Blitz! is a musical by Lionel Bart. The play, described by Steven Suskin as "massive", was set in the East End of London during the Blitz (the aerial bombings during World War II). The story drew on Bart's childhood memories of London's Jewish East End during the Blitz and, like most musicals, centered on a romance between a young couple, in this case a Jewish woman and a Cockney man, although the largest role and main point-of-view character is that of Mrs. Blitztein, the young woman's mother. Steven Suskin describes it as "Abie's Irish Rose set against the burning of Atlanta." Bart himself described the play as "…three human stories inside an epic canvas; the major human conflict—the major plot—personifies the spirit of London and how that spirit developed during the period of the piece."
Blitz! opened in London 8 May 1962 at the Adelphi Theatre, while Bart's enormous West End success Oliver! was still running at the New Theatre; at that time Oliver! had not yet been produced on Broadway. It ran for 568 performances. It never ran on Broadway: between its scale and the fact that New Yorkers could hardly be expected to share Londoner's nostalgia for the period, it proved "unexportable". The Royal Shakespeare Company's intended 1990 revival (for the fiftieth anniversary of the Blitz) never happened, although the National Youth Theatre did revive it in the West End at the Playhouse Theatre, which became basis for a touring Northern Stage Company revival starring Diane Langton as Mrs. Blitztein.
Bart wrote the music and lyrics, and directed the production himself; Joan Maitland contributed to the libretto. Sean Kenny designed the elaborate sets, which included representations of Victoria Station, Petticoat Lane, and the Bank underground station, not to mention London on fire during an air raid. Four revolving house units and an enormous, mobile overhead bridge carried on two shifting towers made it, at the time, the most expensive West End musical ever produced. Noel Coward called it "twice as loud and twice as long as the real thing."
The song "The Day After Tomorrow" was specially written by Bart for Vera Lynn. Lynn had been a star at the time of the German bombing attacks; in the play, the characters listen to Lynn sing it on the radio while they shelter underground. Lynn did not actually appear onstage during the production, but she recorded the song for it, and the production used her recording on the "radio". The play also makes use of a recording of a Winston Churchill radio speech.
The role of Mrs. Blitztein was played by Amelia Bayntun in the original cast; it was her only role in a stage musical.
The cast included a large number of children. There is a scene in which the children are to be evacuated from London; they cheerfully sing "We’re Going To The Country", while their mothers try to put on a cheerful face.
The story focuses on two families, the Jewish Blitzteins and the Cockney Lockes. Mrs. Blitztein and Alfie Locke have adjacent stalls on Petticoat Lane: she sells herring, he sells fruit; they do not like each other. Their children, Georgie Locke and Carol Blitztein, are in love with one another. In the course of the plot, Carol is blinded in an air raid, Harry Blitztein (Carol's brother) deserts the army (failing to show up when he is mustered), and we learn that Harry has a girlfriend Joyce, who is married to another man.
Georgie comes home from the war injured and invalided, and still in love with Carol despite her blindness. They get married (her mother approves, his father does not). Immediately after the wedding, Mrs. Blitztein nearly dies in another air raid, and is rescued by Alfie in his role as an ARP warden; they reconcile. Harry goes back to the Army.
Parenthetical names are individuals who sung the roles in the original cast, rather than character names.
"Far Away" was later a hit for Shirley Bassey.