With COVID-19 preventing many theatres from reopening, performing artists across the globe have searched for something to satisfy their theatrical hunger. Taking time for self-development in an isolated world, one of our Aussie-expats is doing just that, by starting important conversations and adapting to a new style of entertainment.
Having lived in Brisbane, Queensland, since he was 8-years-old and now residing in London, United Kingdom, Thomas Armstrong-Robley is fastly becoming a household name as he collaborates with other artists also affected by the pandemic. The professional singer and entertainer, who recently toured the Mediterranean on major cruise lines with his own cabaret show, has thought outside the box and branched into a new artform, thus successfully launching his new podcast ‘Midnight Rodeo’ with aONE Media Group.
Described as “a unique, action-packed show perfect for anyone who loves Show Business or the Arts”, the new show aims to give more to its listeners and the performing arts industry. “It’s arts-focused and the mission is two-fold – inspire artists and shine a spotlight on the importance of our industry,” says Armstrong-Robley. The podcast aims to do that “through interesting stories, innovative people and inspirational messages.” In addition to interviews, ‘Midnight Rodeo’ also highlights music, “chats real-world issues and tells plenty of funny anecdotes along the way.”
Finding his new groove in the podcast domain and as the show’s host, Armstrong-Robley has already interviewed a number of star-studded guests, including Emmy nominated cinematographer Pieter De Vries, comedian and author Scott Williams, and Broadway actor and author, James Barbour. The calibre of talent drives important chats about the industry and provides much-needed advice to other artists around the world. A natural conversation starter easily stems from the effects and events of the pandemic crisis.
“Ups and downs are part of life. [The pandemic] is currently a massive down but as many of my guests would say, we have a golden opportunity here,” says Armstrong-Robley.
“Hayden Tee (‘Les Miserables’, ‘Matilda’) said to me ‘what if we can create a new normal here, a better normal’… The last thing we want to do is sugarcoat or trivialise the gravity of this situation. Our show is certainly leaving listeners with a new perspective, something more positive.”
For Armstrong-Robley, this outlook has provided much personal growth after a very tumultuous year. Knowing too well the extremes of the coronavirus, Armstrong-Robley was one of the many performers who found themselves stranded at sea when his cruise line tour was cancelled mid-sail.
“I actually ended up stuck at sea when COVID-19 struck. I was working with Norwegian Cruise Line and ended up at sea (without touching land) for almost 50 days,” says Armstrong-Robley.
“I consider myself incredibly lucky as I was still able to perform in late March as many artists were left wondering what to do. I made some incredible friends, drank a lot of Starbucks and tried to figure out what comes next. That month and a half at sea was invaluable thinking time, reflection time we seldom take.”
This self-reflection afforded Armstrong-Robley valuable time and resources, after travelling non-stop for the past 4-years. Having built an illustrious career as a theatre-maker, performer, actor and cabaret artist, with leading roles in ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Grease’ and ‘Pirates of Penzance’, Armstrong-Robley trained locally at Queensland’s Conservatorium of Music. In 2019, he returned to Australia for a limited number of concerts, before teaming up with Blackburn International Agency and performing for companies including Princess, Viking, Fred Olsen and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
“I have had what many would consider a dream run over the past few years, as I’ve travelled to over 35 countries for my work and performed for many amazing companies,” says Armstrong-Robley.
“For many years, there was a stigma around cruise entertainment, but times have changed and I truly believe some of the best entertainers and musicians in the world are now working at sea. I feel grateful to work in these beautiful theatres, a lot of which are more state of the art and far more advanced than many you’ll find on Broadway or in the West End.”
Landing back in London in April 2020, Armstrong-Robley was approached by Australian Media Group to host ‘Midnight Rodeo’, and create a show perfect for the artists everywhere. In the right place at the right time, the offer was too good to refuse, and Armstrong-Robley created the podcast to be relatable for his fellow performers.“[‘Midnight Rodeo’] has really found meaning as we’ve developed the concept. Artists go through these struggles and take a really bumpy road, which could be comparable to riding a bull.”
Skipping to the future, while Armstrong-Robley can’t wait to perform for audiences again, nowadays you can find him thinking less about dream roles and more about building his own brand; expanding it in every direction. “Books, educational programmes, the continuation of the podcast, a return to live shows, to travel and more,” says Armstrong-Robley. “It’s also about seemingly mundane things like buying property. For someone that was broke a handful of years ago, that’s a massive goal.”
As part of these ambitions, Armstrong-Robley is also inspired to assist artists on their road to success. While ‘Midnight Rodeo’ helps facilitate that goal, he’s eager to share his own valuable life-lessons that artists may find insightful.
“The greatest lesson I ever learnt was this: there is no one better at being Thomas Armstrong-Robley than me. Realising your journey is your own and removing the comparison was incredibly liberating,” he muses.
“There are so many simple non-skill based shortcuts I want to share with young creatives. The working title of the course and a big question right up front is this, ‘What makes you so special?’
“Answer that and you’re on your way.”
To listen to ‘Midnight Rodeo’, visit Armstrong Robley’s website. Upcoming guests include American actor and original Frankie Valli in ‘Jersey Boys’, John Lloyd Young, American Idol Finalist and Tony Nominee for ‘Rock of Ages’, Constantine Maroulis, and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’s’ very own John Owen Jones.
Stay up to date and follow ‘Midnight Rodeo’ on Facebook.