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