The proof of a good story, whether in film, television or theatre is always the way you feel about the characters come the finale. There have been endless occasions in which protagonists have met their fatal and dramatic deaths, with directors hoping for a weeping audience to mourn the tragedy, only to be met by the realization that no one in the audience really cares. Fortunately, this was not the case with Tomson and Kenwright’s production of ‘The Glenn Miller Story’.
This musical, starring Tommy Steele, depicts the life of the American big band musician, Glenn Miller, following him in the search for his ‘sound’ as well as learning about the relationships he forms along the way. What makes this story so compelling is the still prevalent mystery of what became of Glenn Miller, whose plane disappeared during WWII. The audience therefore prepares themselves for a not-so-happy ending, although despite a few somber scenes, the mystery of his death is presented in a sad yet not overly sentimental way, simply in one that is certainly moving.
Nevertheless, the energy and vibrancy that fills the preceding scenes assists in the productions main focus on celebrating his life rather than dwelling on its tragic end. Through the incredibly nostalgic music produced by Keith Strachan and conducted by Andrew Corcoran, paired with the gorgeous authentic costumes, the audience is transported back to the war time era. Classics such as the jitterbug, performed by the onstage band were certainly the musical’s highlights and created the feel good theme that had all the audience smiling. The small ensemble cast provided beautiful harmonies as well as huge amounts of energy within the great choreography by Olivier award winner Bill Dreamer. Special mention should certainly be given to Alex Tranter who stole the spotlight during ensemble numbers, although this is not to diminish the talent of any of the cast who together created a musical that far exceeded my expectations.
The star of the show, Tommy Steele, wowed the audience, as his 78 years of age seemed almost irrelevant. Despite the slight ‘elephant in the room’ that he was playing a character much younger and the consequential lack of chemistry between him and his leading lady (Sarah Soetaert), it was impossible to dislike Steele. The power and youthfulness of his voice made up for a lack of dancing, and his great charisma and talents as an entertainer helped him really make the role his own. Soetaert’s voice also wowed, with numbers such as ‘At Last’ highlighting a soulful and beautiful vocal ability.
Such a talented cast, along with multiple successfully comedic moments and a feel good theme that culminated in an audience sign-along, provided an evening of great entertainment and certainly a musical worth seeing.
THE GLENN MILLER STORY
Review by Amy Butler