Sunday, 26 August 2007

Commendation in musical awards

Tony Blair - the Musical received a commendation for best book in the MTM:UK Edinburgh Musical Awards - you can read details of the awards on their website, which also has a review of the show.

As the Fringe draws to a close with Tony Blair - the Musical still pulling in sell-out audiences, you can relive the opening of the Fringe with a clip of the cast performing at the Fringe launch party here.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Lo abbiamo incontrato e ci ha spiegato

Tony Blair - the Musical is written about at some length in Italian magazine Panorama; you can read the article online here, though you'll need some Italian vocabulary under your belt to help you through it.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Review in The Stage

The Stage has reviewed Tony Blair - the Musical and correctly identified James Lark as an exciting talent and Nathan Kiley as sleazy:

What a shame that the cast of this wonderfully entertaining and skilfully written musical are having to cram together on a stage the size of a table top at the Gilded Balloon.

The talent of the writing, however, manages to shine through. And what an exciting talent it is. James Lark and Christopher Munday have a real understanding of how to 'do' musical theatre. Their songs are well-constructed and thoughtful parodies of other writers - picked to fit the mood of the moment or the character singing.

Thus the opening song, sung by Britain’s pre-Blair, rag-clad suffering masses has shades of Les Miserable. Oh! What a Lovely War Against Terrorism speaks for itself, and there are shades of Noel Coward and Jonathan Larson to name two others.

Blair - a sleazy performance from Nathan Kiley - and Brown - a great impersonation and surprisingly sensitive performance from writer Lark - are an unrequited couple joined by an ideology. As Blair becomes tainted by power and influenced by others such as Alistair Campbell and George W Bush, so Brown becomes a heartbroken idealist still clinging onto the dreams they once shared together.

Tony Blair - The Musical needs to be seen by someone who can offer advice, guidance and cash in order to develop it into something bigger. The seeds are here for a much bigger production - here is talent to be nurtured.

You can read the review online here.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Lunch with the Hamiltons and celebrity cameos

Nathan Kiley and James Lark were guests in today's Lunch with the Hamiltons, in which they performed "Your politics come straight from the heart" before squeezing onto a sofa with the cast of Tony! the Blair Musical and being quizzed on their Blair knowledge by Neil and Christine Hamilton. (Christine Hamilton: "In which club did Tony Blair announce his intention to resign this year?" James Lark: "Stringfellows?") The show culminated in both Nathan and James being wrapped in toilet roll by members of the audience, almost too much excitement for a lunchtime show.

We continue to shmoose with celebrities this week as the show sees a couple of cameo appearances from Fringe performers taking on the brief but showstopping role of Michael Fish. Thursday's show will feature Australian comedian Andrew McClelland, currently performing in Andrew McClelland's mix tape, and on Friday Bullseye presenter Jim Bowen, currently performing in You Can't Beat a Bit of a Bully, will be taking on the role.

It remains to be seen whether Neil and Christine Hamilton can be persuaded to play themselves in the show's opening number...

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Orch's final performance in Edinburgh

Dear all,

Now you've read all the press coverage, and know that we've been on the sold out board several times (even above Rhona Cameron...), an update from the MD appears to be in order. Although the Daily Mail cites James and Del as the creative forces behind this show, I feel I have contributed a little. Even if that is just that the cast know where to put their final consonants.

At present I am sitting in the performers' bar at the Pleasance Dome, with others having gone to take part in a discussion/debate about musical theatre. Our show is being discussed, so I'm told, so we'll see what comes of that. Rather than go and be pseudo-intellectual, I have opted to drink, smoke and blog.

My last performance in Edinburgh is tomorrow (15th), after which I hope to hear Delyth's brilliant notes session. I'll be disappointed if there isn't one. I gave my "perfunctory" notes in the Gilded Balloon Library Bar this afternoon and felt like I'd destroyed everyone in spirit...
So, for tomorrow's performance, Nick is taking over from me, playing and conducting, as well as cue-ing all of the click tracks. He's a marvel. I'm going to be like Boffin in the Ball. I've tried to think of ways to explain that allusion, but I can't. Boffin is a hamster, and rolls around the kitchen in a ball. Figure it out for yourselves.

