The Glenn Miller Story at The Liverpool Empire

Posted on 2 March 2016
By Chris High
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There are far too many “why”s hanging over this new production of The Glenn Miller Story, which is currently running at The Liverpool Empire Theatre. Why is Tommy Steele – a true entertainment legend of 60+ year’s experience – playing a legend who was dead at 40 being the first and, arguably most important of them.

Why, too, is this even an attempt at being “A Story” with the codicil of being “A Musical” when surely having Tommy Steele narrate Miller’s history and employing a more suitably aged actor – Ray Quinn would be perfect – to perform the dramatic parts would work so much better on both fronts?

As it currently stands as a working narrative, this Glenn Miller Story is almost shambolic in places, with the audience learning more about the man from the 14 Bullet Points on Page 15 of the programme than throughout the show as a whole. What about his first band going bust? What about his adoption of two children? What about anything even remotely personal???

The set is aesthetically impressive, but ultimately pretty boring and adds – with the odd exception – nothing to knowing where we are or, indeed, in which year. Miller’s period of success was as brief as it was spectacular, but according to this design it was spent on the road, in a hangar, in a virtually inaccessible apartment or on stage all with the same décor.

The Big Band are – when they are finally unveiled – undoubtedly impressive. Why then are they introduced at the very end of Act I and then later, when In The Mood is finally lifting the spirits of an increasingly befuddled audience, why is their version virtually drowned out by the effects of a Blitz attack? To further compound this error, the oft-alluded to Pensylvania 6-5000 is all but similarly destroyed when opening through the effect of Helen Miller listening to it on the wireless on the evening or her husband’s disappearance.

And why are so many of the “big” numbers – Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, I’ve Got a Gal from Kalamazoo and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy among them – all reserved for an out-of-story, twenty minute Jive Bunny induced curtain call?

It is all such a shame that the show is at times such a mess because the cast – particularly Steele and Sarah Soetaert who plays Mrs. Miller – do the best they can with the poor materials provided; a flaw which is ultimately the remit of the writers, producers and directors to address.

That Glenn Miller’s story is one that could make a fabulous show is as undeniable as his musical legacy, but on this evidence it is a yarn that is about as interesting as watching a biopic of Jedward fifty years hence.

The Glenn Miller Story
Liverpool Empire Theatre
March 1 – March 5
Director: Bob Tomson
Musical Director: Richard Morris
Cast Includes: Tommy Steele, Sarah Soetaert, Ashley Knight, Mike Lloyd, Jon Bonner
Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
PR Rating: ** Missing In Action