Thursday, 17 March 2016

Tom: A Story of Tom Jones -The Musical

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

A flat-capped miners choir isn't the most obvious opening gambit for the latest entry in what looks increasingly like a new wave of rock and roll musicals. That's exactly what you get, however, in the South Wales based Theatr na Nog's dramatic love letter to Pontypridd's most famous singing son. This is how it should be, because, despite the mixed messages sent out by the show' rather cumbersome title, Geinor Styles' production of Mike James' script is a more grown up look at life behind the scenes of Jones' rocky road to success than one might initially expect.

As the artist formerly known as Tom Woodward moves from singing in his local, the Wheatsheaf Arms, through the cabaret circuit and sharing a London dive with his backing band, Jones also has to face up to life as a parent away from his teenage bride Linda. The all-singing, all-playing cast led by a hip-thrusting Kit Orton as Jones don't make heavy weather of this, and there is an unpretentious honesty at the heart of a show still finding its dramatic feet.

While much of Wednesday night's audience was made up of ladies of a certain age who gamely stepped up to the mini greatest hits finale with unabashed glee, a younger generation of X-Factor weaned would-be superstars would benefit from seeing what it really means to graft at the coalface of popular entertainment. The show ends with Jones' breakout hit, the build-up to which is a tease, despite there being nary a pair of knickers in sight. Given the show's subject, that really is unusual.

The Herald, March 18th 2016

ends

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