So, after this, the real world beckons. The real world of temping and earning money. And trying not to spend money. I'm almost missing my finance work...Almost.


Five star review and sell-out show

Tony Blair - the Musical is now officially a 2007 Fringe sell-out show, having been completely sold out for the last four performances - if you're hoping to come along you are advised to book early!

Please note again that if tickets are unavailable through the Fringe office then you may still be able to get them from the Gilded Balloon.

The media coverage continues and there have been many reviews over the last few days, including a four star review from Three Weeks which you can read here.

The show also has a five star review in the forthcoming edition of ScotsGay, reproduced below.

Io Theatre Company
Tony Blair - The Musical
Gilded Balloon *****

I was not sure whether to see this. I detest with every sinew in my body this vacuous war criminal. Was I about to attend a hagiography to the man? I need not have worried.

It is interesting to see what you can get away with about politicians. In 2001 Out of Joint did a show written by Alaistair Beaton called Feelgood which portrayed new Labour as unprincipled megalomaniacs who would stop at nothing to gain power. This year they did King of Hearts where it was perfectly plausible to see the then Prime Minister portrayed as a racist bigot.This follows on from there and was surprisingly popular - the room was just about full. We experience a Peter Snow that was perfect at election time, Tony Blair doing a "Not a day for Soundbites" song featuring soundbite after soundbite. The rhyming of education, education, education with mutual masturbation is one I will remember for a long time. We are lead into early legacies of this government, such as the Millennium Dome. We experience a manic John Prescott and female ministers who are clearly there because of their genitalia not their intellect or ability. Blunkett comes alive in a scene that is very simple, yet utterly ridiculing (I'll say no more). Then comes the war. I was reminded of Oh What a Lovely War with songs such as "We want a War" and "Bomb the Faggots". The Tories don't escape either, however I would criticise the treatment of the Lib Dems, who should either have been totally ignored or treated more seriously.

It ends with the death of Blair which is a combination of Shakespear's Julius Caesar and Hancock's The Bowmans. Writer James Lark and director Delyth Jones have developed a show anyone could be proud of; watch out Max Stafford-Clark and Alaistair Beaton you have competition. Oh I almost forgot, there is a web site that also had tears running down my face if not quite down my trouser leg. It is selling peerages.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Dance montage

Lise Smith, the choreographer for Tony Blair - the Musical, has put together a montage of some of the dance rehearsals for the show, which you can view here.

Musical Director's Notes.

This blog has been requested by James, as he feels that his constant blogging is getting a bit boring. Having read them, I agree and will attempt to rectify the situation.

First, a round up of directorial news:

1) The absence of Delyth Jones has led to near anarchy on stage, with some ad-libs of epic proportions, and the transformation of the final scene into something resembling a roller-disco. I'm looking forward to hearing what could be the longest ever session of director's notes when she returns.

2) In light of the on-stage anarchy, I am starting to fear what people will start doing to the music as soon as I leave. We've already had suggestions of an operatic Robin Cook cadenza, and a Robin Cook descant over the Blair Babes. I hope I can trust James in his preciousness over his music to ensure nothing too bad happens when I leave, but who knows?

3) The direction of the show has been praised as "creative" in the Edinburgh Evening News, although criticised for "relying somewhat too heavily on pre-recorded music". Bit of a slap in the face, as there are two stressed and sweating musicians at the back of the auditorium. Maybe they thought the cast were gesturing to a CD player during their bows.

4) After being told by Ian that "no-one knows who you are, so no-one's going to come and see us because your name is on the flyer", imagine my satisfaction when I received a 'phone call from the Music Manager of the Really Useful Group, saying they'd seen my name on a flyer and were coming to see it. Imagine my greater satisfaction when said Music Manager very much liked the show. Yay!!!

5) One comment received by James said that the "chatter from the musicians at the back" somewhat spoiled the performance. I didn't know that pre-recorded music could chat.

A few stressful moments with the backing tracks aside (such as the performance in which they decided to mute themselves at random intervals), the music is getting tighter and better with each performance. Yesterday was the best show so far (Del, 1, 2 and 3 were fine...), and I'm hoping we can reproduce such form for the next performance in about an hour.

3 performances until I leave...

