Penny Flood sees a '50s rock 'n' roll star in action
This is an utterly charming show that juxtaposes two men who made their own significant marks on popular music. Tommy Steele is Britain's first rock and roller who soared to the top of the charts in 1957 with Singing The Blues and has gone on to become Britain's greatest song and dance man with record-breaking shows at the London Palladium. And Glenn Miller who beefed up swing in the 1930s with his own big band sound, including In The Mood.
Tommy Steele comes on as himself at the beginning to introduce it, and at the end when he leads a bit of a sing-along (it helps if you know the words of Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree). For the rest of the time he plays Glenn Miller whose fascinating life story is told in a series of vignettes with songs to match the moment. There are 22 songs in all which include Zing Went the Strings of my Heart, Basin Street Blues, It Don't Mean at Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Pennsylvania 6-5000.
Tommy Steele is a song and dance man and this is an ideal vehicle for his talents. He might be nearly 80 but his voice is still good, unlike some of his contemporaries, and he can dance with the best of them.
It opens where it ends, in an RAF air base where Glenn is trying to get a seat on the Paris plane because he needs to join his band there, and of course we all know what happens after that. From there it goes to the start of his story from his days as an ambitious, cocky trombonist with his own ideas, through the hard times as his work was rejected until the moment he realised the only way forward was to develop his own sound with his own band which, with a lucky break, brought him fame and fortune. Intertwined with this is his very loving marriage to his childhood sweetheart Helen.
It's a terrific production that includes a 16 piece big band with great musical arrangements, an energetic cast of 12, smashing costumes and clever choreography, and some witty special effects.
All in all it makes for an entertaining and very enjoyable evening but you've got to be quick. It goes on tour next week and after that there's a very good chance it will go to the West End so this your chance to see it first without having to pay West End prices.
By Penny Flood
September 2, 2015