‘Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera’ has timed its run at The Lowry almost poetically, with the Conservative party conference happening in Manchester the very same week. Following the life and times of one of the UK’s most controversial Prime Ministers, it does so through a satirical lens.
Before even seeing his name credited, it is clear that the book has been written by comedy favourite Harry Hill. It is pure parody, and is chaotically fun throughout. ‘Tony’ is by no means a history lesson, with much of the humour is directed specifically to those with more vivid memories of the Blair years.
Simple staging works well, with giant light-up letters spelling out ‘TONY!’ sitting above the stage, behind the band. It would have been nice to have a larger band to enjoy a fuller rock sound. Steve Brown’s songs are enjoyable with the closing song ‘The Whole Wide World’ in particular having the audience in stitches. Whether intentional or not, the multiple reprises of ‘Tony’ held strong remanence to ‘The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’, the intertextuality of this only added to my enjoyment of this wacky show.
Jack Whittle steals the show as Blair, giving goofy optimism and glee from beginning to end. Meanwhile Howard Samuels (as Peter Mandleson) and Sally Cheng (as Robin Cook) camp it up with their wonderfully outrageous depictions of the famous political figures. Some of the biggest laughs of the night come from the more unexpected parody cameos including Liam Gallagher and a very bushy eyed Sadam Hussein! It never intends to offend, with the bleakness of the wars carefully and sensitively juxtaposed against comedy towards the end of the show. The show feels a little longer than it perhaps needs to be, but the talented cast make sure that the audience are thoroughly entertained throughout the two-hour performance.
It is when it fully leans into the more shocking satire that ‘Tony’ truly excels. It does exactly what it says on the tin and is an utterly bonkers night out!
'TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera' is on at The Lowry until Saturday 7 October 2023. See below for booking information
Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.