Friday, 10 August 2007

Tickets still available

We've had some enquiries from people trying to get hold of tickets through the Fringe office and finding the show sold out. Just to reassure you that tickets ARE still available for the show - more have been released for sale through the Fringe office, but if they are sold out then you can still book them through the Gilded Balloon.

Another round up of links for today:

Reuters, News24, Edinburgh Festivals' re-hash of the Scotsman story, and a blogger called Rhod.

And finally... our daily Scandinavian mention, this time from Norway.

Thanks again for Dave Davies' stirling research into our web presence.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Vintage Hari

Tony Blair - the Musical features in today's Indpendent in what can only be described as vintage Johann Hari. "It's a neat conceit, but the news beyond the fringe – of Cameron's plummeting poll numbers, and Brown's bounce – shows the creators are too pessimistic", he writes. "Yet there is real charm here. Sure, the music is too brooding and bleak for such a jaunty idea... But this is a surprisingly intelligent way to process the Blair Years." And since that's about as nice as Hari generally gets about anything, I think we've done rather well there.

But better still, he says of my character: "Brown shambles on to the stage here as a chaotic, hyper-intellectual tramp, locked in a semi-gay sadomasochistic tango with Tony." Excellent stuff, and going straight on my CV.

The complete article is here.

We also have a four star review in today's Edinburgh Evening News, and have cropped up on the blog formerly known as Keep Blair for PM - and perhaps in our own small way we're sort of doing that...

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Guardian article

Both Blair musicals are given a big article in today's Guardian, which you can read here.

You can also read about Nathan Kiley's brief encounter with the other musical's Blair, James Duckworth, in The Scotsman.

Last but not least, another foreign website gives James Lark his best misnomer yet, with him coming out in the translation as "Tony Jeers":

"The newly avgående British premiärministern Tony Blair am becoming huvudperson in an fresh musical. Tony Blair the music ska manifest on Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August , report BBC News. Musical tell utifrån Tony Blairs perspective and contents among other a tune with headings " ah what a promise the war on terrorism ". Self would balance discussions few per that watch all per his eye istället for that only criticises him and say "bang , bang , bang Irakkriget , wicked husband ", says regissören Tony Jeers , as also am acting Tony Blairs successor Gordon Brown in musical. Tony Jeers am meaning that the olds Labourledaren is perfect as substance."

Perfect as substance indeed. The foreign press seem particularly excited by our showstopper "ah what a promise the war on terrorism"...

Monday, 6 August 2007

More media coverage

Tony Blair - the Musical is reviewed in today's Daily Telegraph, alongside Tony! the Blair Musical and Jihad! the Musical, and it describes our show as "the longer and more comprehensive of the two, and the most musically sophisticated of all. It runs the melodic gamut from near-Weillian severity to knowingly schmaltzy balladry, and is packed with rich, tight harmonies." You can read the full review here.

The Independent credits James Lark with the (let's face it rather absurd) inference that he is more capable of setting words than Stephen Sondheim - "Even Sondheim would have struggled with lines such as "tough on crime tough on the causes of
crime" but James Lark's new satire has already earned rave reviews" - see the full article here.

BBC arts correspondent David Sillito mentioned the show prominently on the Radio 4 late news report from the Fringe on 5th August. We are also mentioned on Scott Packs highly popular blog here. And last but not least, we are mentioned on a Swedish website here.

Many thanks to Dave Davies for his constant internet vigilance in telling us about the above, and also for providing the following translation of the Swedish review (which affords James Lark his best misnomer yet):

"Tony Blair the music ska under textförfattaren James Jeers depict occurrences per Blairs egna eye. Multi nuance than pang pang , wars in Iraq , wicked husband " is ambition , says Jeers to BBC. Solid size as " ah! what a promise the war on terrorism " a nod to 60- digits antikrigsmusikal " ah! what a promise the war " am exposing enough that the in first hand tube themselves if stale good satiric. The is none but that husband among autumn Swede musikalutbud of Sound perceive music My fair lady " and The wedding single " ( yes , film am becoming musical ) yearn behind somewhat similar. Solid hardly with Persian in starring. Was making had never wherein equal very rock'n'roll as Tony. Calle and options "? For very barnpjäs. Dataintrånget the folkpartiet grand "? Am matching enough better as konspiratoriskt rättegångsdrama. But why not " Monaco the music ". It has all. A classic dramaturgi : rise , case , revenge and a thrilling cliffhanger 2010. And also understand a grand potential audience as never ridge for that mingle politics and song."

