As 50s rocker Tommy Steele swung into Milton Keynes Theatre yesterday to star in The Glenn Miller Story, we got two very different perspectives on the show from elderly hackette Bev Creagh and young newshound Stewart Carr
CREAGH SAYS ... The legend that is Tommy Steele had the first-night audience in the palm of his hand on Tuesday.
In spite of the fact he’ll be 80 next year - almost double the age of Glenn Miller when he died - the voice is still strong and his ability to command a stage instinctive.
So what if the moves are slightly stiff and arthritic and the American accent is sketchy at best - you can forgive these minor transgressions for the infectious enthusiasm the one-time skiffle star brings to the show.
Sarah Soetaert is smart and sassy as Miller’s wife Helen Burger - not least for the way she gazes adoringly at Steele, who is obviously old enough to be her grandfather. She’s got a beautiful voice, immaculate timing and cuts a trim figure on the dance floor.
Mike Lloyd’s cameo of impresario Cy Shribman is magnificent while Jon Bonner is a jovial Colonel Chambers.
Even though there’s no happy ending, Glenn Miller’s music and the incredibly talented sextet who comprise the all-singing all-dancing chorus make for an evening of non-stop entertainment.
There’s even a sing-along at the end which had the whole house clapping and shouting for more. No wonder it’s already a sell-out.
CARR SAYS ... This is a show for Tommy fans absolutely.
I say that because, well, that’s who the majority of the audience will have come to see.
This might be a Glenn Miller musical in name, but the real star is the leading man playing him, 50’s rock ‘n’ roll legend Tommy Steele.
Of course, the guise wears off very quickly and was never convincing to start with. His American accent lasts five seconds before Tommy’s natural Britishness takes over.
And there’s also a small leap of the imagination in overlooking the fact that Tommy, at nearly 80, is twice the age of Glenn Miller at his peak.
But that’s by the by. The singing and dancing excel, with a marvellous troupe of swing dancers backing Tommy at every turn and he still puts in a great vocal performance. Dressed in bold primary colours, they’re more Bucks Fizz than swing, but still fun to watch.
The big band orchestra is also a delight, set against a glamorous backdrop of shimmering curtains.
Sarah Soetaert is brilliant as Glenn Miller’s wife Helen, with a rich, jazzy singing voice.
But the scenes of her with the much older Tommy Steele talking about their time at school together, getting married and a big smooch right before intermission, are a tad cringeworthy.
The paper thin plot probably took less time to write than to perform, but it’s the Tommy Steele show that’s on offer and a chance to see one of Britain earliest rock ‘n’ roll legends that shouldn’t be missed.
The Glenn Miller Story plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday. See here for tickets.