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Review: Tom at Newcastle Theatre Royal

“It's not unusual to have fun with anyone”

Tom: A story of Tom Jones. The Musical

Newcastle Theatre Royal
Tuesday  3rd - Saturday 7th May 2016

Neath based Theatr Na Nóg have brought Tom: A Story of Tom Jones – The Musicalto Newcastle. The Mike James script explores the journey of the Porthcawl singer from his teen years playing in tiny bars up to the creation of his first big hit. A sprinkling of humour, talented cast and musicians and solid gold hits combine to create a very sound production.

Photo: Simon Gough
1955 was a different time. The clubs were full and expected to be entertained – though you can expect bother if you sit in a member’s chair. The committees relied on variety acts from comics to snake charmers. What they didn’t need was an amplified band making a racket. Thus it was tricky for acts to jump on the rock and roll or beat combo bandwagons and expect an easy gig.

Photo: Simon Gough
Tom (Kit Orton) had been singing since he was very small, even earning a few coppers singing on crates in the corner shop. He would keep rooms entertained with his vocal talents in the room above a pub with just a piano accompaniment. Life then become complicated when he managed to get 15 year old Linda (Elin Phillips) pregnant. They were in love and so they got married and moved in with her mother.   This did not dampen his plans for world (universe?) domination starting from the bars in South Wales.

He joins a local beat combo called The Senators and together they try to get management and a record contract.  One such episode included an attempt to record with Joe Meek of Telstar fame – though Meek’s temperamental nature brought a swift end to the proceedings.

Photo: Simon Gough
The show is littered with hits of the time as Tommy Scott and the Senators (as they were then called) played cover versions in the local venues:  Spanish Harlem, Ghost Riders In The Sky and Lucille all feature. Unlike The Jersey Boys, Tom the Musical features, pleasingly, full songs rather than rapid mashes of hits. Musical Director Greg Palmer leads a tight group of musicians that perform on the stage rather than in the pit. John McLanon, Tom Connor, Daniel Lloyd and Kieran Bailey appear as The Senators and so they have to act those roles of the supporting musicians as well as playing the classics. The sound is filled out for the final numbers with Nicola Bryan on trumpet, Elin Philips on piano and Phylip Harries on tenor saxophone. The end result had the stalls on their feet dancing at the end.

Photo: Simon Gough
This is a bio musical, covering the 10 years running up to Tom Jones first big hit. The story is well paced and Geinor Styles direction ensures a good tempo throughout. This production doesn’t suffer form being too long either. Holding the story together very well is Phylip Harries who does a great job narrating the connections between each scene.

Photo: Simon Gough
Kit Orton nails the Tom Jones numbers and he gives a very likeable Tom Jones. Elin Philips and Mali Jones give a sympathetic performance as his wife Linda and her mother. Nicola Bryan is fab as the tough mother. Richard Corgan and Deborah Thomas complete the ensemble as the manager Gordon Mills and his wife Jo.

Photo: Simon Gough
Quite a few musicals have tried to string along a set of hits in order to create a story. Tom seems to work much better than most as there is a real story woven into the music and the script isn’t afraid to reflect the sort of humour that made Gavin & Stacey such a hit. A tight band back a superb performance by Kit Orton combine to make this a very pleasant evening’s entertainment.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Photo: Simon Gough

Please note: Strong language, recommended 12+

Tickets are from £14
and can be purchased at from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge).

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