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The one and only (?) Tom Jones performs at Northlight

Sam Ashdown and Melanie Keller photographed by Michael Brosilow
Sam Ashdown and Melanie Keller photographed by Michael Brosilow
Sam Ashdown and Melanie Keller photographed by Michael Brosilow

Tom Jones

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It’s not unusual for people to confuse the Welsh singer Tom Jones of It’s Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat? and She’s a Lady fame with adaptations of the British novel of the same name—although Henry Fielding’s classic was actually entitled The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling when first published in 1749, and said singer was initially called Thomas John Woodward when first produced in 1940.

Flash forward to 1963 when Tom Jones, the new wave film adaptation of the novel, swept the Academy Awards with Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Tony Richardson), Best Original Score (John Addison), and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Osborne). Those are some big knickers to fill but Northlight Theatre does an admirable job with its current stage production Tom Jones directed by William Brown.

Following the success of his Sense & Sensibility adaptation at Northlight, Jon Jory returns to convert Fielding’s novel into a 2 hour and 15 minute play. Ideally, 20 minutes would be shaved to heighten the pace and pick up the comedy but considering the original work is 346,747 words, Jory’s adaptation is still quite a feat. Even with a long first act, the play is funny, sexy and provocative. Although the catalyst for action (unwed pregnancy) is no longer considered scandalous by today’s standards, the work remains relevant in its observations on marriage, divorce, and—hooking up.

However timeless, the production is wisely set in the past which allows for fine scenic design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec and even finer costumes by Carolyn Cristofani and Rachel Anne Healy—not to mention fencing and fighting choreographed by Kevin Asselin. Additional credits include Stage Manager Rita Vreeland, Sarah Hughey on lighting and Andrew Hansen on sound, who add their input to to this entertaining production sponsored in part by Cramer-Krasselt.

From enticing start to the energetic curtain call, the cast—Chris Amos, Nora Fiffer, Molly Glynn, Melanie Keller, John Lister, Cristina Panfilio, Eric Parks, Marcus Truschinski, and Samuel Ashdown in the title role—prove it’s not unusual for skilled actors to help bring a classic to life.

Tom Jones runs through February 23, 2014 at Northlight Theatre on 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie. For tickets, call 847-673-6300 or visit northlight.org.