Tuesday, 13 September 2016

"The Glenn Miller Story"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Glenn Miller's music and his arrangements define a certain era in popular music and his sound was as recognisable as any artist through the ages. the band onstage did a good job of replicating his sound but you can never get that exact sound and feel as Miller's records, and it's the construction of his orchestra that gave that definitive Miller sound.
Alton Glenn Miller went missing on 15 December 1944 after boarding a plane, traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, His aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. He was only 40 years old. 
Tommy Steele is 79 and, while it's always good to see a legend like Tommy in Nottingham and still touring, it was at times a bit difficult to see someone of Tommy's age playing a man more than half his age convincingly, especially with the scenes with his young wife, Helen. Mr Steele though does a really good job as the band leader, and while he doesn't stretch his vocals that much and the dance routines are minimal, there's just something about seeing a man with such a history steeped in the entertainment business like Tommy.
I'm obviously not the only one who thinks this as Tommy himself had doubts when the idea was presented by Bill Kenright to him a couple of years ago.

The actual story, which to start with I thought would be a "jukebox musical" but isn't because there was music other than Glenn Miller featured, touches on only some of Miller's career and isn't definitive. There isn't even closure on the missing Miller, which in a way I can understand because of the circumstances in which he went missing but maybe the production is missing a chance for a more sombre final section. I was almost expecting Helen to be listening to the radio and the announcement to be made about the lost in action Miller. That would have been a proper Kleenex moment.
Playing Helen Burger, the soon to be Helen Miller was Abigail Jaye. Abigail has a gorgeous voice, especially showcased with the wonderful vocal version of "Moonlight Serenade" and "At Last". With her scenes with Mr Steele though it was almost like watching a father and daughter act.
When Tommy puts on the Miller round specs though his age befits the Miller look and he seems more comfortable in the older Miller scenes. 
That aside Tommy Steele has a charisma and an easy-going aura that instantly makes you warm to him and his still very evident singing and shuffling talents. This is even more to the fore in the Glenn Miller medley and jokey audience participation section as a finale.
The 16 piece orchestra were excellent and the encore of Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing" went down a treat, especially with the energetic jitterbugging and jiving tap dancers being brought back on stage.
There are many Miller tunes interspersed with other pieces from the Big Band period, "It Don't Mean A Thing", "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart", "Basin Street Blues", "A String Of Pearls", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "In The Mood", "Get Happy", "Little Brown Jug" among them.

My childhood was peppered with the hits of the Big Band era because that was the music my dad listened to, and so thought it only right to take him with me. He enjoyed the music and seeing a music and showbiz royal like Tommy Steele, so I think this sets the picture as to the age group who would get the most out of this enjoyable but fluffy piece of theatre.
"The Glenn Miller Story" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 17 September 2016.

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