“Thrills and Frills.”
Neath based Theatr Na Nóg’s touring production of Tom, A Story of Tom Jones – the musical written by Mike James and directed by Geinor Styles is a hot, hip swivelling, four star hit.
The show charts the early years of singer Tom Jones (then Tommy Woodward) from the late 1950s to the beginning of his rise to world wide fame in the 1960s. Despite Jones’ extra-ordinary voice the trajectory of his career in popular and blues related music was no easy rocket ride to international fame. We are shown his tough upbringing in a close knit Pontypridd mining community in South Wales and his aptitude for drinking and brawling with his teddy boy mates as well as his more tender side in his love for his teenage bride Linda.
The story of Tom is relayed to us in chronological order by narrator Jack Lister ( a confident and characterful performance by Phylip Harries). Each fresh location is depicted through clever projections and the application of appropriate stage furniture. Stage design is by Sean Crowley. The production standards are slick and the emotional and practical tones are kept consistently high. There is never a chance of losing the plot in this show.
Musically, it is spot on with all the actors either singing live or playing live and Kit Orton is totally excellent in the role of Tom Jones. His voice is perfect whether softly singing one of the romantic ballads or banging out Sex Bomb and Delilah at the finale. Orton also amuses and emotionally grips the audience as his character deals with rejection and dis-appointment whilst holed up with his band The Senators in a seedy apartment in London. All hopes are riding on their promised success in the capital and to return home unsuccessful in the world of popular music is unthinkable. In a time when mobile phones didn’t exist and many people still didn’t have a phone at home we are reminded of difficult communications with people queuing at phone boxes to talk to their loved ones.
There are some excellent performances throughout and Elin Phillips as Tom Jones supportive wife Linda is one of the strongest as she deals with her sometimes philandering husband away from home trying to gain a foothold in the crazy 1960s world of popular music.
Actor-musicians John McLarnon, Tom Connor, Daniel Lloyd and Kieren Bailey as members of the band The Senators all shine in their roles and come across as real individuals equally hopeful of fame and reluctant to return home from London to Pontypridd in Wales without clear success in their musical endeavours.
Richard Corgan is 100% believable as manager Gordon Mills who appears rich and successful but has some unexpected surprises for Tom and the hopeful musicians. In a show that has some slightly under-written roles for women actresses Deborah Thomas, Mali Jones, and Nicola Bryan all put in memorable and strong performances as Jo Mills, Vi Trenchard, and Freda Woodward respectively.
Tom, A Story of Tom Jones – the musical at Curve Leicester until 2nd April is a great night’s entertainment and musically hots up in the second half. On this first night in Leicester the show gets a standing ovation, the audience are more than happy to jig away at the show’s short medley of Tom Jones famous hits and yes, a pair of frilly knickers did get thrown at Tom!