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Nice ring, Tone

One of the joys of working with director Delyth Jones is that she doesn't even try to mince her words when she thinks that you have done something crap. All of the cast (not to mention the musicians) have got used to her giving us notes like "you know that thing you did in that scene? Don't do that" and "yeah, you're loving that bit too much now, I'm taking it away from you".

As the show's writer it is even more clear cut when she thinks something is a bad idea. And of course, throughout the fertile creative ground of the rehearsals I had plenty of inspired new thoughts which were met with a raised eyebrow and a tiny shake of the head which condemned them to a quick, dusty death.

So for the sake of posterity, rather than lose them altogether, I'll take this opportunity to give you some of my greatest ideas that will now never see the light of day thanks to the Delyth Jones filter...

- John Prescott saying "bloody hell, it's hot in here" removing his shirt to reveal a Rab C. Nesbit-style string vest underneath. Paul Sockett, our Prescott, was very happy with this idea, so it clearly fit in with his conception of the character. Just not the director's.

- A more recently rejected idea was to have Michael Fish finish his weather report and then sit in the corner of the stage with his weather map glugging a bottle of wine for the remainder of the scene. Rejected out of hand without so much as an explanation.

- At one point Blair's phone rings with music from Wagner's Ring. My feeling was that Gordon Brown responding with the line "nice ring tone" would be funny on so many levels ("nice Ring tone", "nice ring, Tone") it absolutely had to go in. The director didn't agree.

- The final song, "Party's Over", proved inspiration for many, many good ideas, most of which didn't quite make it into the show. Such as Tony Blair stripping off his suit to reveal a tight pair of leather trousers and "Tony Blair" daubed onto his naked torso in glitter. Or a guitarist dressed as Brian May standing on a model of Buckingham Palace in the background.

Of course, Del leaves Edinburgh in a few days, so it may be that we can sneak these things into the show without her knowing. And who knows what other brainwaves we might have while she's away...

What's in a name? #2

Tony Blair - the Musical has been getting extensive coverage on BBC news; the BBC online article is here, with a link to the television news item.

Both Nathan Kiley (who plays Blair) and James Lark (writer of Tony Blair - the Musical) have been described on different news reports as Chris Bush (writer of the other Blair musical up at the Fringe this year). However, there is no truth in the rumour that they are all in fact the same person.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Our socialist agenda

Our previews were also reviewed by Morning Star, a socialist newspaper. It is a very nice review overall, describing the show as "witty satire set to mostly tuneful songs" ("mostly"??!) and saying that "Nathan Kiley is electrifying as Blair and Rosanne Priest as Jowell and Anton Tweedale as Blunkett and Bush are outstanding performers in a strong cast."

The full review is below, if you're curious to learn more about the show's cleverly hidden and hitherto unnoticed socialist agenda...

Blair the Musical by James Lark

Morning Star, 2 August 2007

It had to come. We've had ten years in Downing Street of Blair the pantomime culminating in Blair the Tragedy. Now it's Blair the musical. James Lark scrunches the Tony era into an hour and a half of zesty, witty satire set to mostly tuneful songs. The tone is set at the start when a huddled mass of depressed Old Labour die-hards suddenly shed their rags and miraculously emerge as besuited New Labour butterflies. Things can only get better and a triumphant Tone doles out red ties to his cronies, sorry cabinet, thereby creating New Labour at a stroke. This style makeover is resisted by Clare Short who is deeply into twee Laura Ashley scarves and (horrors!) socialist principles. I think Tone would like to throttle her with them. The new cabinet enter carrying placards bearing their names, which is just as well, as John Prescott is played by a tall, thin, lanky redhead. At the outset Blair and Brown seem joined at the hip (or any other part of the anatomy you care to imagine) as they waltz around the office like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers cooing to each other "Your policies come straight from the heart". You know this love affair will never last.

