Social Media

Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera Review

Reviewed by Bethany Hill
Disclaimer: tickets were gifted in return for an honest review


When you think of rock music, what springs to mind? AC/DC? Foreigner? I presume not the phrase ‘Tony Blair’. Yet Harry Hill and Steve Brown present us with just that; a musical satire with a rock-style score unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Photo by Mark Senior

This satirical political musical once played a sold-out run at the Park theatre in London and is now embarking on a UK tour around national theatres. It tells the story of Blair’s rise to the top including the 1997 election and involves some very famous faces including Princess Diana and Gordon Brown. The production is at times risqué and near to the knuckle, tackling important topics like race, gender and class.

The show begins with ‘Prepare’ which introduces Blair from birth and warns us of his ultimate demise. On his ‘deathbed’, he is told to confess his sins and this leads brilliantly into the story of his life from the beginning. We learn about how Tony moved to Oxford university, joined a law firm and then the Labour Party as he rises to the top with a winning smile. The first act explores how he had a marketable face fitting the need for a new labour and also how the party monopolised on the tragic death of Princess Diana. We are introduced to several key figures including Peter Mandelson and, of course, Tony’s wife Cherie. Through this act, stand out songs include ‘The People’s Princess’ and ‘New Labour’.

If Act one shows the rise, then in Act two we definitely see the fall. We learn, perhaps in a rather shocking manner, about Bush’s plans to ‘Bombs Away’, a song that is reprised fabulously later in the second half. Tony’s involvement and choice decision making is explored with comedy but at times very poignant messages.

My absolute favourite song in the show, though, came at the conclusion; ‘The Whole Wide World’ which reminds us all the ‘the whole wide world is run by assholes’ and that in voting for them, who truly is the villain in these tales? What this show does so well all the way through, but this song truly encapsulates, is taking serious subject matter and holding a lens to it in a lighthearted and indeed toe-tapping way.

Photo by Mark Senior

I can honestly say that this show was such a surprise in so many ways. Going in totally blind and with phrases such as ‘rock opera’ causing some confusion, I had no idea what to expect. The show is operatic in the sense that there is high drama throughout and most of the story-telling happens through song, however I would describe the music as more of a hybrid of pop/rock/ classic musical theatre style. In this show Blair may be condemned but the arguably good acts he also gave hand to were also celebrated. This show seems to have no political alignment but instead explores what a farce the political system in our country and indeed around the world may be. We see caricatures of well known historical figures yet at other times are left nodding in agreement at the sorry state of any and every government have encountered previously. This show is throughout its entirety laugh out loud funny and was so well received even by a smaller, mid-week audience; a credit to the talents of the writers, cast and creative team.

Leading the cast is Jack Whittle, who manages to perfectly strike a balance of wonderful comic timing and physical comedy with a top-notch singing voice and brilliantly-executed choreography. He had that Tony Blair smile down to a T but also one of the most powerful moments in the show was seeing that smile slowly fade to the sound of bombs around him. PLUS we even saw his musical prowess with a trumpet solo during one song! Other favourite performances of mine included Howard Samuel’s portrayal of Peter Mandelson (and others) who showed such self- awareness in the tone of the show being portrayed (with brilliant one-liners like ‘it goes on a bit’ even during the first song) and Phil Sealer’s Gordon Brown. However with such a small cast of nine and a band of just three, there really were no weak links and the entire cast worked tirelessly to bring so many characters to life in such a fun way.

The design of the production lent itself perfectly to the mood the show was trying to create. Having ‘TONY!’ up in lights throughout reminded us of the performative nature of politics and the popularity contest that is voting and the House of Commons. The choreography was slick and again comedic but also showcasing the wonderful talent of the cast.

It is fair to say that for many of the jokes to be fully embraced, this production would perhaps market itself best to people who were of voting age during Blair’s rise in the 1990’s and indeed there were references that I did check on during the interval, however even as someone who didn’t have a strong knowledge of the background of all of these details, this was a show that at its heart interrogated politics in such a fun and genuinely hilarious way. At times it was reminiscent of shows like Avenue Q, the Book of Mormon and Spitting Image, but it also evoked memories of songs like ‘Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher’ from Billy Elliot. Whilst it may not be a show for everyone, I had the most fabulous evening at the theatre and encourage you to grab yourself a ticket during the show’s final weeks of this run.

Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera is currently playing at Derby Theatre until Saturday 16th September before touring other venues including The Lowry and The Liverpool Playhouse until 14th October. Tickets are available from

The show has been recommended by the production company for ages 14+ however I would recommend the show for ages 18 and over due to some choice language and complex themes.

Photo by Mark Senior

Post a Comment


Theme by STS