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The Glenn Miller Story at Birmingham Alexandra Theatre - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Get into the swing with this marvellous musical
If you're In The Mood for some sensational swing music, marvellous melodies, a brilliant big band and even a touch of tap dancing, this is the show for you.

Showbiz legend Tommy Steele may be a few months off his 80th birthday but he puts his heart and soul into the role of Glenn Miller, the talented musician and arranger who, with his orchestra, was one of the biggest stars of the Big Band era of the 1930s and '40s.

The Glenn Miller Story, Theatre Review, Tommy Steele, Birmingham Alexandra Theatre, Swing Music, Abigail Jaye, Ashley Knight
In the Mood: Tommy Steele in The Glenn Miller Story (pic: Pamela Raith)

Glenn was aged 40 when the plane on which he was travelling to Paris disappeared over the English Channel. The Glenn Miller Story opens with Glenn about to board the plane and we really don't notice the age difference between him and Tommy Steele who, as narrator, sets the scene, then adopts an American accent to become Glenn Miller.

The audience is taken back to the mid-1920s. Glenn and his pal Chummy (Ashley Knight) are musicians looking for their big break. The show goes up a notch with the appearance of Abigail Jaye as Helen Burger, Glenn's future wife. Her great singing voice is showcased perfectly in her first number, Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart. Things get even better later on with a superb Moonlight Serenade and the wistful At Last.

We'd been promised a 16-piece on-stage orchestra and good things come to those who wait. At the end of the first half a curtain at the back of the stage is raised to reveal the musicians performing Moonlight Serenade. Fantastic! Four trumpets, five trombones, five saxophones, drums and double bass. Some of the band Robert Pearce, Mike Lloyd, Chris Bone and Harry Myers - also double up as characters in the play, with Mike Lloyd as dance hall owner Cy Shribman particularly memorable.

The Glenn Miller Story, Theatre Review, Tommy Steele, Birmingham Alexandra Theatre, Swing Music, Abigail Jaye, Ashley Knight
All aboard: Tommy and Company prepare to board the Chattanoga Choo Choo (pic: Pamela Raith)

While the first half concentrates on Glenn's struggles to establish his career the second half is a glorious celebration of his success. Tommy Steele puts on the famous Glenn spectacles and leads his orchestra in the likes of Chattanoga Choo Choo, St Louis Blues March and Get Happy. Tommy's voice have softened over the years and he walks a little slower but this is a man who made his stage debut 60 years ago and he knows how to capture, and keep, an audience's attention. The Alex crowd loved him.

He doesn't do it alone, however. This production boasts a first class company of six talented singers and dancers who turn their hands (or should that be feet?) to jive, tap and jitterbug. Well done Zoe Nicole Adkin, Siobhan Diffin, Jessica Ellen, Michael Anthony, Jordan Oliver and Alex Tranter.

The Glenn Miller Story, Theatre Review, Tommy Steele, Birmingham Alexandra Theatre, Swing Music, Abigail Jaye, Ashley Knight
Jitterbugging: The show goes on - even during a wartime air raid (pic: Pamela Raith)

As Pennsylvania 6-5000 brings this brilliant show to a conclusion there's the question of how to top it with the encore. Answer: a singalong! Tommy Steele jokes: ''If you don't know the words, you're in the wrong theatre!''

So Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, I've Got a Gal from Kalamazoo, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Sing Sing Sing has the whole theatre joining in and leaving in a very happy mood.

The Glenn Miller Story is at Birmingham Alexandra Theatre until Saturday August 27. It then tours the UK:

August 29 September 5: New Theatre, Oxford;
September 6 September 10: Theatre Royal, Plymouth;
September 13 September 17: Theatre Royal, Nottingham;
September 20 September 24: Malvern Theatres;
September 27 October 1: The Hawth, Crawley;
October 4 October 8: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham;
October 11 October 15: Venue Cymru, Llandudno;
October 18 October 22: Orchard Theatre, Dartford;
October 25 October 29: Bradford Theatres;
November 1 November 5: Sunderland Empire.

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Why? A fantastic feelgood show
When: At Birmingham Alexandra Theatre till August 27, 2016, then touring till November 5, 2016
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: Birmingham Alexandra Theatre, then touring.
Cost: From 17.90 plus fees
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