2022 – “Our ears bled!” – Harry Hill on composing Tony Blair’s rock opera | The theater

IOn Tuesday mornings, Harry Hill and Steve Brown discuss their unexpected music about the New Labor years. There is a song “Too Bad Taste”. You tell me in Blair’s eulogy for the “People’s Princess”. You have John Prescott and Robin Cook played by women. “There’s a song in there, which started out as a boring speech by Gordon Brown,” Brown says. Hill explains, “He’s the one explaining the macroeconomics. It’s a beautiful song.”

They started singing it – and headed to our table in the Piccadilly Café in BAFTA in London. “It’s one of those recurring songs,” Brown says. “It’s very annoying.” “I still don’t know what macroeconomics is,” Hill interjects. relaxation. Brown then helpfully ventures, “It’s like a macrobiotic, I think.”

I came to interview today Tony! (Tony Blair’s Rock Opera) as the year’s most surprising theatrical package, and nothing I’ve heard from its creators for more than an hour can tell me the wrong idea. “I’m not a fan of musicals,” Hill says cheerfully, “or politics.” Brown, who writes the songs, adds, “Harry isn’t the person you’d expect him to write sarcastic. And lo and behold he is Satire—or a mixture of irony and surrealism.” Pause to think. “It’s realism over tires or satellite.”

They’re quite the double, flirting back and forth and texting each other. Hill, of course, is the big-headed stand-up and TV guy the Lord of Misrule — albeit with a smaller collar these days. Brown is the composer and collaborator, a Spitting Image veteran, bandleader Alan Partridge and, incidentally, standup father Alfie Brown. They tell me their Tony Blair show began as a parody of a musical theater when Hill (like you) decided to turn gig songs from CD Vintage Cheese into an autobiography of a former Sedgefield member. The concept went so far as to read picturesque, Hill says, but “after the third song, our ears were bleeding.” It turns out that a theater audience can take a lot from Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.

“My Wife Calls Us Twin Flops”…Harry Hill and co-writer Steve Brown. Photo: Mark DeWitt

But Hill stuck to the idea and directed Brown to develop it. “I think Tony Blair’s story is really operatic,” he says. “He started out as a peace-loving hippie in a rock band, then became hugely successful and we all turn to him as a beacon of hope. Then everything goes wrong. And now he’s in a situation where you don’t necessarily want to take a picture.” Sylvie if you meet him on the street.” From Christ to the Untouchable, I dare. “Why didn’t I think of this?” Hill says. “Second Labor Contract!”

By happy coincidence, the long-planned parade will be on display within a month of the 25th anniversary of Labor’s landslide election to power. But the memories of some people have not yet acquired a pink tint. “We’ve had all these stupid supporters of George Galloway online, and he’s telling us, ‘It’s terrible!'” Brown says. It should never be regulated. You shouldn’t memorialize someone like that. And I’m like, ‘Have you seen the movie Fall? It’s about Hitler. That was good, right? “Both books insist that the show is not an apology to Blair, but more about the forces that created him. What a beautiful war in the new years of work, as they describe it, the show is “about the power and absurdity of one man responsible for one country,” says Brown. “This system really doesn’t work well.”

We also say: You voted for him. “We all voted for him,” Hill says. “After the Chilcot investigation he had another choice and won a large majority. So who is to blame? Is it him or us?”

Besides, mind you, Tony! It was designed as a screamer. Blair is played by comedian Charlie Baker. Saddam Hussein, with a mustache and cigar, changes the appearance of Groucho Marx. Hill describes Cherie Blair from the series as “a cross between Lily Savage and Lili Marleen – seductive but tough”. “We’ve got a woman playing Osama bin Laden, which totally freaks out — I would have said ‘bomb,’ but that’s probably a poor choice of words,” Brown says.

