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.