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  • Writer's pictureJohn Murray

The Glenn Miller Story

I noted that some fans knew all about this touring show as they came to Glasgow late last year. Proving there was fan adulation before the Beatles, band leader Glenn Miller had built up a following near the end of WW2 and after massive hits became a legend when he was lost at sea during a flight to Paris in 1942. Aside of the music through broadcasts and records a hit movie starring James Stewart told the story and it was this that formed the basis of this stage musical. But who would play the band leader? Gareth Gates, Jamie Cullum, Olly Murs? No, let’s look at the demographic of the target audience and it all becomes clear – Tommy Steele meets all expectations even although he is almost 80 and Miller died when he was barely 40. That aside the audience warmed to the headliner Tommy as he appeared on stage in the opening act and why not? This was the original British Rock N’ Roller from Singin’ The Blues and Rock With The Caveman to starring in his own biopic before embracing musicals on stage and screen with a string of hits topped by the evergreen Half A Sixpence. Some years ago his Singing In the Rain showed that his energy and charisma remained and that legacy continues with his enthusiasm for the Glenn Miller Story. He may shuffle rather than jive these days but Tommy is on stage most of the time and leads some well known songs from the era of the show.

As the story develops through song and dance we finally hear the famed Glenn Miller sound just before the interval and it is a goose bump moment. With clarinet lead and 5 saxophones within an enhanced brass section Moonlight Serenade has never sounded better and a timeless moment in musical theatre. The rest of the classics are there too though like Chattanooga Choo Choo, At Last, Pennsylvania 6-5000, String Of Pearls and Little Brown Jug pepper through the show without interrupting the flow. Tommy would endear himself to the Scottish audience too with his throwaway line ‘I Got A Gal in.....Kirkcaldy’ replacing Kalamazoo. In the Mood appears of course with 6 dancers recreating the air raid moment from the (so familiar) movie. Sarah Soetaert plays Helen Burger (Glenn Miller’s wife) and has some great vocal moments too. The finale with orchestrated encore and sing along was pitched just right and the whole audience left with renewed love for the Miller sound and of course the one and only Tommy Steele.

Edinburgh Playhouse till Jan 30

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