A new musical made in Wales about one of the country’s most famous sons, singer Tom Jones, comes to Sheffield next week.
The show, called Tom, a Story of Tom Jones – the Musical, looks at Sir Tom’s origins in Pontypridd, his early love story with wife Linda and often fraught relationship with first manager Gordon Mills.
The show was created by Theatr na nÓg, based in Neath.
Director Geinor Styles said: “He’s aged 15 when we meet him and he’s been singing in the pubs. Everybody knows he’s got this amazing voice but how can he lift himself out of working in a glove factory?”
Kit Orton, who plays the singer, doesn’t have to portray the Tom Jones that everyone knows as the show is based on Tom’s origins.
“The show’s creators did a lot of research, talking to people who knew him in his early days,” he said.
“They got a real essence of who he was. Outside that area nobody really knew what he was like. It was an earlier Tom, so it is a lot easier to give a performance of what he was like.”
Kit added: “You see a change in his performance during the show. The first time you hear him solo on top of a hill with Linda, then just with the piano.
“The bands get bigger and bigger and bigger, which allowed him to release himself into a more physical performance, so you can see how those moves started as well as how he grew vocally.”
He added: “It’s like watching a live gig from back then, with the bonus of a really, really gritty true story.”
Geinor said: “The show is a drama of the relationships between him and Linda and him and Gordon.”
Tom hasn’t seen the show himself but the producers contacted his management when they were creating it in 2012 and he wished the project well. They have also seen the script.
Geinor said that two members of Tom’s early backing band The Senators, Vernon Hopkins and Chris Slade, saw the show and found it quite touching.
She added: “It is not just a massive love letter to Tom, it’s a realistic portrayal. He has faults like everyone else and they’re not shied away from.
“We see the determination of Linda and the sacrifices she made are very much part of the drama.”
Kit pointed out that the show isn’t a ‘jukebox musical’, where a show is written merely to cash in on a popular artist or sound: “You don’t get gratuitous music. It’s a play about the singer.”
However, it features hits of the era including Ghost Riders in the Sky, Spanish Harlem and Lucille, plus Tom’s 1960s hits like It’s Not Unusual, Delilah, Green, Green Grass of Home and What’s New Pussycat?
Kit, who is from Newport, has starred in West End musicals for years but admitted that it is still daunting to play such a musical icon.
A trained opera singer, he said that it takes a month of hard work to be able to replicate that big voice on stage.
He’s in awe of the man who can just open his mouth and sing that way all the time.
Tom. a Story of Tom Jones – the Musical is at the Lyceum next Tuesday to Saturday. Box office: call 0114 249 6000 or go online at Sheffield Theatres