It should be stating the obvious that singers should be able to do just that – sing. One of the pleasures of this new touring production telling the life story of band leader Glenn Miller and copiously illustrated by his music is that the two principals – Ian Knauer as Miller and Lisa Lynch as his wife Helen – can do just that.
Maddie Cole, who is also a good instrumentalist, has the same ability. The staging by Bruce James and Sallie Warrington is deceptively simple but effective. Black tabs are fronted by a huge screen, onto which archive documentary footage is projected as we move from endless tours across the United States in the 1920s and 30s to war-torn Europe in the 1940s.
There is a large on-stage band (wearing uniform for the second half), directed by Colin Billing; as the short scenes play out Miller’s career, we find ourselves in broadcasting studios, on trains, in houses – all with minimal furnishings to indicate the different locations. It keeps the story on the move as surely as its protagonist’s career.
Most musicals don’t have bespectacled heroes, but Knauer looks right in his and conveys the mix of determination to achieve just the sound he wanted and Miller’s equal devotion to Helen very well. Lynch evokes sympathy as wife and widow as well as having the vocal range for her numbers.
Audiences are taken back in time from the jitterbugging in the foyer before the show to the American flags which front the boxes. At the performance I saw, it was interesting to note that the younger members were as enthralled by this slice of (for them) history as the older ones were by memories stirred.