sell-out smash engagement at the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. West End bows followed in 2022 and 2023, earning Madge a 2023 Olivier nomination. The experience has been remarkable for Madge.
“It's almost like watching your baby grow up,” Madge explains, referring to the show's meteoric rise. “When you first introduce it to people, you're very protective over it. And it's a very personal experience writing about my family and my childhood…But then I had to show somebody, and then be open to collaboration.”
While the show is very much grounded in Madge’s original vision and intention, & Juliet impresario Luke Sheppard came on as the director for the full theatrical experience, alongside composer Pippa Cleary and a full team of designers.
“Each individual has taken in all of the ridiculousness in my brain, and they've made it all make sense, and look beautiful,” Madge enthuses. “And they've enlightened me in many ways, and I've learned more about myself and my story from hearing their stories. The show is how we blend together. It may just be me up there, but it is our show now. I've watched it grow since 2020, and I'm very proud to say it's a fully-fledged adult now, with lots of friends.”
Despite the collaborative nature of the piece, it is Madge’s childhood that is on display for the world to see. While Madge discusses several painful memories within the show, ranging from the typical child actor growing pains to the more pointed difficulties Madge faced as a non-binary person, the piece has thankfully been mostly cathartic.
“I think it's really healing for me now,” Madge states, referring to the multi-year development from intimate reflection to public presentation. “It reminds me of my love for theatre, but most importantly, my love for my family.” Madge has started using their familial foundation to encourage a stronger bond between queer individuals and their support systems.
“We don't give support systems enough credit," says Madge. "They don't have to be your immediate family, they can be your friends or your colleagues. But we need our allies. There's so much bigotry and hatred and inflammatory language and fake news around the LGBTQ+ community. People have very strong opinions about us that aren't factual. And when you get engrossed in that hate, you can forget to say thank you to the people that stand with you. Being able to connect with people on that level, through this show, has really healed any kind of identity crisis that I might have had over the years. It's made me really content with myself. And it's made me deeply proud to have come from who I come from.”
As Madge looks forward, a sense of calm focus and ease permeates. “I'm ready. I'm invigorated. And I'm looking forward to introducing this show to a whole new audience.”