Of all the Big Bands that performed swing music in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, Glenn Miller’s Band is the only one which still exists in its own right.
So a new production from Bill Kenwright, The Glenn Miller Story which came to the Congress Theatre this week, had to be a reason for celebration for the many fans of his music who still exist. There is, however, one factor, which would have raised a few eyebrows and that is the casting of Tommy Steele to play the great man. How could 80-year old Tommy, greatly talented as he is, play another legend who tragically died when he was half his age?
When Tommy first appears on stage he does so as a narrator but within minutes he appears in uniform as Major Glenn Miller waiting to board a plane in December, 1944 which, tragically, was going to take him to his untimely death. We flashed back to the beginning of Miller’s career and his search for “the sound” which was to elude for many years until he formed his first successful band in 1938. The rest, as they say, is
history. It is probably true to say that every member of the huge Congress audience was either a Glenn Miller fan, a Tommy Steele fan, or both. For the Big Band aficionados they probably, like me, had to suspend belief that Tommy could ever be Glenn, and any similarity between the two was purely coincidental. However, casting apart, the show itself, gave the audience a great opportunity to listen to the wonderful Glenn Miller music played by a superb orchestra which really brought the show to life in the second half when we were treated to such gems as String of Pearls, Chattanooga Choo Choo, In the Mood, Pennsylvania 6-500 and many other Miller favourites. Beautiful Sarah Soetart, as Miller’s wife, Helen, was given the opportunity to show what a wonderful voice she has vocalising Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, and Moonlight Serenade.
and At Last, and an excellent supporting ensemble did great credit to Bill Deamer’s excellent choreography. The supporting cast were all up to the high standard which we always expect, and get from a Bill Kenwright production. The Glenn Miller Story runs for three more performances. It is well worth a visit. By Harry Lederman