Essential Review

This review has been conducted by a member of the Essential Suffolk team

TOM - A Story of Tom Jones

Theatr na nÓg

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until Saturday May 3

Reviewer: Lesley Rawlinson


Oh Boyo!!!

“Are you a Tom Jones fan then?” asked an acquaintance we’d bumped in to on the way to our seats. Erm – yes, well no, well kind of? Oh Crikey – was I surrounded by middle aged women hoping to lob their undies at a look-a-like of their heart-throb while singing along to a string of his hits?

I knew little of the story of Tom Jones’ life but the grit, the passion and the truth of his arduous journey to fame and fortune is convincingly played out in this simply staged musical. Some of the most popular musical theatre productions of the past decade (or more) have taken the music of popular artists and either used their songs as a framework for a story (Mama Mia, We Will Rock You) or followed the story of an artist and used the music chronologically to tell it’s tale (a la Jersey Boys or 21st Century Boy) and it’s this latter style that’s successfully adapted here to bring the down trodden lives of an industrial community in South Wales to life.

With just ten actor/musicians in the cast we’re introduced to the young Tom, an aspiring singer but whose future looks bleak as he marries his sixteen year old, pregnant sweetheart (Linda) while working in a factory and singing in clubs in the hope of making a career from his incredible voice. Linda, played by Elin Phillips - with more than a dose of Joanna Page styled strength and humour, draws us straight in to the heart of their story as she juggles married life in her mum’s basement with a young baby and the talent and ego of a husband who she knows is a star in the making.

The sixties tunes are soon ringing out as we follow Tom and his band, The Senators, through the fight for a recording contract and an inevitable move to London while their only communication home is the regular call to a pay phone back in Pontypridd to relay the stories of failure and success. There’s drama aplenty but not without some signature hip swivelling moves making their mark along the way. Kit Orton as Tom recreates rather than imitates the great man with just enough echoes of the real Tom Jones, in his mannerisms and the inflections of his voice, injected into his own very full performance. The voice is magnificent but, ladies, so are those hips!

The story takes us to turning point in Tom’s career as he launches his soon to be hit 'It’s Not Unusual' into the charts but for the ardent Jones fans the finale is a treat packed full of the yet-to-come chart toppers including What’s New Pussy Cat, Delilah, The Green Green Grass Of Home, Mamma Told Me Not To Come and my personal favourite of the evening, the ever explosive Sex Bomb.   

Clever, pacey, sassy and sexy TOM left the audience on their feet in appreciation.


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