★★ | Tom: A Story Of Tom Jones
Tom – A story of Tom Jones tells the tale of the early days of the legendary singer and the struggle he faced as he moves from the green, green grass of home to the big city lights of London in search of his big break. Constantly supported by his wife, Linda, Tom struggles with self-doubt and frustration as he pursues his dream in this musical biography.
The show was presented nicely enough, with projected backdrops and some well-staged, if simplistic, musical numbers; all held together by a good vocal and physical performance from Kit Orton as the Welsh crooner. The songs were inconspicuously slotted in to the show, and flowed naturally within the story, rather than feeling shoehorned in; and the live band added both atmosphere and energy.
Despite this, the show just had too many flaws to allow it to hang together. The show is primarily narrative based, so those expecting a run through of Tom’s greatest hits will be disappointed. The songs were just too few and far between, and consisted primarily of a collection of cover versions of 60’s hits or songs which were not always instantly associated with Tom Jones by the casual observer. It’s only after the best part of two hours has passed does the show provide the songs which the audience most likely came to hear, and only then in a closing mini concert consisting of four or five numbers.
The show demonstrates the drive and ambition that is needed to succeed and the determination by both Tom and his wife Linda to hit the big time. Underneath it all, there is a story of self-belief and about paying your dues to achieve your ambitions, but the constant cycle of Tom threatening to quit and his wife urging him to keep going seemed to be on a perpetual loop, with all dramatic tension lost given that we all know he makes it in the end.
The problem with the show is not the performances, staging or direction, but rather the writing, which has a narrative which just doesn’t have enough about it to ever really drive the show forward. The show focusses on Tom, his relationship with his wife and his struggle to make it, but the reality is that this story is one which is just to too bland and repetitive to make the narrative interesting, especially when compared to other similar musicals such as Soul Sister – The Tina Turner Story, Jersey Boys or Buddy!. In a lifetime career of a legendary singer with so many highlights in it, it feels like a missed opportunity to restrict the story to the narrow focus of repeatedly gigging in working men’s clubs.
That said, the audience was packed full of Tom Jones fans, and there were more whoops and cheers from them than you can shake your pelvis at. The show clearly appealed to Tom’s dedicated fan base and they thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a show which will no doubt thrill existing fans of the singer, but unfortunately is unlikely to have a much broader appeal than that.
Tom – The Story of Tom Jones – The Musical is currently at Sheffield Theatres until 16th April 2016 before continuing on its national tour until the 4th June 2016. Visit the show’s website for further details at www.tomthemusical.co.uk/
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.