Tony ! The Tony Blair Rock Opera
Possibly the most brilliant, barmy & bonkers show I’ve seen since…. Blair was Prime Minister.
Melding the madness of Harry Hill (Book) and the brilliance of Steve Brown (Music & Lyrics) Tony! Is the story of Anthony Charles Lynton (yes Lynton) Blair as he begins his stardom in a college rock group, progresses through the ranks of lowly Labour Party member to party leader and then on to the self-appointed saviour of the free world. Along the way we are treated to insights into how he & Gordon Brown 1st made a pack of “Tony first, Gordon after”, how Neil Kinnock picked him out above a raft of other ‘perfect’ candidates to be party leader and how, as ever present as Jiminy Cricket was to Pinocchio, Peter ‘Mandy’ Mandelson guided him through the political minefield and into the driving seat for New Labour.
The cast are fabulous, with all but Jack Whittle (Tony Blair) taking on many roles, each as hilariously over the top as the next. Whittle perfects Blair’s evolution from fresh faced wannabee to cynically crafted smiling assassin; tiny little changes are spot lit, suddenly making the audience gasp in realisation – the half turned pose, the thumbs forward, hands closed way of accentuating a point without being overly aggressive and of course the fixed grin.
Howard Samuels plays the afore mention ‘Mandy’ to perfection – like a cross between Yes Prime Minister’s ‘Humphrey’ and The Producers ‘Rodger De Bris’, he is clever, conniving and totally hedonistic. Toru Burgess returns Cherie Blair back to her Liverpudlian roots, an accent Ms Booth very rarely let slip once Tony was in No. 10 but which makes it even more hilarious. The larger than life Phil Sealey as Gordon Brown, ever waiting in the wings for ‘his turn’ is the perfect foil the Blair’s seemingly faultless progression to the top while Rosie Strobel as John ‘2 Jags’ Prescott pulls no punches in reminding us that the labour party ‘used’ to stand for the common folk.
Possibly one of the best continuing cameos throughout is Sally Cheng as Leader of the House Robin Cook – constantly amazed that someone who looks like he does AND is ginger can keep getting women to sleep with him. And then, just when you think the surrealism cannot be topped, along comes Emma Jay Thomas as Princess Diana in a song & dance number which suggests more than a frisson of attraction between the Pop Prime Minister and the People’s Princess.
The cast take on so many more roles, as well as playing the ensemble choir, that it is nigh on impossible follow them all; Saddam Hussain becomes an overtly Jewish Groucho Marx, Dick Chaney an Andy Warhol wannabee, David Blunkett a danger to the 1st few rows of the stalls and Osama Bin Laden is the poster boy for Afghani Air BnB.
Make no bones about it, the show is very much rooted in the truth of Blair’s politics; his drive for success and his willingness to do ‘whatever’ it took to get his desired end result still sits raw with many people so whilst this is a hilarious romp its cleverness of comedy is matched by its unequivocal focus on all that is wrong in today’s politics – the finale “The Whole Wide World” should be played at every festival, every gathering, every rally to remind us all that it is the very few at the top who control the world’s agenda and, as so brilliantly remembered and listed for us by Jack Whittle, they are all A*holes.
If you’ve ever had at least a passing interest in New Labour, Blairism and how the US/UK relationship became so much master & slave then this is the prefect show for you. Likewise, if you love our ability to poke fun and ridicule those in power, take solace from knowing it wasn’t just us that were dumped on from above and aren’t adverse to a bit of near the knuckle satire then sit back, strap in (or on) and enjoy the ride.