Review Round Up: Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera), Park Theatre

Discover what critics have had to say about Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s new musical, which continues to play at the Park Theatre until the 9th July.  

(c)Mark Douet

WhatsOnStage: ** “Director Peter Rowe keeps the whole thing moving fast enough for us not to notice too much, and his cast (all dressed in New Labour suits and red ties and with deliberately terrible wigs) work hard. Charlie Baker doesn’t look anything like Blair, but he catches his swagger and swift smile; Gary Trainor uses Brown’s slow intake of breath as a punctuation when he sings. As Cherie, Holly Sumpton is never allowed to escape the clichés of a Lady Macbeth-like manipulator, but her timing is assured. Howard Samuels enjoys himself as Peter Mandelson, drawing the audience into his dastardly plans.”

The Guardian: *** “The second act brings a double-whammy of numbers aiming for the bad-taste highs of The Producers or The Book of Mormon. Kill the Infidels, sung by Osama bin Laden and his Real Housewives spouses, is followed by a Groucho Marx-style Saddam Hussein crooning I Never Done Anything Wrong. Too often, though, the delivery props up lyrics that lack a certain comic gleam and precision.”

iNews: * “Tony!, directed by Peter Rowe, is a much more shoestring affair – a parade of bad jokes, bad impersonations and worse wigs. Its cut-price flimsiness is knowingly tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t make it either funny or clever: it’s essentially an outdated skit that is tediously over-extended, about as entertaining as being repeatedly poked in the ribs by a sniggering pub bore.”

Evening Standard: ** “Harry Hill’s musical spoof about Britain’s most successful – and most reviled – Labour PM is packed with witty lyrics. It features one absolute belter of a song, and a ton of bad-taste gags about Princess Diana’s death, 9/11 and the Iraq War. All stuff I would usually love.”

Everything Theatre: *** 1/2 “Despite the premise of this musical, it manages to avoid drawing many politically charged conclusions, and is able to appeal to both ardent supporters and opponents of New Labour alike. Theatregoers who relish this kind of juvenile performance will appreciate the gag-filled show that is sure to be a hit with ’90s nostalgics.”

Ham ***** “Under Peter Rowe’s inspired direction, this could make a transfer up west but don’t miss its run in Finsbury Park.”

Time Out: ** “Hill and his writing partner Steve Brown have written a show about an incredibly popular politician who shredded his reputation for the sake of an unpopular foreign war. Fair enough. But in portraying Blair as a wide-eyed, apolitical dunce who drifts into politics and similarly drifts into the Iraq War, it ultimately trivialises every point it tries to make. Yes, of course, it’s a silly show. But satire is meant to have a cutting edge. You sense Hill and Brown are not exactly fans of Blair, but he’s so dim here that ‘Tony!’ virtually exonerates him on grounds of diminished responsibility. It’s also episodic and rambling, with tangential numbers from Diana, Bin Laden and Saddam exacerbating its meandering, indulgent feel.”

Broadway World: “It’s all great fun, especially if you were around to see Clare Short not resigning, Neil Kinnock not winning and the man himself not losing. The first half is much the stronger, tracking the man’s always somewhat bemused progress from public schoolboy to wannabe Mick Jagger at Oxford to the bolstering of his leftish credentials by Cherie to the Granita deal to divvy out power with the technocratic son of the manse, Gordon Brown.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Director Peter Rowe keeps things pacy and ensures that the wild weirdness of Hill’s imagination is kept in check. As a whole Tony! brings together elements of pantomime, slapstick, comedy, visual gags, musicals and more but it is Harry Hill’s madcap creativity and Steve Brown’s tremendous songs with a commendably worthy cast that make this so solidly enjoyable, even if it doesn’t quite explore issues in as much depth as it could and should.”

The Understudy: ** “A cast of ten do their best to energetically breathe life into the material, but the songs simply aren’t good enough to justify the existence of this surreal musical, which strives to be satirical but achieves only cringe. Despite the title of the play – which is reinforced through giant letters above the stage spelling out ‘TONY!’ – Tony Blair himself (played by a Mike Myers-esque Charlie Baker) is actually the least interesting character in the show. Indeed, it is telling that the only good song is performed by Martin Johnston, who plays (among several other roles) Neil Kinnock.”

Musical Theatre Review: **** “I might not have gone to this show based purely on the title, but I left very glad I gave it a chance. If any part of you enjoys musical theatre and comedy, there is a feast to be enjoyed here. With plenty more pressing potential targets of satire extant in 2022, Hill and Brown’s decision to tackle Tony Blair instead makes one thing very clear: the goal of this show is pure entertainment.”

London Theatre1:*** “Blair – or, rather, this version of Blair – has to remind miscellaneous other characters at one point that it is meant to be a show about him. The production can show insight when it wants to, and there’s something to be said about the near-constant jostling for power, as well as the many people it takes to deliver a manifesto. Or, indeed, not deliver it. The style of humour is far from everyone’s cup of tea – some in the press night audience chortled almost incessantly, whilst others remained stony-faced. Your reviewer was somewhere in the middle: there were elements of hilarity, but I was otherwise unamused.”

The Telegraph: *** “Harry Hill and composer Steve Brown’s musical is intermittently inspired but winds up echoing the failings of TB’s divisive premiership.”

The Times: **** “Hill, who wrote the book, has never been to everyone’s taste — the little boy inside him is always desperate to make burping noises — but if you’re a fan of his brand of comedy you’ll warm to this venture.”

West End Best Friend: *** “There is certainly room in musical theatre for a show like Tony! and with a few changes, a future production could see a landslide victory.”

The Stage: ** “Harry Hill’s musical about the former prime minister is overlong and obvious.”

Daily Mail: **** “Blair probably won’t turn up. He apparently doesn’t find himself funny. But we do, in this cheap and cheerful alternative to the farce currently running in Westminster.”

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