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Posts Tagged ‘Melanie Walters’

I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone made a jukebox musical out of the songs of Sir Tom Jones. Given that I was brought up 5 miles away, over the mountain in a neighbouring valley, a bio-musical would probably have resonated with me (particularly if they recreated that concert at Penyrheol Community Centre, though that may be a false memory). Using Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel about another Tom Jones may be the most unlikely idea for a jukebox musical ever, but I’m delighted to report it works. Just as well, given I made a 250-mile round-trip to see it. It’s great fun.

We start in 18th Century Somerset where Mrs Western – a terrific turn from an unrecognisable Melanie Walters, (Gavin &) Stacy’s mum Gwen – is seeking to marry her daughter Mary to Lord Allsworthy’s son William, but Mary is in love with Lord Allsworthy’s ward, illegitimate child and serial cad Tom Jones. Here we have to suspend disbelief as Tom heads for London and ends up in 60’s Soho. becoming the toy boy of fashion queen Lady Bellaston. Mary follows but stops pursuing Tom because of his philandering and instead pursues a fashion career, introducing mini skirts to Carnaby Street (Mary!) under the patronage of Lady Bellaston, who also helps Tom persue his career as a rock star.

The songs are distributed amongst the cast regardless of sex or age and they fit well. I still remember that delicious moment during my first visit to Mamma Mia (the first jukebox musical?) 22 years ago when Chiquitita is made to fit the show, and it was the same in the prison scene here when Big Mickey (an excellent Lemuel Knights) bursts into Delilah and brings the house down with a rousing sing-along rendition. The vocal performances are generally good, though some are too shouty (which the man himself would never do) and the high volume and poor sound quality, particularly in the first half, robs it of some moments of necessary restraint and subtlety.

Writer Joe Dipietro’s idea and book are great and Luke Sheppard’s effervescent tongue-in-cheek production, like his big hit & Juliet, is a delight. Arlene Philips is the perfect choreographer, having lived and worked through the 60’s, and there’s more than a nod to that period’s iconic dance group Pan’s People. Jon Bausor’s set and Janet Bird’s costumes are a riot of colour and totally evocative of the period, right down to the clear plastic clothing!

I refuse to believe this show’s journey will end in Birmingham in three weeks. It’s huge fun.

Footnote – No knickers were thrown at the stage during this performance.

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