Tom the Musical is a production produced by a theatre company in Wales Theatre Na Nog, it will be embarking on a UK tour on the 7th of March, ending the tour at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham on the 1st of June.
Telling the story of Tom Jones’ life, the musical delves into how his career began, his relationship with his wife Linda and how he rose to stardom. With huge emphasis on the story, “the show itself is very story based, the show works brilliantly itself just as a play, the music is a bonus. The show is an amazing story and it is a love story between him and his wife, it is a story about the drive to succeed and what it might cost you in the end.” Kit Orton who will be playing Tom Jones told me.
He feels very passionately about how story focused the production is, “It is not a story that has just been cobbled together to cram a load of Tom Jones songs in, it is a beautiful story that just uses the songs and the music of the time to propel the story along. I’d call it more of a play with music rather than a musical, that is what I think of it as there are so many powerful acting performances.” He mentioned actress Ellen Philips who is playing Linda his wife, “She gives a more powerful performance than I ever could and she doesn’t even have to open her mouth to sing. Her performance as Linda is incredibly powerful.”
Kit Orton is a musical theatre performer that always had a secret hidden talent for singing in the style of Tom Jones. When Geinor Styles, the artistic director of Theatr Na Nog was casting for the show, the musical director mentioned Kit Orton as he knew him for his party trick of singing any song in the style of Tom Jones. “The musical director asked me to send him a demo of me singing Tom Jones, so I went online really quickly, and found a backing track for it’s not unusual. I recorded it just through my computer so it was a really rubbish quick recording and sent it off to him and he sent a text back saying they wanted to see me.” Then in his recall he had to sing It’s Not Unusual without any accompaniment. “So I thought there is only one thing I can do which is to just go for it, so I did the moves as well, like all the hip stuff and ridiculous movements and it made them laugh which I am assuming got me my recall” he said.
Tom Jones is a huge role to take on, I asked Kit about the pressure he faces playing such an iconic character, “It’s really tough because you will naturally always get the people in the audience that want to see a Tom Jones impersonator. There are people who weren’t really big fans of Tom Jones who will come along or maybe they are dragged along to it, who just appreciate the performance.” Vocally Tom Jones has such a unique voice, “I do and try and give (vocally) the best performance I can, using some tricks of his, like the little yodels and of how he holds a lot in the back of his throat, it’s a more operatic sort of pop sound” Kit told me.
Theatr Na Nog is a small production company in South Wales, this is the biggest production they have produced and taking it on such a massive UK Tour is an achievement for the company. Geinor Styles the artistic director of the company explained her role to me “My job involves planning the next three or four years of work but I run the company as well but also I get to direct certain productions within the year. It is sort of a dream job really.”
A small company producing such a huge tour is a “massive risk” Geinor told me. “Last year when we had done it we had about five commercial producers who were interested in it. We were wined and dined and then when I saw the deal that was coming in I looked at it and thought “I want more for my company” so it was just a case of determination thinking “I’m not going to give it up”. So in February this year we had an investors night and it went mad, we had investors and venue managers and I thought that we can actually do this on our own.” So Geinor opened the production in Windsor and managed to maintain creative control over the show, her passion for the show shone through her as she talked me through the production, “sitting in the audience in Windsor and seeing the audience rise to their feet was just amazing.”
Kit is excited to be playing his dream role, he has always loved Tom Jones but doesn’t quite know where his admiration for him came from, “Tom Jones is kind of just engrained into people. I don’t think you discover Tom Jones you just kind of know who Tom Jones is.”
Tom Jones hasn’t seen the musical, although members of his family have and they were touched by the story that is told. Kit told me how he would feel if Tom came to the show, “People ask me that all the time and I think I’d be scared” he said. “I think that he would be quite flattered about the way he is portrayed because of what we have done with it so I’d be really excited and I’d like to be able to show him “look how hard I’ve worked to tell your life story” that would be really special.”
Tom the Musical begins on the 7th of March and ends at The New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham on the 1st of June, information can be found here.