Review: Bugle Boy, Devonshire Park Theatre - by Roger Paine

CONCEIVED and written by Den Stevenson this musical is sub-titled The Life Story of Glenn Miller.

The great American bandleader’s music has reverberated around for the globe for eight decades but only the film, The Glenn Miller Story, has attempted to relate the life of the man and his music since his untimely death in 1944.

Perhaps inspired by the long-running success of ‘Buddy’ – a musical of the life of Buddy Holly – it nevertheless highlights the difficulty of telling a believable story that retains the audience’s interest while, at the same time, featuring unforgettable music which has been played millions of times.

The skill lies in striking the right balance. Bugle Boy, directed by Bruce James, succeeds on all counts.

A 14-piece band, on-stage throughout and producing that inimitable Miller sound, is inspiringly led by from the piano by musical director, Colin Billing.

They play all the Miller classics including, In The Mood, String Of Pearls, Little Brown Jug, Chattanooga Choo Choo and a blistering American Patrol when Glenn and his band join the American Air Force in World War II.

The story begins in America’s rural Mid-West where Glenn (Ian Knauer) meets his high-school sweetheart, and future wife, Helen (Sophie Caton).

Because he plays the trombone and is determined to one day have his own band, she nicknames him Bugle Boy.

Using the flashback formula of CBS radio presenter, Larry Bronx (Daniel Page), interviewing Helen, the story of Miller’s life unfolds.

The time-line of events is enhanced by mesmerizing black/white footage from contemporary newsreels.

A true love story but one with a tragic ending and there is no more poignant moment than when Helen sings Weep For The Moon, the original title of Miller’s signature tune, Moonlight Serenade.

This musical not only gets you in the mood but keeps you there.