“We bought all the props from the joke shop”…Baker and the cast at rehearsal. Photo: Photography by Mark Dewitt

Hill says of bitter experience, “If you call musicals funny, it’s not funny enough. I’ve been cheated so many times. I like to see a show as fun as watching a stand-up comedian for an hour and a half. That’s what we strive for.”

This isn’t my first crossover comedy/musical. Cast a shadow on Tony! It is her 2014 show I Can’t Sing, a musical based on The X Factor and infamous as one of the West End’s latest failures. The couple can laugh about it now, sure in the sense that I can’t sing wasn’t Bad (His reviews were very positive) As far as overexposing it. “It would have been nice if we had just opened a smaller theater,” Hill says. “We sold as many tickets as most West End shows, but in [2,300-seat capacity] Palladium, it was always half full.”

But the fate of I Can’t Sing hurt the ambitions of Tony Blair’s show. “I tried to come [investors] Hill says. “But people were like, look what happened to the last one. My candid wife refers to us as the floundering twin.”

But the Flop Twins are unafraid – even excited – at the opportunity to make a show unencumbered by the responsibilities that come with multimillion-pound endorsements. It’s a problem, Hill says, that when West End productions get too difficult, you can’t change the jokes, or “when they say, ‘Can you write four more bars of music so we can animate that scene?'” “

Tony! , which is premiering at 200 seats in London’s Finsbury Park, is delightfully cheap and light-footed by comparison. “For work in progress, I basically bought all the props from Smiffys,” Hill says, referring to the costume and joke shop. And 80% of them made it to the final production.

If that means the couple can’t make any money off the show – well, that’s a small price to pay for the good times. “We’re like cricketers,” Brown says. “My players, for the summer only. They were all doctors and lawyers and they didn’t get paid. Writing a musical like that.”

The wrong size of the place... I can't sing.
The wrong size of the place… I can’t sing. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

At least they have other sources of income. Hill begins his first solo tour in ten years, Pedigree Fun, this fall. (His last, Sausage Time, was a smash.) He points to closure as an aid. “I had no intention of going on tour. But when they say, ‘You can’t go on tour,’ you’re like, ‘I want to go on tour now.'” David Byrne, produces and choreographs that exceeds the expectations of even Bayern’s biggest fans, including cardamom. “I saw it and was really stunned,” says the comedian. “I came away thinking, ‘He could’ve come with a band and sing.’ And I thought: The is what you have to do. Do it! So this is my plan.”

With his upcoming tour and summer commitments for his role as a presenter on Channel 4’s Junior Bake Off, Hill can be optimistic about Tony’s prospects! No matter where Islington is, they don’t expect Blair himself to be present. “We have good authority,” says Hill (no less than “my new friend, Robert Peston), and he is not a man to laugh at himself.” As long as regular suitors attend, Hill says, “I’d be glad if it were only those five weeks, to be honest. Make it go well and have fun.” The odds of moving to the West End may be slim given its reputation as a failed twin and a less-favorite theater state. Increasingly for original materials.

“They used to give shows like this [the Private Eye-inspired] Dear Bill in the West End, right? Brown recalls wistfully.

Hill: What about George IV? that was awesome.”

Brown asks: “Do you mean King Charles III?”

Hill: Charles III, I’m sorry. Have you seen him?” Mike Bartlett’s poetry about Prince Charles’ take on “provided some inspiration for that,” he says. I thought he was brilliant.”

The two finally arrived here, not to bury or praise Blair, but to play with the great Shakespeare bow on the former prime minister’s career, especially given the world that followed him. “There’s a beautiful song at the end, where Blair says, ‘The truth is the whole world is ruled by assholes, it’s always been,'” Hill says. I happened to be the one then.” He then lists the leaders we have now: Putin, Bolsonaro, etc. He’s like, “If I could help you rid the world of them and say I’m sorry — would you take me back?”

Call it Sur Pictures, or call it satellite realism—either way, this is a thrilling moment at the Harry Hill scene. “You sit there and think: Actually maybe…” he trembles. “It’s really weird. It sends a shiver down your spine.”