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Tom: A Story Of Tom Jones The Musical - Birmingham Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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It's Not Unusual To Get Excited About This Show
Tom Jones' showbiz lifestyle, the collaborations with music's biggest names and the many, many women at the height of his fame are all pretty much well known.

But what you may not know is the Welsh singer's early years and struggles to break out from the valleys into London and beyond.

Tom jones the musical, new Alexandra theatre birmingham
Gyrating hips and classic music in Tom Jones musical

Tom, A Story of Tom Jones The Musical by Welsh group Theatr Na Nog focuses on that era of Jones' life in a charming way, starting off among the mills and mining community of Pontypridd and following his journey from Thomas Woodward to a chart-topping star with It's Not Unusual.

More of a play with music than an actual jukebox musical, the show is at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre from June 1 until June 4 as part of a UK tour.

It focusses heavily on drama in the early stages, taking a while to introduce the songs from Tom's life. Instead there's an emphasis on the relationship between Tom and his wife Linda (Elin Phillips) and how his talent affects both their lives after a teenage pregnancy and their marriage at the tender age of 16.

Tom jones musical, theatre review, new Alexandra theatre birmingham
The show has a heavy focus on Tom's relationship with his wife Linda

It verges a little into kitchen sink soap opera at times but adds an interesting family dimension to the singer's life.

Musically, it features songs from the early days of Tom's career with his band The Senators, like Ghost Riders in the Sky, a touching version of Spanish Harlem as well as Lucille. It also charts his fateful meeting with manager Gordon Mills.

It works because of the strength of Kit Orton in the lead role. He makes an impressive effort at recreating the depth and gruffness of Tom Jones' voice without seeming like a tacky cover act.

He's really very good and powers up the gyrating hips more and more as the story develops. The only pitfall is that Orton is obviously a lot older than the Tom of his late teens to early 20s that he is playing, but it would have been hard to find a young actor with the deep voice needed.

Instead, there's a couple of jokes made along the way about "how old" Tom looks for his age. His manager quips back that it's because "the Welsh are sent down the mines when they're children".

Tom jones musical, new Alexandra theatre Birmingham
Slick scenes move between London and Wales

It's a slick production with help from kindly narrator Phylip Harries as Jack Lister. It's also a gentle drama that moves seamlessly between scenes in London and Wales and the famous red phone box in Pontypridd where Linda took his calls (which Tom later bought for his own estate). The production also offers a new insight into Tom as a young, less confident teenager that many fans will not have seen before.

And although the show's drama ends with Tom Jones' first big hit, audiences are then treated to a mini concert of a kind with classics including Delilah, Green, Green Grass of Home, What's New Pussycat? and Sexbomb for a brief singalong before curtain down.

It's a satisfying end to an enjoyable journey into the makings of one of Britain's greatest pop stars.

Rating: 7/10

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Why? See The Making Of A Welsh Sexbomb
When: June 1 - 4, 2016
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Cost: 17.90 - 48.90
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