However, the best musical number is a 'yee-ha' hoedown- come line-dance in which cowboy George Bush yells "A war's what we need; we'll fuck Iraq like a whore and make her bleed". The funniest performance comes from blind fascist sage David Blunkett. His guide dog is an evil looking glove puppet that is forever on the verge of savaging anyone who disagrees with Dave. A sort of politically correct version of Rod Hull's emu. Come to think of it, so is Dave. Caught between the devil (Blunkett) and the deep blue sea of his own policies Blair has only god to turn to. As the voice of god Alastair Campbell fits the bill and by now Tony is turning into a tragic figure; a Joan of Arc de nos jours. His Heavenly voices mislead him and he perishes as Julius Caesar instead with Gordon as his Brutus. This scene is more a night of the pen-knives due to budget restraints. Tony dead? Never. Like Doctor Who's Time Lord he reincarnates as…Dave Cameron.

Nathan Kiley is electrifying as Blair and Rosanne Priest as Jowell and Anton Tweedale as Blunkett and Bush are outstanding performers in a strong cast.

James Lark has said that Blair's speeches come over as song lyrics so if you are interested in politics why not listen to the CD of the show as well as viewing it?

Michael Stewart

Monday, 30 July 2007

CD now available!

The original cast recording of Tony Blair - the Musical, is now available, beautifully packaged and produced by Friday Audio and featuring not only all 66.6 minutes of music from the show (coincidence...?) but also a booklet containing the whole script.

You can buy it here and you really ought to. Now.

As is traditional for first print runs, there are a few mistakes and omissions on the packaging, so we would take this opportunity to make a Guardian-style apology for the errors. Most glaringly, the cast list is missing Rosanne Priest, who was very much present and vital to the recording - indeed, many listeners have already identified her delivery of the line "does the Prime Minister regret the bad example that his son's set?" as its most thrilling moment.

The packaging also omits to mention that the striking cover images were taken by the very talented Roy Salter, and the beautiful photographs scattered throughout the booklet are by Dave Ayerst Davies, who not only takes great pictures but, in the light of the preview shows, turns out to be impressively adept with a soldering iron as well.

Naturally these mistakes will be corrected as soon as the CD gets a second print run, which means that these copies will be all the more valuable in years to come when Rosanne, Roy, Dave and the musical are all household names. All the more reason to get online and buy it now.

Fridaycities review

The first review of Tony Blair - the Musical is up on the Fridaycities London website; you can read the original review here, and it is reproduced below.

Tony Blair - the Musical - the Review

Fridaycities London, July 30th 2007

Last year James Lark wrote and starred in a musical comedy called The Rise and Fall of Deon Vonniget. It previewed in London, then spent a couple of weeks in Edinburgh, garnering small audiences and moderately enthusiastic, sympathetic reviews. It was a diverting evening’s theatre for sure, but on the whole – featuring as it did a song about cheese and a hopefully deliberately appalling impression of Terry Wogan – it was just a little too silly and slight. It was clear that Lark had talent, but he badly needed the right story through which to channel it.

This year he plumped for a story that had already been written; it just needed some ruthless editing and a damn good sexing up. This Lark provided, courtesy of a decent rash of belly-laughs and some stonking great tunes. The resulting show, Tony Blair – The Musical, is a revelation.

Ostensibly focusing on the relationship between Blair and Gordon Brown, but really using that as an excuse to rehash the highs and lows of the Blair administration, Lark’s musical tribute to the ex-Prime Minister is very funny. Furthermore, thanks to exemplary performances all round, the songs – every now and then – make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. And we’re speaking as people who, on the whole, have little but the most profound disdain for musical theatre. Highlights of the show include a line-dancing George Bush with a filthy mouth, Alistair Campbell as a Wizard of Oz Big Brother hybrid, and a highly plausible take on the conversation after Prescott walloped that guy with the egg. Best of all however, is the portrayal of David Blunkett – crossing him with Bob Carolgees may have been born out of necessity, but it proved an absolute masterstroke.

It’s a shame however that there wasn’t more of Blunkett. It would have been nice to see his fall from grace – the adulterous fall from grace, we mean. But of course fitting ten years into just ninety minutes means that sacrifices have to be made. And on the whole, we think Lark made the right ones.

