Everyone has a story about Tom,
says the narrator. A truism, but it’s also true that the singer’s early life
has reached legendary status within the landscape of his youth.
Kit Orton as Tom has big shoes – or should that be lungs? – to fill. This he did with gusto and his singing was a robust interpretation of the great voice with some proper goosebump moments.
Writer Mike James and director Geinor Styles have captured the feel of 1950s South Wales morphing from beige to the bright rock ’n’ roll optimism of the 1960s, with a witty production superbly delivered by a terrific cast through a well-rounded script and regular songs.
Kit Orton as Tom has big shoes – or should that be lungs? – to fill. This he did with gusto and his singing was a robust interpretation of the great voice with some proper goosebump moments. But it’s the animalistic sexiness that Orton sadly cannot deliver. Despite thrusting in a well-choreographed manner, his thighs are simply not there. Tom’s thighs are those of a rugby prop forward; they invite trouble. Orton is more Shakin’ Stevens in the thigh department. Nevertheless, he delivers a believable and enjoyable performance.
Elin Phillips’ Linda settled into her performance after an overzealous start (in a terrifically bad wig), reaching a point of touching pathos when, aware of her husband Tom’s philandering ways, she states, “I’m not giving him up for bloody Bargoed Social Club.” The real life Linda is still by Tom’s side. Mother in law, Freda Woodward is captured briefly by Nicola Bryan, who also plays a mean trumpet in a true Tijuana Brass fashion indicative of the period. Vi Trenchard’s ferocious mother-love conveyed by Mali Jones was spot on. Narrator Jack Lister’s multi-tasking comic timing, was deliciously delivered by Phylip Harries though the narration becomes somewhat intrusive and spoon-feedy in places. The band were satisfyingly tight and bickered in a very Taff way, but the musical arrangements at the end were slightly too Brian May 80s in their arrangement to be old school.
The in-jokes about Rhydyfelin, Pontypridd and the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl don’t make much sense to an Edinburgh audience, this is perhaps why ‘hug’ appears in the scrip, rather than ‘cwch’. A hardcore of middle-aged women did rise to their feet to dance at the end but even they couldn’t coax an encore from the cast, perhaps as no knickers were thrown. There is a definite sense that the show was not designed for a theatre of this size outside Wales and would may been better suited to the cosier atmosphere of the King’s theatre; empty seats are no encouragement for performers.
Despite feeling almost voyeuristic to be remembering someone who is not dead by a long way, Tom, the Musical is a pint-sized production with a big voice and an even bigger heart. Hireath is a Welsh word meaning a longing for the green, green grass of home and Tom, the Musical is a more than tidy bit of that for Welsh expats everywhere.