A thrilling new musical has hit Cardiff Bay this week in the form of Tom Jones: The Musical. Presented by Theatr na nÓg/TNN and performed at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. It is long overdue that the pop sensation from Treforest, South Wales gets the ultimate honour of a show telling his story. As I was born in the 90’s it was only as I got older that I began to find out about Tom Jones and his wonderful music. As a young boy I would always hear his music playing on my mothers CD player (she is quite the fan!). When attending the musical I was well aware of his best hits but not so sure about his story and how he rose to fame. I must say the opening to the musical came as a surprise when the Narrator said “There’s not a bar he didn’t walk into or a chip shop window he wasn’t pushed through,” which I must say came as quite a shock. As Tom Jones’ story began to unwind in front of the audience we saw him at a young age already in good voice but working in a paper mill. He strived to be just as good as his father and provide for his family. The progression from this young boy to the superstar he is now was really something to be admired.
The musical focuses on the early years of Tom Jones’ life. The star of the show is Kit Orton who plays the teenage Tommy Woodward later to become Jones. We see the relationship blossoming between Tommy and his girlfriend Linda, whom he married and had a child with at the age of just 16. We see the early gigs with his band The Senators in Welsh valley’s working men’s clubs and the regular occurrence of local raffles offering a 12lb turkey as the main prize.
Kit Orton has too been given a fantastic voice of his own. However many attending the show including myself were going with Tom Jones’ voice in mind for the most famous songs and so it took some adjusting but by the end of the show the audience are up dancing and singing with him, as though Orton was actually Tom Jones. Those early years didn’t feature Tom Jones’ most memorable hits, but Orton was able to deliver plenty of toe tapping covers from the swinging sixties. There was even a very brief blast from The Kinks with ‘You Really Got Me’ showcasing the excellent talent of the on stage band.
As good as the show was there was a part of me left feeling the first act of the musical seemed a little slow. I think that an inclusion of some of Jones’ famous hits could have been used to help tell the story a little better. Many of the first act featured music composed by other musicians opposed to the hits of Tom Jones and so left the audience wanting to hear more of Tom Jones’ songs opposed to covers. There was also the inclusion of the struggles with Tom Jones’ then manager Gordon Mills and him almost going bankrupt to make Tom Jones a star.
It was the end of the show that really got the audience going. Suddenly the staging changed from a set representing Tom Jones as he was much younger to how a concert would look today. A large rig lowered on stage full of lights and the party really began! The finale was a medley of Tom’s hits which instantly got loud cheers and applause from the packed audience. The auditorium changed from theatre to pop concert with everyone up dancing and singing. Favourite’s for many in the audience definitely seemed to be ‘Delilah’ and ‘What’s New Pussycat’. With the show ending on a standing ovation you could tell the musical was a hit, and it most definitely was. However I can’t help but feel if there had been more inclusion of Jones’ hits during the production the audience would have been even more impressed. There are no boots bigger to fill than that of Tom Jones’ his booming voice is most definitely a one off but Kit Orton does a wonderful job. This is most definitely the musical for any Tom Jones fan but more so if you would like to find out the story of how he rose to fame.
Tom: A Story of Tom Jones The Musical is currently showing in the Wales Millennium Centre until the 12th March 2016 and then tours the UK.