This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour saw TONY! at the invite of Birmingham Rep.
By Dave Massey with Becky Kroon twitter.com/BrumHour
This production contains; very strong language, references to child abuse, dry humping, oh and audience participation!
Review: TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] at Birmingham Rep
A cheeky political musical love letter.
Directed by Peter Rowe written by Harry Hill with music and lyrics by Steve Brown
The life and times of Tony Blair (Jack Whittle) get the “rock opera” treatment covering moments in his life. We skim through his youth, run past his Oxbridge education and get straight up to the moments that hopefully we know him for, being the public relations friendly Britpop Prime Minister in the late 90s and into the 00s. There’s onstage frottage as he becomes involved with Cheri Booth (Tori Burgess).
He’s got regular concerns; Does the public love him? And when can he meet Mick Jagger?
This political satire-based musical calling itself Rock Opera has the misfortune of following Spitting Image Saves The World onto the Birmingham Rep stage and compared to the unfiltered romp of that production it all looks a bit tame.
Is Tony Blair interesting enough? Maybe. Is he controversial enough? Yes! But there’s certainly plenty of padding to flesh the story out to two hours including interval. Maybe it would have been stronger as an 80-minute show with no break. Certainly, we crash into the interval with a voice-over from Peter Dickson off of X Factor voiceover fame.
The set is simple enough, large doors at the side, doorways adjacent to them, and an onstage band at the rear. The music itself is fun with some memorable choruses and well performed. I really enjoyed the vocals as well as the performances from the actors some of whom are covering quite a few characters. Howard Samuels is a total scene stealer every second he appears on stage acting as our narrator and embodying people such as Peter Mandelson and Dick Cheney. Jack Whittle delivers quite a clean cut bumbling Tony Blair who life just happens to.
It was an entertaining love letter to our commercial musicals, from Blair’s camp Labrador caricature mirroring Elder Price in the Book of Mormon, to the flag-waving chorus numbers with a similar camaraderie to that of Les Miserables.
A raucous display of on-the-nose political jokes, namely the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with the running joke of Blair giving up his luxuries to give to Brown once he’s finished with them.
This is a fun way to spend two hours but it does touch on some pretty serious subjects including deaths of civilians, the death of Princess Diana and how the “special relationship” may be manipulated between the USA and the UK.
A cheeky political musical love letter, TONY! is at Birmingham Rep until 10th June 2023. Book tickets here: birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/tony-the-tony-blair-the-rock-opera.