Following a triumphant 11 week tour which opened in August 2015, spectacular show The Glenn Miller Story will play at the Liverpool Empire from 1st to 5th March 2016. This extraordinary tale of America's most famous big band leader stars music legend Tommy Steele.
It's been seventy years since Glenn Miller vanished over the English Channel as he flew to Paris to entertain the troops during the Second World War. Did he crash? Was he shot down? Will the mystery ever be solved? Featuring a 16 piece orchestra, a full supporting company of performers and dazzling choreography, the story of one of the most iconic musical figures of the 20th century will be told as never before.
Over the past 15 years Bill Kenwright and Tommy Steele regularly get together to talk about the past, present and future. One evening, Bill discovered that his all-encompassing love for Elvis was equal only to Tommy's adoration for Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. Bill learned that Tommy is a true devotee; travelling all over the world to hear what remains of the original Orchestral Sounds, and is steeped in the knowledge and the glory of what Glenn Miller did for popular music. Tommy enthused that Glenn changed the face of music from 1939 - 1943 when he was the most popular recording artist in the world.
Three years later at a dinner party, celebrating Tommy's award as the Most Popular Entertainer of All Time at the London Palladium that they came up with The Glenn Miller Story!
Tommy Steele was Britain's first rock 'n' roll star. Dubbed the UK's answer to Elvis Presley, he landed his first UK No.1 with Singing the Blues in January 1957, reaching the top spot before Elvis, who didn't land his until the June that year. The big screen soon beckoned for Tommy, and that same year he filmed The Tommy Steele Story, one of Britain's great rock 'n' roll movies. A soundtrack was released to coincide with the film's opening and became the first album to reach No.1.
His legendary career includes over twenty hit singles, twelve hit movies and countless award winning stage musicals such as Half a Sixpence, Hans Andersen and Singin' in the Rain. In recent years, Steele has starred as Christmas miser Scrooge in Bill Kenwright's spectacular production of the festive musical, which enjoyed two successful runs at the world-famous London Palladium. It was a role that also made Steele the theatre's all-time record breaking performer, having headlined more performances than any other star in the history of the Palladium.
Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright team up again to direct the show, having been at the helm of several award-winning musicals including Blood Brothers, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Choreography is by Olivier Award winner Bill Deamer ( Top Hat, Evita, Save The Last Dance For Me).
The Glenn Miller Story promises to transport audiences young and old back to the days of the big band, and have them up on their feet jiving.
Hello Tommy, thanks for joining me. Tell me about how The Glenn Miller Story came to be and who had the idea.
Well, it all started after I gave a lecture to some secondary school pupils about rock 'n' roll and country music, and this little girl, who was probably about 12, asked me what it was like to sing with Glenn Miller, to which I laughed and said, "I'm not that old!" I told this story to friend Bill Kenwright over dinner one evening and he said, "That's it….the Glenn Miller Story, we can do a stage musical about it". And when I asked him who will play Glenn Miller, he said, "You are". Despite my protests that I am a pensioner and English, and Glenn Miller was young and American, Bill insisted and said, "it calls for a song and dance man - you". I said, "Bill, I'm too old to play Glenn Miller." To which he replied, "Tommy, you're never too old." So he ended up talking me into it!
So it was impossible to turn down then, the role of a lifetime?
Glenn Miller is my idol. I was taken by my parents to see him when I was a little boy. I was a kid during the Blitz. The bombs were dropping everywhere and in 1942 the Americans came into the war. I was only four and all of a sudden over American Forces Network came this music saying Glenn Miller's coming to England, my mum and dad were thrilled. My dad took me to the Albert Hall to see him. Today, all I can remember is this wonderful sound and then came the mystery of his death. It's a great story. Glenn Miller was a man searching for the perfect sound and I loved that whole tale of him being so meticulous about his music. When you add that to the tragedy, you have all the material for a musical theatre show. It's an adventure in music you won't stop tapping to.
Without giving too much away before it opens later this month, tell me a bit about what the show is all about.
It's a show about a man looking for a sound, then finding it. And it is a fully blown song and dance musical, with a big orchestra. It's got a wonderful 'taste' to it, that's all I can say. But this is not a concert, it's a musical. People ask, "Are you going to be conducting the band?" I start it as me at 78, and get younger. I am Glenn Miller. The film is iconic, wonderful, lovely, the great Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. James Stewart played him when he was 60. Age doesn't matter as much in theatre as it does in film - people break out into song and dance, and that's not real, so anything can happen. It's a great example of music from the swing era, when he started out in the '30s, and it works beautifully.
Tell me about getting the show together, from the songs to the script to your supporting cast - are you a perfectionist when it come to your craft?
I think to be a perfectionist you have to know what perfection is. I'm always searching for things to be better. In my business, someone gives you a script, and you read the script, then someone gives you a score, so you read the score. Then you go to rehearsals and sometimes it's nothing like you imagined it. Because a director comes in to it, a choreographer comes into it, a designer comes into it. Then the next thing you know, you're asking, "can we try this, and can we try that?" and in the end you drive yourself mad!
You open the tour in Wimbledon and play 11 venues in 11 weeks and cover a lot of ground, from Southampton right up to Glasgow - how do you find touring, isn't it exhausting?
It's never that strenuous when you're in a great show and you can't wait to sing the songs, do the dances. I can't really explain it but you walk on stage, do two and a half hours and you've got an audience listening, you can't be luckier than that, can you? I have as much fun going from here to Manchester as I do from going to my house to the Palladium every day, it's the excitement of going to the theatre. When you go out on tour and start going north, south, east and west of London there are loads of great theatres out there and the people in those towns, they want to see great shows but they don't get them because it costs a lot of money to travel them. I always say if I'm going to do a show I have to do three months first on the road because I love to get the reaction of those audiences. They can't get to London every time to see a great musicals so the great musicals come to them. Harold Fielding who I did all those great shows with, Half a Sixpence, Singing in the Rain etc, he did it the other way he used to say once we've done it in the West End we must to two years on the road. I tour because I want to be on the stage and I love meeting people.
You said you think you're too old to play Glenn Miller, you turn the grand old age of 80 next year and you're about to embark on a tour of the UK for three months - no plans to retire just yet then?
You don't really retire from showbiz and I'm doing what I love. You can't ask for more than that, can you? And people keep paying me to work!
The Glenn Miller Story
Liverpool Empire Theatre
1st - 5th March 2016
Tickets from £12, on sale now!
To book visit the Empire Theatre Box Office, call 0844 871 3017 or go to atgtickets.com/liverpool