★★★★★ The Glenn Miller Story
As soon as Tommy Steele walks alone on to the stage at the London Coliseum, you realise that you are in the presence of showbiz royalty. The reaction from the audience is pure joy, and he clearly knows that he has the audience in the palm of his hand. He chats effortlessly about his career and informs us that he made his legitimate stage debut in 1958 starring in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which enjoyed a sold-out run at this very theatre, jokingly adding, ‘it’s only taken 60 years for the management to invite me back’.
So for the avoidance of doubt, Tommy Steele is approaching his 82nd birthday but this is an irrelevance as he is the narrator of the Glenn Miller Story, but also neatly slips into character too as Miller albeit he died in a plane crash at merely 40!
The Glenn Miller Story, as it says on the tin, neatly takes us on a quick romp through his life story but ultimately is the best excuse ever to revisit the fantastic music, sounds and songs that defined an era. For the record, he was the best selling recording artist in the world from 1939 to 1943, leading one of the best known big bands. In those four years, he scored 23 number-one hits – more than Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
But enough history, this show is ultimately an excellent vehicle for Tommy Steel, and he is seldom off-stage and sings brilliantly many of the Miller’s classics including It Don’t Mean a Thing, Get Happy, Sing Sing Sing, Chattanooga Choo Choo and many more.
Steele is joined by Marti Webb as Miller’s wife, Helen. She also laps up the Miller sound and thankfully sings a good selection of his songs too and is the perfect on-stage partner. The show also enjoys terrific choreography from Bill Deamer and an ensemble who tap and jitterbug for all their worth and brilliantly convey the joy of the era. The big sixteen-piece orchestra completes the show, with an authentic sound that envelops the theatre and conclusively represents the brilliance of the Glenn Miller sound.
But ultimately it’s Tommy Steele’s show and why not? It’s not often you get to see a showbiz legend doing what he does at his brilliant best. Long may our very own Bermondsey boy continue!