The man given the unenviable task of playing Tommy Cooper in this play was Jerome Flynn. He is probably best known for his TV role as 'Paddy' in Soldier, Soldier and for the No. 1 hit recording of Unchained Melody with his fellow Soldier, Soldier star Robson Green. The play originally toured the UK in early 2003 appearing first in the West Country. Then, on April 8 2003 Jus' Like That opened in London's West End at the Garrick Theatre.
One of the nation's most beloved natural clowns is brought vividly to life in this show. All the familiar trademarks are here - the fez, the laugh, the 'hats' routine, the bottle and the glass.
The play also offers an insight into the more private man providing a behind the scenes insight in to the working life of the manic magician. The play is set on the night Tommy Cooper died on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1984 of a heart attack.
The opening scene is spectacular: 1950's swing music echoed from the speakers as the curtain changed from silver to gold, to reveal a glitzy set and six tap-dancing girls clad in suspenders and white tails.
Tommy Cooper entered carrying a pile of plates. He wobbled down the steps, plates crashing at his feet until the final fall sent the rest of the plates spilling into the audience.
They were actually paper plates. The laughter was deafening.
King of the one line joke and the magic trick that doesn’t go to plan, Cooper is a legend among comedians.
Jerome Flynn, as Cooper, is brilliant in the role. He does everything superbly – the walk, the nervous laugh, the patter, complete with familiar jokes, and the collection of bungled magic tricks, concluding with the classic 'box of hats' routine. A near miracle of impersonation.
In the first half the audience is taken from a rapid succession of one-liners and magical mishaps to Cooper’s dressing room, and the dark side of the comedian's life. Reflecting on his loves and flaws. The audience is provoked to think about the sadness and pitfalls of the entertainer’s life, you long to be engaged and your spirits lifted.
The second half is devoted solely to his stand-up routine. Gag after gag and failed magic tricks provoke a unison of giggles and jaw-dropping suspense from the onlookers.
Amid the laughter, people comment on the props they love - the flower that grows with a tincture of water or the white gate with no purpose except to walk through.
The crescendo of hilarity reaches its peak with a recital of New Year's Eve, a poem involving a soldier, a sailor, a fireman and a tramp, when Cooper goes through his legendary 'Hat Routine'.
The play closed at the Garrick on 2 August 2003 but continued to appear in the UK. Going on to visit loads of destinations including, Malvern, Oxford, Plymouth, the West End, Northampton, Woking, Stoke-On-Trent, Surrey, Mold, Norwich, Sheffield, Cornwall, Cardiff, Eastbourne, Windsor, Peterborough, Cheltenham, Nottingham, Southend-on Sea, St Helier, Newcastle, Cambridge, Birmingham, Dorset, Manchester, Bath, Coventry, Brighton and Liverpool.
'This show is an unabashed celebration..this is a genuinely affectionate and enjoyable show.'
Charles Spencer | Daily Telegraph
'An unashamed Tommy Cooper Celebration. Jerome Flynn is a wonderful Tommy Cooper...a mimic to relish.
Benedict Nightingale | The Times
'Pure blissful fun.'
Dominic Maxwell | Metro
'Simon Callow plays it strictly for laughs as Fabulous Flynn brings Cooper back to life.' 'What brilliant jokes ...throughout this terrific show they come thick and fast. I laughed to the bottom of my soul.'
Kevin O'Sullivan | Daily Mirror
'Hefty praise to Jerome Flynn! He inhabits this gentle giant's ill-fitting skin, stumbling dazed as his tricks fall apart. In Flynn's hands Cooper knocks many modern stand-ups into a cocked hat.'
Bruce Dessau | Evening Standard
'A giant sized Cooper-fest! Jerome Flynn does an astonishing job of recreating Tommy Cooper.'
Michael Billington | The Guardian
Play written by John Fisher
Directed by Simon Callow
Designed by Christopher Woods
Lighting by Nick Richings
Sound by Mike Walker
Choreography by Craig Revel Horwood
Magic direction by Geoffrey Durham
Original Music by Paul Bateman