★★★ | In 1944, big band leader Glenn Miller’s plane went missing over the English Channel as he flew to Paris to entertain the troops during the Second World War. From his humble beginnings, Miller’s musical arrangements defined the sound of a generation and secured him legendary status as one of the greatest musical artists of all time.Photo Credit – Pamela Raith
There is a double dose of nostalgia on display in this musical biopic, with not only the music of Miller, but also the presence of the show’s top billed star, Tommy Steele as the titular character. Classed as the first English teen idol and rock ‘n’ roll star, Steele still holds a loyal fan base from his success in the late 50’s and early 60’s, clearly still resonating with the target audience and retaining a certain charisma and an air of ease and professionalism. That said, at 81 years old, he is twice the age of Miller when he died, requiring a healthy suspension of disbelief, especially during the slightly uncomfortable-to-watch romantic scenes between him and a much younger Abigail Jayne, playing Miller’s wife to be. But despite his age, Steele can still trot out the tunes and knows how to play to the audience.
So whilst Steele is billed as the star on the posters, the real attraction here is the music itself, and although the show is generally overly-light on narrative, it doesn’t scrimp on the classic big band sound; as a number of Miller’s best known numbers are performed by the on-stage sixteen piece orchestra, including Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood and String of Pearls. Throw into the mix a number of lively jazz numbers, all with the trademark Miller-style arrangements, and you have an energetic and up beat set of songs ably undertaken by the orchestra and ensemble.
There is very little in the production values to make this show stand out from the crowd. There is generally a basic, but perfectly competent, presentation and Bill Deamers choreography nicely retains the spirit of the era. But show is primarily a tribute to the music itself, and it really comes into its own as the orchestra takes to the stage, especially during the second act.
The Glenn Miller Story is a pleasant, easy and gentile watch, which is undemanding and which, most importantly, doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It is pure unabashed and unashamed nostalgia which gets the feet tapping and celebrates just how good these classic songs are.
The show is currently at Sheffield Theatres (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) until the 20th August 2016, before continuing on its national tour through to November 2016. Visit http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=1428 for further details.