All of the cast excelled but a special mention must go to Nathan Kiley for his subtle and highly effective turn as Tony.

As you may know, there is another musical about Tony Blair currently warming up for Edinburgh further up the country. This one, entitled Tony! The Blair Musical, we haven’t seen, but if it’s going to give Lark’s Blair a run for its money, it had better be damn good. In the meantime, Lark will carry on fine-tuning his Blair in time for the festival, where we predict it will do very, very well. In fact, if this play isn’t on the West End this time next year, we’ll eat our special theatre hat.

Cast Rivalry

I am beginning to feel overwhelmingly upstaged by my own guide dog. She may need to meet with an 'accident' of some kind and go the way of Lucy (and, to a lesser extent, Suzy) before her.

Ever since she got her high-visibility jacket she's been absolutely unbearable.

Well, you know what Sadie? That jacket makes you look fat and everybody's laughing AT you, not WITH you at all. You're a joke. And where your fur's falling out on your face it makes you look like you've got mange. Skank.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

1, 2 and 3 were fine...

as were 4-19.

A sterling performance this evening, with no musical notes for me to give. At all. Apart from a huge thank you to the cast, and everyone in the band deck. I now have confidence in my musical direction again, and am very confident that we will give the best performances that we can give during the festival.


Blog review

I feel it would be rather immodest for me to blog about how good our first preview was.

So thank goodness somebody else has already done it.

Oh. My. God.

Quite simply, I am on the HUGEST high, following the opening preview night at the Space in London.
I'm trying to maintain some perspective here, and remember that it still wasn't a flawless performance by any means, and also that the previews are just that - previews - intended to iron out any 'wrinkles' before the real run in Edinburgh.
But all that aside, tonight felt fantastic! It all seemed to go so fast, and I loved every minute of it.
One highlight of the evening was the realisation that, as the cast were backstage congratulating ourselves after the show and group-hugging, we finally became aware of the dull background sound that was the audience still applauding several minutes after we'd actually left the stage!
The only option was to take a second bow.
I really hope tonight is a preview of the audience reaction we get in Edinburgh.
You guys were all fabulous!
I will never sleep tonight.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Best director's note...

...I have ever heard, after yesterday's (rather successful) rehearsal:

"Er...Paul, are you doing your own storyline?"

Friday, 27 July 2007

Sunday preview sold out

This Sunday's preview of Tony Blair - the Musical is now sold out. (That's right, Tony Blair - the Musical is now officially a sell-out show and nothing can change that!) There are still tickets available for Saturday but hurry as they are disappearing fast.

Information about booking can be found here.


I was sent on a prop-hunting errand today, so for reasons which will only become apparent if and when you see the show, I found myself in Hamleys looking for seven plastic retractable knives, a bicycle bell and a cowboy hat.

I did the usual slightly furtive hunt around the whole shop (I always worry that people will think "what is that man in his late twenties doing here?) before conceding defeat and asking for help. The first shop assistant I asked wasn't much use, either. "Don't ask me," she said, "I'm in a black T-shirt. The ones in the black T-shirts don't know anything. You need to find someone in a red T-shirt."

So I found myself hunting for somebody in a red T-shirt, which took me some time (I thought about asking for help from one of the many people in black T-shirts across the store, but realised the Catch-22 situation I was in and doggedly continued alone).

By the time I found somebody in a red T-shirt I had also convinced myself that there were going to be no retractable knives. I imagined that they had almost certainly been removed due to knife crime or something, and I was ready for an argument. "But you have plastic swords," I would tell them. "Swords can do a lot more damage than a knife." They would shrug and say that London wasn't so very full of sword crime at the moment. "But you have guns!" I would persist. "Guns are very dangerous! You even have laser guns, which are the most dangerous of all." They would look around for a way to talk to somebody else, but I would press on: "Moreover you're selling Daleks, not only the most evil creation in the universe but a science fiction villain that was clearly modelled from the start on the Nazis! How come you'll sell a child a futuristic proto-fascist with a death ray but not a single plastic knife?"

So I picked the smuggest-looking red T-shirt in the shop and asked him where the retractable knives were, gearing myself up for a fight. To my surprise, he said "third floor", and turned away, his job done.

