Tony of Arabia

Tony Blair is in a press conference. ‘Tony! Do you think that Gordon Brown’s got what it takes to succeed you?’ Tony’s reply perfectly typifies the gently satiric but brilliantly funny musical Tony of Arabia - ‘Gordon Brown is my rock. My solid northern rock.’

Tony of Arabia follows the fortunes of everyone’s favourite political star, Tony Blair as he is shoved from Britain by an overzealous dour Scot and makes his way to safer political waters - the Middle East.

With book and lyrics by Chris Bush and music by Ian McCluskey this is from the winning paring who brought us Tony! The Blair Musical and it does not disappoint. This show cleverly and enjoyably satarises Tony, Cherie, George Bush, David ‘Davie C’ Cameron, Peter ‘Mandy’ Mandleson, President Sarkozy and anyone else you may care to mention who glides their way clumsily through world politics. We are taken on this journey by an affable and talented cast, who although seem closer to Andrew Marr than Jeremy Paxman could be the new ‘Spitting Image’ of their generation.

James Duckworth does Tony complete justice successfully mimicking the great man down to a tee vocally and providing enough physical presence to make the audience ripple with excitement every time he is on stage or even mentioned. Indeed this is the great irony with this show - although it sends up the idea of Tony Blair as the next Messiah there is no denying it that he is a star and the audiences’ reaction is proof of that; in the end we are only laughing at our own incomprehensible fascination with the man.

Of the rest of the gang we have spot on performances from Ed Duncan Smith (son of Ian) as Davie C whose rap about the ‘Shadow Posse’ has to be one of the highlights of the show and Jethro Compton as ‘Mandy’ Mandleson, brilliantly fluttering and fawning over Tony. Ellie Cox gives a sweet rendition of Cherie and even Gordon Brown comes across as helpless as well as hapless when played by Mike Slater. One gets the feeling that however much the writers may be laughing at these politicians, they are secretly quite fond of them and so one feels quite affectionate whilst mocking their idiosyncrasies.

This is the key to the success of this production, a soft and slightly tender look at the blind leading the blind, Tony of Arabia is really more of a study in character than a thrilling piece of storytelling. But you will be carried away by the beauty of the music (the harmonies between the Hillbilly Americans’ are particularly wondrous) and the funny and astute lyrics which manage to reinforce what everyone has always thought whilst causing us to delight in their inventive canniness.

Reviews by Honour Bayes

The Blurb

Gone but not forgotten: Tony's back, and he's teaching the world to sing. Presidential comedy from creators of 2007's award-winning phenomenon 'Tony! The Blair Musical'. 'Hugely funny - surprisingly sensitive' (Independent). 'A joy to behold' - **** (Scotsman). www.whiterosetheatre.co.uk