(reviewed at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend on 9 August)
This latest Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson musical is a starring vehicle for Tommy Steele as much as for its titular hero. Designer Mark Bailey offers us an aircraft-hanger set, with a flexibility to keep the scene sequences moving smoothly, and some simple but attractive and apposite costumes, especially for the six members of the singing an dancing chorus.
It begins with the hanger doors opening to reveal Steele (cue the first of the evening’s burst of audience applause). If the show had continued with him as a narrator/commentator and a younger actor taking the part of Miller, Steele’s age and appearance would not have required such an immediate suspension of belief. It also would obviate that slight feeling of discomfort with the early scenes with Abigail Jaye as Helen.
Jaye has a good voice, strong as well as lyrical as she demonstrates in “Moonlight serenade” and “At last”. Ashley Knight makes an engaging no-nonsense Chummy MacGregor. The chorus – Zoe Nicole Adkin, Michael Anthony, Sibhan Diffin, Jessica Ellen, Jordan Oliver and Alex Tranter – perform Bill Deamer’s 40s-based choreography with great style.
The musical director is Richard Morris with an 11-piece ensemble joined on occasin by Robert Pearce (who plays Colonel Chambers), Mike Lloyd (Cy Shribman), Chris Bone (who is also the film director) and Harry Myers (who plays Mark Minton). Steele’s personality carries him through the show, though he is vocally subdued until the finale encores, where he really comes to life basically being Tommy Steele and not the shadow of Glenn Miller.
The Glenn Miller Story runs at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend until 13 August.
(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 28 May)
Bletchley Park and its wartime code-breakers is very much in the news at the moment. The oath of secrecy taken by all the young men and women who worked there – selected for the most part because they displayed extraordinary mathematical abilities – still constrains many of the survivors. Idle Motion have created a collage of a show which switches effortlessly between then and now.
On one level That is All You Need to Know is visual theatre – projections, clever lighting, furniture which serves many purposes, rapid alternation between the stylised and the naturalistic. Paul Slater and Kate Stanley are the directors and the devisers are Chris Bone and Nicholas Pitt.
There are six performers, including Luke Barton as Alan Turing – the maverick genius of the place – and Christopher Hughes as Gordon Welchman – co-ordinator and frustrated chronicler.
Grace Chapman, Sophie Cullen and Ellie Simpson play both the young women who found themselves working on equal terms with the men and the modern activists determined that the Bletchley Park legacy should not be lost. Joel Gatehouse takes similar, dual roles.
It’s all quick-fire and slick, though never merely facile. There’s a sense of commitment to the story being told, one with pain and deep frustration and, in Turing’s own case especially, tragedy.
The sparing use of sound archive material adds to the historic exactitude of the core story. Projections have been created with Tom Savage with settings by Freda Johnson and costumes by Tash Prynne.
If That is All You Need to Know appears at the theatre space near you, then see it; at the moment the Pulse performance is the only one announced for the East Anglia region.
Pulse runs at various venues in Ipswich until 6 June.