Gaynor Styles, director of Tom - The Story of Tom Jones, talks to the Westen Mail about this brand new production which premieres at the Muni on March 1st.
There have been musicals based on the life stories of Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon and now Tom Jones’ early years are about to be brought back to life on stage too.
But the show won’t be premiered in the West End or on Broadway. Instead, it will be launched at a small theatre in Jones’ hometown of Pontypridd on St David’s Day.
And director Geinor Styles hopes the chart-topping star of hits like Delilah, It’s Not Unusual and A Boy From Nowhere will return to his homeland for the world premiere of the production, Tom, at the Muni Arts Centre before it tours UK venues.
“When we did the workshops we contacted Tom and while he can’t endorse it because of his contractual obligations, he’s wished us all the best,” says Styles.
“We’ve kept him informed at every stage and we’ll be inviting him to the opening night.
“It would be wonderful if he could make it.”
While it’s not a traditional musical, Tom is a drama featuring rock ‘n’ roll music from the era which will be performed live on stage.
With Welsh actor Kit Orton, who has appeared in the West End’s Spamalot, lined up to play Tom, the show will transport audiences back to the ‘50s and early ‘60s when the young Thomas Woodward – later known as Tommy Scott before settling on the moniker Tom Jones – was starting out as a singer.
“This show’s about the three Toms,” says Styles.
The premiere takes place 49 years to the day that Jones scored his first number one with It’s Not Unusual and it will focus on the hard graft he put in to launch his career, which has seen him become one of the world’s best loved stars.
Produced by Theatr na n’Og, which is run by Styles, in association with RCT Theatres and Neath Port Talbot Theatres, it’s written by Mike James.
James says: “I first got the idea for this show curiously enough when listening to the great man talking on the Desert Island Discs. Here was a perfectly down to earth valleys boy talking about life in Wales much as I remember it myself. And yet he became one of the world’s greatest superstars. I wanted to know just exactly how that came about.
“What I discovered was a fascinating story of gritty determination, hardship and incredible good fortune that finally set Tom on his way to fame and glory. It was a tale worth telling – as I hope all who see this production will agree.”
As soon as Styles saw the script, she was keen to workshop it and received funding from the Arts Council of Wales to develop it.
A total of 10 people were cast in the roles, including Welshman Dean Read from the West End’s We Will Rock You as Jones’ manager Gordon Mills. Sean Crowley, head of production and design at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, was recruited to produce the sets.
The venues were booked and, as well as Muni Arts Centre, Tom will tour a number of towns and cities, including Rhyl, Neath, Carmarthen, Dundee, Windsor and Ipswich.
“It’s almost gained a momentum of its own – it drives itself forward all the time,” says Styles.
While Jones is known to a new generation of fans today thanks to his role as a mentor on BBC series The Voice, Styles hopes the show will help people get to know more about the man behind the hits.
“It features his first gig at the YMCA in Pontypridd and shows how he performed around the clubs and pubs. It looks at the time he met Gordon Mills, who was the then Simon Cowell of the record industry and took him and his band to London. It also focuses on the early relationship between him and his wife Linda. It’s all about recognising his talent as a singer and realising he could do better so in that respect it’s a very inspirational piece.”
As she counts down to the St David’s Day premiere, Styles says she’s become an even bigger fan of Jones since working on the production.
“I’ve always admired Tom Jones – I love people who’ve got tenacity. He reinvents himself all the time. My children, who are aged 10 and six, also adore him because of The Voice. He has proved that if you have a talent and work hard you can definitely get by. If he comes to the world premiere I will be extremely emotional. I think I’d have to kiss him,” she laughs.
Tom is at Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd from March 1 to 8; Lyric Theatre, Carmarthen from March 12 to 15; Pavilion Theatre, Rhyl from March 19 to 22 and Gwyn Hall, Neath from April 8 to 12
To book tickets for The Muni call the Box Office on 08000 147 111