“It’s an adventure in music you won’t stop tapping to!” music legend Tommy Steele tells Andy Howells as he prepares to take to the stage in a spectacular new imagining of the extraordinary tale of the world’s most famous big band leader – in The Glenn Miller Story.
Accompanied by a live 16-piece authentic Glenn Miller orchestra, as well as full supporting company of singers, dancers and actors, the story of one of the most iconic musical figures of the 20th century will be told as never before when it takes to the stage of Cardiff’s New Theatre this November.
Tommy revealed to an invited audience of press and fans in Cardiff a few weeks ago that the idea of the musical had come from one of his many suppers with Bill Kenwright who has previously produced Tommy’s musical successes Dr Dolittle and Scrooge.
|Tommy Steele with Andy Howells|
Britain’s first rock ‘n’ roll star, Tommy was dubbed the UK’s answer to Elvis Presley, and he gained his first UK No.1 Singing the Blues in January 1957, reaching the top spot before Elvis, who didn’t get his first chart-topper until the June of that year.
Tommy’s legendary career includes over twenty hit singles, twelve hit movies and countless award winning stage musicals including Half a Sixpence, Hans Andersen and Singin’ in the Rain.
It was when discussing a particular favourite of theirs; the James Stewart box office smash The Glenn Miller Story, that Bill discovered Tommy’s adoration for Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. The seeds were sown for an exciting new musical platform for Tommy who originally saw Miller on stage back in the 1940s.
“First of all you’ve got to remember I was a kid in the blitz,” says Tommy, “the bombs were dropping everywhere and in 1942 the Americans came into the war. I was only four and all of a sudden over AFN (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. Did the Germans kill him or was he assassinated?”
At the age of 78, Tommy is still one of this country’s greatest “8 shows a week” song and dance men, but insists he’s too old to play Glenn. However, both he and Bill have come up with an answer that they think will delight fans when they turn out to see the show as it tours the UK in the autumn.
Tommy is still keeping that element a surprise but is enthusiastic about the shows content. “You hear the story of this man in search of a sound,” he says, “It’s a great example of music from the swing era and it works beautifully.”
- Catch Tommy Steele in The Glenn Miller Story at Cardiff New Theatre from November 9 –14 Call Box Office: 029 2087 8889 or visit: newtheatrecardiff.co.uk for ticket details.
- A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement on July 31, 2015.