Tony! - The Tony Blair Rock Opera

Tony! - The Tony Blair Rock Opera

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Posted 2023-06-03 by dpmfollow

Wed 07 Jun 2023 - Sat 10 Jun 2023

The story of Britain’s pop prime minister Tony Blair’s rise to fame and fall from grace will be told in a rock opera coming to Birmingham Rep next month. And its creators, comedian Harry Hill and writer and composer Steve Brown, are promising Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) will be a laugh-out-loud show.

The production tells how Tony, a would-be rock guitarist and Ugly Rumours frontman, became prime minister after a landslide victory before leading the country into a hugely unpopular war. And it features a host of other famous and infamous characters including Princess Diana, Cherie Blair, David Blunkett, Peter Mandelson, Osama bin Laden, George W Bush, Saddam Hussein and Gordon Brown.



For Harry, whose successful television shows have included Harry Hill’s TV Burp, Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule and Harry Hill’s World of TV, Tony’s saga is an irresistible tale of hubris played out in the full view of the public. “It is a really good story because it has a dramatic arc in that it’s true that Tony Blair starts off in a rock band,” Harry explains. “He’s young and he’s got long hair and he’s an idealist and he wants a new dawn and then in the elections he’s the most popular Labour prime minister of all time - and then the whole thing falls apart and he becomes vilified.”

And he adds: “The other thing to say about it is that although it’s about Tony Blair, in a way it could be anyone in a sense as it’s actually about the dangers of believing your own publicity and power, and also the question about whether we ever get the leaders we deserve. The reason that a lot of people are so angry with Tony Blair is because we had so much hope in him, so we felt really badly let down by him.”

The idea for the show had been brewing for a few years and Harry, who fronted television’s You’ve Been Framed! for nearly 20 years, said the time felt right for perspective on the Tony Blair era. “What distance does give you is a slightly more balanced view. There’s a moment at the end where Tony suggests that maybe if he said sorry we might have him back and actually, even though you’ve witnessed everything that has gone beforehand, there is a little bit of you which thinks ‘how bad can it be?’ And that’s a really interesting idea.”

Featuring real people in a show is always a risk and not least when it’s poking fun at them but Harry says they’ve managed to avoid any libel suits so far. “The legal report is longer than the script! But it was also a bit of a wing and a prayer. We put our heads above the parapet with a little run-through we did at Finsbury Park and we waited to hear - and no-one came after us!”

And he adds that they have also ensured the show is cheeky but not too cheeky! “On the matter of taste, we are not out to offend anyone,” Harry says. “But there is a thrill that you feel that you’re getting away with it. You feel ‘I should be offended by that but actually it’s just really funny’. It has taken us a while to tread that line but I think there is something thrilling in that, particularly in these times when it’s easier just to duck it.”

A composer, lyricist and arranger who has also written for countless shows including Spitting Image, Lenny Henry, Steve Coogan, and Ant and Dec, Steve says the rock opera is the perfect vehicle for Tony’s story. “Once we said ‘let’s call it a rock opera’ that gave us the chance to include lots of operatic and choral heft. And because Tony was a rock ‘n’ roll prime minister with a guitar and was keen on having these rock stars coming round for Champers at Number 10 we could go that way musically as well. It’s a real mixture of style, I’m able to fly around musically to whatever feels appropriate to the subject matter. So the new Labour anthem is a very Britpop construction and then it is immediately reprised by Liam Gallagher turning up at Number 10 and when Tony is born it’s a kind of Handel’s Messiah moment.”



The songs help carry the story along, Steve explains. “We’re looking for songs to be landing jokes and being an enjoyable number but also cutting through an awful lot of time and process. We have Tony meet Cherie Booth as was, they get married and he stands to be MP for Sedgefield and she’s pregnant - and that happens in about five minutes. The song is a lovely ability to employ shorthand and also there’s a lovely dance routine, a duet between the two of them, and it sets up her character and the dynamic between them.”

And the show is about personality more than politics. “If there’s a political point in there it’s a broader one, it’s not party political,” Steve says. “It’s a much wider, a global view. If you think about the Marx Brothers’ movie Duck Soup, it’s about the absurdity of war but it’s not an anti-war film and I think we’re doing something similar. This show isn’t for Tony Blair fans, it isn’t for Tony Blair haters - you can be either side of that politically and be in between. Your political persuasion is not going to be a block to enjoying it, it’s for everyone. There are some fantastic set pieces, there’s slapstick, wordplay, it kind of has the strength of a review but it tells a story - the path to success and then back down to earth again.”

Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) plays Birmingham Rep on June 7-10, see [LINK https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/] for more information and tickets.

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!date 7/6/2023 -- 10/6/2023
78992 - 2023-06-02 17:45:23

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