Just as the title suggests, this was the telling of Glenn Miller’s story from his early 20s as a struggling musician to his disappearance in 1944 over the English Channel during World War II – a disappearance that still remains a mystery to this day…
One of the many wonders of live theatre is where men can play women and vice versa of any shape, size and age and it works. Playing the role of a real person can be more restricting and yet a soon to be 80 year old Tommy Steele playing a 30/40 year old Glenn Miller was so outstanding that the magic of the theatre really was alive.
Whilst this was a short musical, Tommy Steele was on stage for pretty much the entire 2 hours and the 40+ years he has on the character he was playing was soon forgotten as you were drawn in by this man’s ability to act, sing, dance, tap and play the trombone – looking just as energetic at the end as he did at the start – incredible and inspiring.
In the first half we meet Glenn’s pal Chummy MacGregor (Ashley Knight) and his soon to be wife Helen Burger (Abigail Jaye) as Glenn struggles to make ends meet whilst attempting to find his sound.
A strong and effortless performance by Abigail Jaye with beautiful renditions of “Moonlight Serenade” and “At Last” – she reminded my mum and me of a young Connie Francis.
Whilst live music could be heard throughout the first half, a notable lack of an orchestra in the pit at the start of the show was more than justified when the 16 piece Glenn Miller Orchestra appeared at the end of Act 1 filling the auditorium with an amazing sound.
A fantastic score throughout with hit after hit including “It Don’t Mean A Thing…”, “Get Happy.” “The Nearness of You” and of course “In The Mood” – you cannot help but tap your feet.
The second half played through Glenn’s success in the movies (and a vibrant performance of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”) before enlisting in the Army and that fateful last flight.
Ashley Knight’s experience on the stage was obvious with some piano playing, humour and a great version of “Perfidia.”
The way “Pennsylvania 6-5000” was used to build on the love story of Helen and Glenn was cleverly written and a fitting tribute to bring the story to a close.
Ending with a 15 minute showcase of swing classics including my all-time favourite “Boogie, Woogie Bugle Boy” and with an additional encore of “Sing, Sing, Sing” Tommy Steele showed no signs of slowing down. The rousing standing ovation from the crowd was completely justified and shouts for Tommy to sing his own material proved he is still a much loved entertainer.
This is another successful production for Bill Kenwright where using the cast as the musicians is becoming recognised as his signature without needing to review the programme.
If you are a fan of Glenn Miller, swing or Tommy Steele grab yourself a ticket and jive the night away – you won’t be disappointed.
Great: Tommy Steele, the Orchestra
Average: The set
The Glenn Miller Story, Theatre Royal Nottingham until 17th September