Review: Glen Miller Story, Mayflower


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Review: Glenn Miller Story

Review: Glenn Miller Story, Mayflower

David Cradduck joins ‘those of a certain age’ who were all ‘In The Mood’ to watch one great legend playing another – The Glenn Miller Story, Mayflower Theatre, Tuesday 8 September.

Glenn Miller became famous for defining a musical genre that has lasted for over 80 years and still has feet tapping all over the world, especially in his birthplace in Iowa where the Glenn Miller Festival happens every June. In his short life – sadly, he was reported missing in action in the English Channel in December 1944 – he crammed in an awful lot of music and sold a lot of records: Tuxedo Junction, released in 1940, shifted 115,000 copies in the first week of its release. That’s a lot.

His story isn’t a complicated one – he bought his first trombone aged 13, dropped out of university by 19 to focus on becoming a professional musician, married his old college mate Helen Burger and during the Swinging 30s, after a somewhat shaky start, created the now familiar swingband sound that we associate with the American troops described by the Brits as ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’. As a Major in the US Army, Miller’s music was a huge morale booster for the GIs overseas.

Like the story, the show isn’t a complex one: it is a sparkling tribute to a great musical legend, featuring Miller’s excellent music authentically played by outstanding musicians, supported by a lively sextet of dancing actors who know how to sing, act, jitterbug and tapdance their way through the well choreographed routines that reflected the era and the subject matter. The simple set reflects the era and is cleverly lit but never too flashy.

Sarah Soetaert, as Helen Miller née Burger, is faultless and sings beautifully. The other supporting actors all excel and accents are spot on.

Of course, playing the legend is another legend – the indefatigable Tommy Steele – and this is where, for me, the whole show becomes a little disappointing. I shall probably be lynched for saying this, but although Tommy Steele may be a talented singer and showman at no time did I actually believe this cheeky, chirpy Cockney lad to be Glenn Miller. He was Tommy Steele throughout the show, and made no pretence when lapping up the audience’s appreciation.

Yes, he is a very spritely 78 year old but it was faintly ludicrous to see this grandfather character playing a 24 year old wooing young Helen. After all, Glenn Miller was only 40 when he went missing.

That said, the Peter Pan that is Tommy effortlessly sings and dances his way from one well known foot stomper to the next and the show taken as a whole is hugely entertaining. With classics like Moonlight Serenade, Chattannooga Choo Choo, In the Mood and Pennsylvania 6-5000 who could possibly resist tapping, clapping and singing along?

The Glenn Miller Story is now touring. More details can be found by clicking here.