Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera Review | The Lowry | Manchester
Drawing inspiration from the UK’s longest-serving Labour politician’s real-life band, TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera looks at Blair’s youthful experience as the frontman of Ugly Rumours and reframes his tenure as Prime Minister through the surreal Harry Hill lens.
The show's relentless pace touches on Blair's hippier side, his turbulent 10 years in office and his team-up with Bush on the War on Terror, as well as his successor and his marriage. Only neglecting to ruminate on the most depressing facts around Blair’s most troublesome moments in office, the production's surprisingly informative musical is a piece of pure chaotic joy that glitters over realism.
Longtime collaborators Hill and composer/lyricist Steve Brown share how Blair made the move from the defunct bandleader to the Houses of Parliament in a hilarious styling of sketch comedy, stand up and singsong. The quick-moving production spews jokes in the same hybrid mash-up as Harry Hill’s TV Burp, with an experimental blend of comedy tinged with truths, but more focused on the spectacle of the events.
The show's lively pace races by due to its high-spirited cast of political characters led by the fantastic Jack Whittle as Blair. Whittle’s physical comedy is surprisingly heavy for a prime minister, answering the phone with a Tyra Banks smize and dancing with everyone within his vicinity. The talented ensemble merge into multiple characters, even when only playing one person on stage, Saddam Hussein (Phil Sealey) does a terrific Groucho Marx and the multiverse approach to the show’s timeline ensures that your memory of the events shown will not align with Hill and Brown’s. With Princess Diana (Emma Jay Thomas), Osama bin Laden (Rosie Strobel) and George W. Bush (Martin Johnston) all making an appearance to entertain the Lowry audience through song, Tony! is a satire that everyone can get behind.
Few props are required as the caricature-led show and the eccentric cast offer enough of a sensory overload to push this story forward. Director Peter Rowe places Tony! in the Lowry’s Quay’s theatre, with a more intimate and minimalist set lit up by the star's name above the stage. The set places a live backing band throughout the performance and its cast of multitalented singers are able to dance through life.
With such a playful dissection of moments many would rather forget, Hill and Brown’s revisionist take on history doesn’t let the truth get in the way of this absurdly funny musical. TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera puts spin doctors to shame, creating a thoroughly entertaining night out reminiscing over Blair’s time in office and offering an inspirational and hilarious production.
Tickets are available via the Lowry link