Two musicals at this year’s Edinburgh fringe have already sent up the Blair legacy, and now another, Blair on Broadway, finds the former PM re-telling his political career as an ambitious mock-Broadway musical on the postage stamp-sized stage of the Hen and Chickens, in his old stamping ground of Islington.
The programme has the best satirical joke of all, when it reprints a letter sent to Downing Street in June, inviting Blair to be in the production, and his office’s short reply: “I regret that the many calls on Mr Blair’s time will make it impossible for him to join you in your musical.”
But though Blair may not be there in person, he’s present in unctuous spirit, and as embodied by a flatteringly boyish Joshua Martin, you may well want to throttle him, and I mean that as a compliment to the actor if not the original.
Iain Hollingshead and Timothy Muller’s satirical look at his rise to power - finding a third way towards establishing a social democracy - is slight but bright, and Muller’s eclectic tunes, from rap to ballad, are catchy and appealing. But the show’s second act ,addressing more serious matters including the coalition that led to Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, sits a little uncomfortably next to the comedy of before, since it has been no laughing matter.
But Jessica Dawes’ fast-paced production, with ten actors squeezing on to the tiny stage and even performing a Chorus Line-type tribute, doesn’t outstay its welcome, even if its subject did. It also features a cameo, well-rounded in every sense, from Tim McArthur (in a fat suit to play John Prescott), while William Hazell as Alastair Campbell, Chris Cambridge as Gordon Brown and Peter McMillan as Peter Mandelson and Jeremy Paxman also hit their targets.