Vivienne Kennedy reviews The Glenn Miller Story, which plays at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 27th February
Presented by Bill Kenwright and directed by Bob Tomson, The Glenn Miller Story, which I watched at Bristol Hippodrome on Tuesday 23rd February, tells the story of a musician, arranger, composer and bandleader whose music, as the programme says, “defined an era”.
A relatively short show, it started at 7.30pm and we were told that it would finish, rather specifically, at 9.34pm (I think it was actually 9.36), it provides an enjoyable evening of entertainment that certainly gets feet tapping.
The band, directed by Richard Morris and supervised by Tom De Keyser, take us on a whistle-stop tour through the big band music of the 1930s and 40s from It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy via Moonlight Serenade, String of Pearls, Chattanooga Choo Choo, In the Mood, Get Happy, Pennsylvania 6-5000 and more. They sounded great and Sing Sing Sing, in particular, is still playing in my head more than 12 hours later.
In front of the band are six extremely talented singer/dancers – Zoe Nicole Adkin, Jessica Ellen, Alex Tranter, Siobhan Diffin, Nathan Elwick and Jordan Oliver. The latter three have all made their professional debuts on this tour, but you wouldn’t know they hadn’t been doing it for years.
I have to say that I was particularly pleased to see Siobhan’s name on the bill – for several years I watched her perform in local dance festivals as she was often in the same classes as my daughter and stepdaughters (usually taking home the gold medal) and it’s great to know that someone from that small-town dance school background, provided they have the talent and commitment, can make it; encouragement perhaps for those mums and dads whose kids are just starting out on the festival route.
Glenn Miller died, we assume, in 1944, when the plane he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel. He was 40. The flight left England for Paris on 15 December, two days before Thomas Hicks’s eighth birthday. Today Thomas Hicks is known as Tommy Steele and he’s 79.
Tommy Steele is a great song and dance man. He’s still got “it” and he obviously enjoys performing for an audience. But to ask him to be believable as someone who ages from mid 20s to 40 during the course of the show…well, it’s a big ask and, for me, at times made for uncomfortable viewing, especially as Sarah Soetaert, playing Miller’s wife Helen, is 40+ years younger.
He deserves to be the star of the show, no doubt about that, but I wish he’d been telling the story rather than playing the male lead.
For further information, including performance times and ticket prices, visit www.atgtickets.com
Image: Pamela Raith