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BWW Album Review: With SONGS FROM INSIDE MY LOCKER Robbie Rozelle Graduates With Honors

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BWW Album Review: With SONGS FROM INSIDE MY LOCKER Robbie Rozelle Graduates With Honors

In his one-man show SONGS FROM INSIDE MY LOCKER Robbie Rozelle informs his audience that he is "an accidental performer." It's understandable why he would say that. After all, he makes his living as an art director and graphic designer for Broadway Records, and when not engaged there his form of artistic expression is directing cabaret performers to their dream performance; so it is natural that Mr. Rozelle would call himself an accidental performer. It just isn't accurate.

Whether Robbie Rozelle had played roles on stage in plays like The Wizard of Oz and Annie or not, he would still be a performer. If Mr. Rozelle did not have experience as a host and emcee, he would still be a performer. If the only thing that Robbie Rozelle did was throw parties for his friends, he would still be a performer. It is not possible to contain the personality, the passion, the performance that issues forth when Robbie Rozelle is in the room; it is possible to capture it, but not contain it.

Capture it, they have; and it is all on the CD Songs From Inside My Locker.

Easily one of the most entertaining live recordings to come out in recent memory, the disc captures, to perfection, the experience of seeing Rozelle in action. Present are the vivacious personality, the manic antics, the bi-polar self-deprecating confidence, and every ounce of humor that can be found when Robbie Rozelle is on a stage. All of his energy and talent come across through the speakers of whatever device is being used to listen; this is an absolutely meticulous representation of a seamlessly constructed cabaret show.

Cabaret shows come in many different forms, the concert, the recital, the tribute show, the musical comedy act... and they are all welcome. Songs From Inside My Locker is a memory piece in which Mr. Rozelle looks back at those oh-so-formative and always present years of High School and College. No matter how much we try to escape them, those years are always a part of us and, Robbie, who announces during the show that he is now in his forties, has a way of looking back to which everyone in the audience can relate, no matter how painful or embarrassing the memory may be, using honesty and humor to draw in his audience and to share his truth. So. Much. Humor. One of the most naturally funny people in the business, Robbie Rozelle has no fear when it comes to telling his truth - he's always willing to go there, so he goes there. And the audience goes with him as he discusses topics so long gone, so personal, so juvenile, so banal that people should not be interested to listen, but because Rozelle is so interesting these tales from his youth become like an episode of Celebrity Autobiography! This is like when your community theater production of CHICAGO wants to watch the show video at the closing night cast party... except it's GOOD! Equipped with his surprisingly sweet singing voice, his inimitable storytelling style, his unique sense of humor, and Josh D. Smith's musical direction and arrangements, Robbie Rozelle puts on an act that is tantamount to a master class on how to do it, and how to do it in a way that is authentic to you.

Most of the Songs From Inside My Locker are show tunes from musicals like Peter Pan, The Kid, Annie, and The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public (color me so impressed) and there isn't one single wrong move, musically. In his liner notes Rozelle says the experience made him a "slightly better singer." He's a perfectly lovely singer with a fine, clear, robust belt and an incredible vulnerability on the quieter, more introspective notes that can best be described as Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River. If Robbie thinks there are limitations to his vocal ability, he can always take lessons, so long as those lessons don't strip him of the humanity that glows forth during sentimental moments in song. As if to make sure that his audience didn't feel cheated for coming to see a "non-singer" Rozelle made the savvy choice of inviting Bonnie Milligan and Maya Days to join him in a number from AIDA (the conceit that brings them to the stage is an amusing nod to emotional support animals) and then he pays them the respect of putting their photo inside the CD booklet; indeed, Rozelle tributes all of his musicians by seeing to it their photos and names appear prominently in the packaging, which is gorgeous thanks to his own design and Curtis Brown's photography. As lovely as Milligan and Days are to hear, as welcome as they are to the proceedings, it should be noted that Robbie Rozelle doesn't need guest artists: in spite of his possible concern over his vocal abilities, Robbie on the stage by himself is enough.

A very funny fellow, Rozelle makes sure that comedy abounds, with "The Aged Out Medley" and "First Penis Song" but especially with his tribute medley to Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly, the men who played the roles he would have played, had he been born in a bygone era. He's right, too, he would have been exactly this type of character actor in those days, but show business folklore tells that both legends were unhappy men, maybe because of public opinions on homosexuality in their day. Rozelle is much better suited to being who he is as a gay man living his truth in 2020 and performing that truth to obviously adoring audiences. Nevertheless, the tribute to his "two dads" is a good piece of theater, and an honorable one because Nelson Reilly and Lynde need never become a memory and Rozelle is helping to keep them alive.

In every show and on every CD there are standout moments and those featured on Songs From Inside My Locker are very special ones for Robbie and for the audience. When he says he lives in the wisdom of William Finn, he isn't kidding, as is evidenced by his performance of "I Have Found," and in his presentation of a little ditty titled "Hell's Kitchen," Robbie Rozelle speaks for legions of gay men who will nod enthusiastically, probably tearing up from either pain, hilarity, or a combination of both. The real reason to buy this CD is a perfect moment that team Rozelle creates by mashing up three famous, hopeful, touching songs by Judy Garland, Andrea McArdle and The Beatles, throwing in a Robbie Rozelle story that made this writer cry, and allowing the natural chemistry of the combination to set the stage on fire. Buy the CD, listen to the whole album, and live in this number.

Then, just to make sure the disc is a true embarrassment of riches, Robbie Rozelle brings on an encore that will have many, many people crying out, "YES!"

And they will be right to do so, whether it's tomorrow, yesterday or today.

Robbie Rozelle Songs From My Locker is a 2020 release on the Broadway Records label and will be available on all streaming platforms beginning on June 26th and at the Broadway Records website HERE

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