I returned to the third floor. Surely I had already looked in that bit of the shop?

And then I got there and realised why I hadn't had a look before. The third floor is decorated in pink and labelled "girls". Yet indeed, in amongst the frills and dolls and barbies and cuddly dogs and pushchairs and wendy houses, I discovered the retractable knives I needed.

So that is what young girls are getting up to these days. Whilst the boys play with their wholesome fictional science fiction robots and laser guns, the girls are hiding in alleyways and pretending to stab each other. No wonder the country is such a terrible, mixed-up place.

Mind you, what can you expect from a shop which displays this kind of message to the under-fives:

Thursday, 26 July 2007

1, 2, and 3 will be fine...

This is what I often find myself repeating, mantra-like, after our rehearsal runs. So much so that it has invited the scorn of Delyth, our director: "Isn't it good to have a director who doesn't mince her words?" asks James...

I always intend to say more when I begin this mantra. However, I am mocked. So I don't.

I have no huge worries about things. There are some passages which are more tricky than others to get just right, as there are in any show. This isn't cause for downheartedness - it's where we test ourselves as performers. "It's a challenge, and you wouldn't want it any other way", said James whilst we were on the tube today. I'm agreeing more and more with the sentiment the more I think about it.
Of course, in an ideal world, we wouldn't be facing these tests one day before the previews start, but that is the very nature of theatre. The value of the performance is different from the worth of the performers. The value of the performance depends as much upon the audience as it does upon the cast. The worth of the performers will be seen in their response to the tests and adversities that face them as actors and musicians.

Now, after that bit of philosophy, taken from Oscar Wilde via the stage show of Mary Poppins, I am going to read this back again and again before I go to rehearsal tomorrow, in order to regain some perspective (and not in a Mrs. Dalloway sense) and in order to psyche myself up for what could be the most important musical rehearsal of the entire show.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Funding problems

My favourite moment on the Simon Mayo show today:

During the discussion the problem of funding musicals is raised.

Me: (earnestly) The only way we've been able to raise money for our musical is to sell peerages.

Everyone else in the studio guffaws madly because they think I'm joking.

You can hear the whole thing here.


The bar lady came and removed the offending pringles boxes saying accusingly, "are these dead?" ... she then proceeded to grumpily sweep around my feet, casting disgusted looks at me now and again...Danni and Ian I can't believe I had to deal with this alone.

Four men and a band deck.

Whilst the cast are secreting fluid from every pore, the band deck of joy is now home to a keyboard, a synthesizer, a sound desk, a lighting desk, and their respective operators. Oh, and lots and lots of cables.
I understand we're also to be joined by audience members for the previews this weekend. I might ask one of them to turn my pages, which would leave me with just 6 other things to be doing at the same time. If anyone guesses all six correctly, I'll buy them a drink.

Today's rehearsal was promising - problems from yesterday started to get solved. And, there aren't, in all actuality, that many problems to solve. I put this down to the casts's brilliant skill and efficiency during the rehearsal process. However, the problems left to solve are quite difficult to solve. I put this down to my incompetence.

Nick, our sound designer, is doing a sterling job, working all of our backing tracks, click tracks and audio cues, whilst trying to fix the foldback monitor for the cast so that, even if James can no longer see, he might be able to hear what's going on.
Lots of technical talk about the foldback monitor went over my head today. However, I was relieved that the mention of a "broken woofer" was, for once, not a reference to me.

Sweaty show

People disappointed by Rosanne's delayed opportunity to push herself forward as Sheffield's most important export since David Blunkett (I understand she will now be doing the interview next week some time) might like to tune in to Simon Mayo's show on Five Live today, on which I'll be discussing the current state of musical theatre and hopefully managing to suggest that the newest political musical to hit the stage is pretty much where it's at.

It will also give me a welcome chance to escape this afternoon's rehearsal for a couple of hours. Not that the rehearsals have been anything less than jolly and fun, but we seem to have had a sudden spell of warm weather and Del is insisting that we rehearse in suits (because it's reasonable to assume that if we're going to be dancing in suits in the show we'd better learn how it feels now) so in the muggy humidity of the Space we're finding it rather a sweaty show. Edinburgh is notorious for it's badly air-conditioned venues, so I can't help feeling that this is likely to be the case throughout August as well.

