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Review: The Glenn Miller Story at Sunderland Empire
Alton Glenn Miller was just 40 when he went missing in a flight from the UK to Paris as he was heading for a wartime show. On the 60th anniversary of his first appearance on the stage at the Sunderland Empire, 79 year old Tommy Steele appears as the infamous band leader.
In Bill Kenwright’s show you get the great songs performed live by a very talented 16 piece band under musical director Richard Morris.Moonlight Seranade, Chattanooga Choo Chooand In The Mood are all there.An ensemble of 5 great dancers add the moves and the tap dancing. Zoe Nicole Adkin, Siobhan Diffin, Michael Anthony, Jordan Oliver and Alex Tranter are called upon regularly to show their dance moves in Bill Deamer’s choreography.
Photo: Pamela Raith
Understudy Jessica Ellen plays Miller’s fiancé, and later wife, Helen Burger. Her wonderful voice is used to great effect in Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart and Moonlight Serenade. Miller’s partner in crime Chummy is played by Ashley Knight who sings a great duet Without You with Tommy Steele.
However, the Glenn Miller Story is a vehicle for Tommy Steele who is on stage pretty much all of the time. His charisma shines through and he is, very much, the star of the show. The audience has to suspend belief when he is trying to date the much younger Miss Burger in the early scenes. Things do improve later on when he plays the role of the older army major. Perhaps a younger actor could have performed those earlier scenes?
Photo: Pamela Raith
Now we believe nothing kills a show like too much exposition, however, it is possible to have too little narrative. Only brief details are given of Glenn’s rise. From trombone player in Mark Minton’s touring band to an arranger trying to sell his style of music in New York to having his own band – lots happen with limited explanation. The 2 major events: his marriage to Helen and his work on the Glenn Miller sound almost happen unnoticed on stage.
So, yes I’d like to have heard more of the Glenn Miller music/sound. I’d like to hear a bit more detail of the events leading up that fabulous sound and Tommy looks wrong in the early scenes when Miller was in his 20s. But Tommy is a legend, who has real sparkle and charm on stage, the band and dancers are great and Miller’s songs are wonderful.
This review was written by Stephen Oliver the North East Theatre Guide – follow Stephen at @panic_c_button
Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland *calls cost 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.