TOM – A Story of Tom Jones: The Musical
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Wednesday 1st June, 2016
Those expecting a jukebox musical of Jones’s many hits may be surprised to find there is more in the way of drama on offer here – in that way, it IS unusual. This is the story of Tom from Pontypridd, a mining town in the ‘Land of Song’. It’s the 1950s, and Teddy Boy Tom sings in a pub at weekends. The rest of the time he devotes to his job at the mill, brawling in bars and getting himself chucked through chip shop windows. He impregnates his girlfriend at an early age and they marry. She – Linda – believes her husband is set for greater things and supports him every step of the way, even when the groupies start to get their hooks into him. Eventually, a move to London is made to cut a demo for Decca… Unlike other stories of this type, fame and fortune don’t come easy, and certainly not before the interval. Here we see the star going through his troubles before he hits the big time.
As Tom, Kit Orton plays a blinder. His Tom-Jonesishness grows as the character develops as a performer. With each song, he sounds more and more like that famous soulful voice, and all the moves including pelvic thrusts are there. Elin Phillips is sweet and funny as the loyal and devoted Linda, while Richard Corgan makes a strong impression as manager and impresario Gordon Mills, gambling his finances on Tom’s potential. Phylip Harries is a bright-eyed, enthusiastic narrator – it all ticks along steadily enough but it is a hilarious scene involving eccentric record producer Joe Meek that kick-starts the show. Energy levels rise and the show becomes more energised and electrifying. As Tom develops as an entertainer, the show develops as a piece of entertainment, and it turns out to be rather good indeed.
The action culminates in the release of It’s Not Unusual – the entire cast joins the band for a rousing rendition, including some searing trumpet playing from Nicola Bryan (who also delivers strong and funny character work as Tom’s mum). Tom Jones is propelled into worldwide stardom and we have been shown glimpses of how he earned it. A medley of early hits gets us on our feet – by the end it’s Kit Orton we’re cheering for, a star turn who carries off the musicality and the drama most effectively.
I refrained from throwing my knickers at the stage – just about.