In other news, I have lost my glasses.

Oh, and we're blogging in London time now.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Delayed fame

Well, excited as I was this morning to appear on Radio Sheffield (naked), it has been pushed back to tomorrow. They did ring in a timely manner to inform me of this change, but I was then obliged to call every member of my extended family to relay this disappointment and to reschedule their eager radio-side listening to tomorrow morning at the same time.

Meanwhile, I'm desperately fighting off a cold, which, I rather optimistically thought had left my throat. It has, but it's gone into my nose/sinuses and produced a rather nasty headache and stiff neck.

Super Dave came to the rescue again and provided me with decongestant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesics (so don't come near me with a lighted match). I feel somewhat better, and am eternally grateful once again, though I do wish that Dave would dispense with the new habit he has picked up of wearing his underpants outside his trousers (since reading Orch's journal entry).

Time zones.

In order to dispel any theories that the cast of Tony Blair, The Musical are not hard-working and diligent souls, I feel it is my duty to point out that the previous three posts are incorrectly timed as 12:00, 14:11 and 15:03. The cast is, obviously, in an intensive period of rehearsal, and any daytime posts are out of the question.
This blog is being posted at 00:45, GMT, whilst I am digging out props for tomorrow's rehearsal. Yes. The Musical Director is digging out props. One of them is a CD of some pretty heavy duty Wagner, though, so I'm feeling pretty cultured. I won't tell anyone I've never listened to it.

Stephen Schwartz has written a (very nice) song about a Meadowlark, in which the bird is implored to sing. I can't think why this type of Lark hasn't been appropriated for James...

Monday, 23 July 2007

What's in a name?

In spite of clear instructions, our musical director Mr Christopher Mundy has failed to explain why he will be posting entries to this diary under the name "Orch". He complained that it wasn't a very funny story which is probably true, but for the sake of getting the record straight and not confusing the millions who will be reading this, I feel it necessary to explain.

Besides warming up our voices and telling us we're putting our "t"s in the wrong place, Chris' role in the musical has involved orchestrating the score. All of the music we've been learning from, therefore, has been headed with the legend "orch. Mundy" - hence the nickname applied by the cast, easily the best nickname Chris has had since Girton Chapel Choir labelled him "Mundy's child".

For reasons which are beyond me, I have acquired the nickname "Superlark". Sure, it's an improvement on my childhood nicknames ("big ears" mostly) but since I never once wrote "Superlark" on the music for Tony Blair I am ignorant as to its origin. Perhaps another member of the cast can enlighten us all.

The Orch speaks...

After such a dramatic title, this post may well be a disappointment.

Today has consisted of stressful plans, which involved the logistical problems of transporting three cuboid blocks, a keyboard, keyboard stand, synthesizer module (in a very fetching James Bond-esque silver briefcase) and lots and lots of wires, pedals and other synthy stuff, from St. Albans, via Bounds Green, to Mudchute. Super Dave rode to the rescue in his wagon and, one hour and an 11.1 mile journey with a SatNav system called Cheryl later, all was deposited at The Space. A seamless execution of a stressful plan. An apt description of the entire show, one hopes...

And now I'm off to set my alarm for 8:30am, so I can picture a naked Rosanne talking to Sheffield. Most of it's under water anyway, but I hope that some people will listen...

Fame and... err.. more fame!

Just finished a full day's rehearsing in London, and the opening night (of the London previews) is just a few days away!
It's all looking very exciting, and should be a fantastic show.
To add to the excitement, I have my first ever radio interview tomorrow on Radio Sheffield (being a Yorkshire Lass), to talk about the show and promote Edinburgh tomorrow morning.

I hope I can string a sentence together at 8.30am, I have never been known as a morning person. Thank god it's radio, and not TV. I think I shall do the interview naked... Just because I can! ;-)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Party's Over

You can now view the video for Blair's final emotional farewell song "Party's Over" on youtube (see below).

Previews coming up

Tony Blair - the Musical is going into its final week of rehearsal ready for the London previews on 28th and 29th July. Tickets are selling fast so people wanting to see it are advised to book soon!

Full details are available on our website here.