For a night packed with unforgettable songs, a lead character that is both iconic and the subject of one of the most enduring mysteries of the 2oth Century, and for the chance to watch a real living legend still exuding his charm and personality in his 80th year, you must catch The Glenn Miller Story, which is currently at the New Alex Theatre with the legendary Tommy Steele in the lead role. With a big band on stage to give you that 1940s feel, this is a show that has charm in abundance, but it is not without it’s issues.
The main one, unfortunately, being Tommy Steele in the lead role. Glenn Miller was 40 when he disappeared, and Tommy plays the band leader from his start in music in the mid 1920s,until his disappearance in 1944. Theatre is about suspension of believe, but to accept the lovely, charming, but still 80 years old, Tommy as a young man, is asking a little bit too much. He can still tap dance and hoof with the best of them, and he has that undeniable quality that they call stage presence, but when teamed with the super talented and glamorous Abigail Jaye as Helen Burger, you can’t help thinking that they more resemble a girl with her granddad than a romantic couple. Thankfully, their romance is restricted to hugs and cuddles rather than shows of real passion, and Helen is allowed to shine in scenes of her own, including a spine-tingling rendition of ‘At Last’.
And yet, despite the problematic central romance, this is a cracking, polished piece of musical theatre. The 1940s atmosphere is evoked beautifully through the costumes, scenery and those standards that are classics of music. ‘In the Mood’, played by a big band during an air raid is both toe-tapping and spine-chilling, a great evocation of just how brave those with the ‘Blitz Spirit’ really were. ‘Sing, Sing, Sing is energetic and brilliant, with great choreography and exhilaration, whilst Pennsylvania 6500 takes on a new poignancy when you realise the importance of the song to Glenn and Helen, and through the way it is used during the Paris concert that Glenn never reached.
The musical is short and sweet, so a mini concert and singalong added to the end is a real crowd pleaser, the songs never grow old and it really is great to hear them played by such a fabulous orchestra.
If you are looking for a blast of 1940s nostalgia, and want to see a real life living legend still giving it his all, check out The Glenn Miller Story at The New Alex Theatre.
The Glenn Miller Story – New Alex Theatre, Birmingham until 27th August. For tickets and show times click here.